The Age of (dys)Information
According to Wikipedia, the Information Age is a historical period that began in the mid-20th century. Today, one weekday edition of today’s New York Times contains more information than the average person in seventeenth-century England was likely to come across in an entire lifetime (https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/shenk-data.html).
Post pandemic, most people get their information through electronic means, be it television, internet, or social media. Analysts report that between 40% and 60% of information on the internet is actually fake, or incorrect. It has gotten so bad that in the US, lawmakers want to hold Facebook and YouTube accountable for spreading incorrect information about COVID and related issues (https://www.cnet.com/news/politics/senators-look-to-hold-facebook-youtube-accountable-for-health-misinformation/).
Disinformation is defined as “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda.” A dysfunction is defined as “abnormality or impairment in the function of a specified bodily organ or system..” I want to focus on the idea of a dysfunction as the impairment in the function of a system.
Last weekend an infomercial aired on for a product called “Home Title Lock” which offers protection against home title theft, “the fastest growing white collar cyber crime in America!” What is Title Theft? If is when a criminal applies for a deed online, forging your signature, and assuming your identity. In the end, the criminal gains ownership of your home and then EVICTS YOU! The criminal will then sell the home for thousands! Newt Gingrich, a famous (or infamous) politician narrates. The show gives “actual” cases of people who lost their homes to this crime.
Forbes magazine reports on this same phenomena as a bunch of boloney (https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencelight/2021/09/11/the-home-title-theft-baloney/). Fraud is illegal in every country, and perpetrators are legally pursued. Generally, if a government office is duped into giving away the deed to your property without validating signatures, identities, and other pertinent information (remember that you must bring a recent utility bill?) then the government entity is liable. If a bank underwrites a loan in a fraudulent case, the bank is liable. Generally, most of the information shared in the commercial with Newt Gingrich is just not accurate.
So why would Newt Gingrich agree to participating in such an infomercial understanding that most of it is just lies? Money. He gets paid to do it. Newt Gingrich does not care about the content, nor does he care about the person viewing . He is after the paycheck. Money is what motivates most, if not all of us. Why would Home Title Lock produce such a commercial? Money. They are counting on Newt Gingrich to convince the consumer to pay $79 dollars a year to ensure that the impossible never happens. They make money! But more importantly is: Why would a major network like NBC air such false information? MONEY! NBC does not really care about the content, Home Title Lock, Newt Gingrich, or the viewer. They get paid by companies to buy 30 minutes blocks of time to advertise all types of garbage and false information.
The Age of DYSINFORMATION
When information is more than just “false,” or “intended to mislead,” it ceases to be just DISinformation. When information is crafted in such a way as to “impair the functions of systems, it transcends into something even more sinister: DYSinformation.
Scores of research and reports have been written on the power that fear has on the human mind. It is what fuels our interest in conspiracies, horror, ghosts, Big Foot, and UFOs! It is what also drives us to protect, divert, avoid, and fight in life. Most of what is consumed on modern media, regardless of the platform, are deliberate attempts to manipulate through fear. Really watch the next news broadcast you see. Really listen to what and how things are presented. The dysinformation machine is designed to evoke fear at every point, with the intention of eliciting an urgent response in support of the presenter’s position. The goal is to disregard facts, disregard truth, and disregard reality—to focus on the fear and react. Even churches, charitable organizations like the SPCA and Red Cross, and Educational institutions are all guilty of pandering for profit on the fears of uncertain futures. God help us!
Toward the end of his life, Paul the apostle wrote letters to a young Jewish man named Timothy. Timothy was a mess. He was a half-Jew, born of a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Young Tim feared many things. He was uncertain of his own acceptance by Jews. In fact, Paul even instructs him to take a little win to calm the butterflies in his stomach. But in the end, Paul admonishes this young, inexperienced whelp to never fear because God had provided power, love, and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). How do we stand against the many who prey upon our fears for personal or corporate gain? Through the power of God that dwells within us; by our love for God and our fellow man (even when we do not necessarily agree), and by our own self-control and personal restraint. May we all learn to exercise these in abundance.