Disinformation

Lately I’ve been working on Calvin’s campus each Thursday because of our regular Festival of Faith and Music meetings. I work in one of the main areas where students congregate and each week there’s a little bit more frustration and culture shock as I overhear bizarre conversations about current affairs.

At the moment there is a guy sitting in the booth next to me holding forth on the state of the middle east. He is asserting quite forcefully that Iran is in the process of testing nuclear missiles and those around him are eating it up.

Iran is about to engage in several days of war games, and that includes testing long-range missiles that could be capable of eventually carrying nuclear warheads should Iran develop them, but there is a clear distinction between that and actual nuclear tests of the sort that North Korea have probably recently been conducting.

Overhearing misconceptions such as that—beliefs that fit so well into the administration’s disinformation policies that could so easily be used to prepare public opinion for a future military engagement—would be frustrating enough, but there’s also the fact that it’s far from an isolated experience, and that this particular student was comparatively well informed.

(For full disclosure: I confronted him about his statement, and he admitted that he had mis-spoken. But the climate is such that there are probably plenty of people repeating such statements and who will never be confronted, or don’t even realise that the information is wrong).

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