Maria Bustillos: Dismediation, revisited (Popula)
Disinformation, once it’s done telling its lie, is finished with you. Dismediation is looking to make sure you never really trust or believe a news story, ever again
Dismediation is a form of propaganda that seeks to undermine the medium by which it travels, like a computer virus that bricks the whole machine. Thus, for example,
Information: John Kerry is a war hero who was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star;
Misinformation: John Kerry was never wounded in the Vietnam War;
Disinformation: John Kerry is a coward;
Dismediation: ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’ are disinterested sources of information about John Kerry, equivalent in integrity to any other source that might be presented on the evening news.
These four narratives were distributed simultaneously across various channels during the 2004 election, though only one of them (the first) is true.
The lasting harm of this unfortunate episode, however, was not to Kerry’s reputation or to his candidacy. It was that afterward, millions of minds were uncertain as to what really constitutes “news,” or “reporting,” or “fact-checking.” This state of uncertainty hasn’t ever been adequately addressed, let alone mended.
Dismediation isn’t discourse. It doesn’t disinform, and it’s not quite propaganda, as that term has long been understood. Instead, dismediation seeks to break the systems of trust without which civilized society hasn’t got a chance. Disinformation, once it’s done telling its lie, is finished with you. Dismediation is looking to make sure you never really trust or believe a news story, ever again. Not on Fox, and not on NPR. It’s not that we can’t agree on what the facts are. It’s that we cannot agree on what counts as fact. The machinery of discourse is bricked. That’s why we can’t think together, talk together, or vote together.
Dismediation is hard to combat, as it distorts not the facts, but the means by which facts can be understood. It’s like trying to win a chess game when the board has been flung into the air and the pieces scattered; quite often the bewildered victim finds himself trying in vain still to play e5 Qxe5 or whatever.