There is a lot of talk lately about misinformation. What is it? Who decided is?
I hear people say facts and truth counter misinformation. But what if what you are reading/hearing isn’t misinformation at all?
Consider the following situation.
You meet a person on the street with petition. They want to ban a dangerous chemical compound, they call it DHMO. You’ve never heard of it before (if you have, play along). You’re handed a paper, on it is a list of talking points about how dangerous it is:
- Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO can cause tissue damage
- Death to inhalation of DHMO (its thought it kills over a million people worldwide every year)
- Gaseous DHMO has been known to cause burns
- Its a major component of acid rain
- It’s used as a spray on fire suppressant and retardant
- Used in pesticide production and distribution
- An additive in food products, including baby food and formulas
The list goes on, but you think wow, what a dangerous chemical. What has nothing been done about it before? You’re told, well, Trump/Biden (insert your political affiliation here) refused to take any action as he didn’t deem it important. That and the ‘other’ party will block and fail to protect your health and the health of others.
Yikes, you grumble wondering if there is anything you can do.
Yes the person replies, sign our petition and let’s get on Congress to actually do something about this. You sign, walk away happy while thinking you did something good.
But you got so caught up in the listed facts you failed to ask the most important question. What is DHMO? Its called Dihydrogen Monoxide, H2O, or more commonly called, water. You’ve been mislead on purpose. Everything they listed was truths, facts, but was it misinformation?
- You can get tissue damage if you exposed your skin to ice or snow for a prolonged amount of time. We generally call it frostbite.
- Its calculated 1.2 million people die of drowning each year, which is inhalation of water.
- How many have gotten a steam burn while cooking?
- Without water you cannot have an acid, nor could you have rain.
- As a fire suppressant? Look up if your in an office building, see the fire sprinkler. What do you think comes out, yep, water.
- Used in pesticides, how do you think its sprayed?
- Water is found in all foods, even dry food contain some water.
Everything given are truths, facts you can back it up with science. So is it misinformation?
The definition of misinformation is giving incorrect, or false, information. But there was a problem with the above situation, there was no false or incorrect information. You were deceived, yes, but not in the way you think. In reality, there is no misinformation in what happened, so we have to dive deeper. For there to be misinformation, there must be truth to counter its lie. What if the overall question has no truth or lie. Remember what the proposal was, to ban water.
No one will admit that banning water is good for your health. But does that mean you cannot ban it, or try to? It brings up the question, is there a truth to this question. The definition of truth is the quality, or state, of being true. So, is there a truth to banning water. No, nothing says you cannot ban water, there is truth that you cannot do it. Some will argue this point saying you need water to survive, yes, but that’s not the question here.
Again, no, and if someone did they would be looked upon as a fool, but there is no misinformation.
So if we have no truth, or misinformation, what do we have?
We’re left with an agenda by the person who handed you the petition. And here is where the deeper problem lies. That person handing you the information has their own biases, political views, beliefs, and they will use whatever facts, truths and science to make you think like they want you to think.
The DHMO example was pretty simple. You’re going to find few, if any, people who would actually be willing to ban water. However the issues we deal with in other aspects of our life are much more complex that figuring out fact vs. fiction or truth vs misinformation is much harder. The lines become grey because the truths are not black and white. We rely on ‘experts’ to help us, but we must remember even an expert can twist facts to support their beliefs.
We comfort ourselves with the thought that the ‘other’ news agency lies, but ours does not. Our news gives real facts. The politicians of the other party are bad, but mine are good and want what is best for the country. We’ve become so busy in our mundane lives we no longer have the time or energy to question.
Its time to drive past the distracting facts and get to the root of what is being given to us. We need to relearn to ask the ‘five Ws’ again. Who? What? Where? When? Why? (And how?)