The writer talks to Freddie Sayers about America's new censorship complex
From state actors all the way down to fact-checkers, the ‘disinformation complex’ has blossomed in recent years. Broadly defined as false information which is intended to mislead, disinformation as a concept is opaque and has taken on several meanings — some benign, others less so.
In a 13,000 word essay for Tablet, Jacob Siegel delineates all the nefarious ways disinformation has evolved over the last 70 years in America. As Siegel explains it, ‘disinformation’ is an invention, one that has morphed into a tool of governance. Declaring information as true or untrue is a means to control public discourse and to undermine and censor information which is “unflattering” to political elites. He joined Freddie Sayers to discuss it further:
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How did this ‘tool of governance’ become so mainstream? The US Government, Siegel points out, has long engaged in promoting what could be described as disinformation, but the ‘war on disinformation’ in which the US now finds itself engaged was begun by Barack Obama. One of the last things the former president did while in office was sign into law the ‘Countering Foreign Disinformation Act’, which fully committed the US political class to a counter-disinformation campaign, which according to Siegel “was really always in spirit, and very quickly in practice as well, an information war directed against the American people”.
With the appearance of Donald Trump on the political scene, the ‘foreign’ dimension of this war became increasingly irrelevant:
Siegel argues that the consequences of this mode of censorship for American society should not to be minimised:
Siegel is not hopeful that America will be able to overcome this crisis with ease. He calls for structural changes to the internet as a whole, a system that prioritises data rights. The Big Tech companies are too powerful and until they are reined in, transparency will be a thing of the past and the information/disinformation war will rage on