We are all exposed, on a daily basis, to the enemies of truth. If you wish to stand up for truth by responding to disinformation (information specifically intended to mislead) or to inaccurate information of any sort, here are some considerations.
Set an Objective
Catilin Johnstone provides absolute clarity in this statement:
If our interest is in advancing the cause of truth, we’re not trying to get into arguments with people for egoic gratification, nor are we trying to change the mind of the smearer. Our first and foremost goal is to spread the truth to the people who are witnessing the interaction, who are always the target audience… So perform for that audience like a lawyer for the jury.– Caitlin Johnstone
Examine your objective. If you are engaging in a social media debate, the most sensible objective is likely to be the one that Johnstone notes above: simply advance truth for the benefit of those witnessing the engagement.
If you have a different objective such as obtaining signatures for a movement or obtaining justice, then you’ll want to mindfully choose your forum and technique. For instance, you may with to save the energy you would have used replying on social media to use for creating a video, writing an article or book, or joining a movement or legal effort, etc.
Inform with Clarity
- Assume that the audience knows very little about the facts and consider offering the facts with simplicity and clarity.
- Avoid mixing in emotions and opinions, as that will often cause listeners to be triggered and to more easily ignore the facts.
- Avoid terms that have been weaponized or are easily misunderstood. For example, any words used to refer to political ideology, even such simple words as “conservative” and “liberal” are unlikely to be helpful in conveying information. Instead, get to the specific point with neutrality and clarity.
- Define terminology.
- Link to more information.
If you are responding in anger or with a desire to “win” there’s virtually zero chance you will help another to overcome the power of their current beliefs to learn something new. As noted above, the goal in responding to misinformation is to provide information that advances the truth, not to win an argument. If you agree, then you’ll want to give listeners a way to feel comfortable opening up to new information.
Using empathy, consider how another person will want to be treated. Review the information on beliefs to get in touch with how belief systems work and how powerful they are. Remember that a person whose beliefs are being attacked will often feel as if they are personally being attacked. Thus, their nervous system will automatically activate in a way that is similar to being in physical danger. In such a state, they are not open to new information.
You might consider the information here as a potential model for presenting information: U.S. Government Projects & Programs That Have Included Criminal and Unethical Actions Against Civilians. For example, when referring to a program or event, include the basic facts and resources for the audience:
- Sabotaged constitutionally-protected political activity using unethical and illegal means
- Named for: COunter INTELligence PROgram (COINTELPRO)
- A series of secret projects conducted by the FBI between 1956 and 1971 aimed at “neutralizing political dissidents”
- On public record, the FBI defined “neutralization” as including “making them incapable of engaging in political activity by whatever means.” (source)
- Included spying on, infiltrating, discrediting, disrupting and destroying American organizations considered “subversive,” with aparticular focus on the Black Panther Party
- FBI COINTELPRO documents include: “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black nationalists” (source)
- Frederique, Nadine, Encyclopedia Britannica — COINTELPRO: United States Government Program
- Glick, Brian — COINTELPRO Revisited – Spying & Disruption
- NPR.org — COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying
- PBS.org — COINTELPRO
- TRT World — FBI COINTELPRO — 1 min video
- Wolf, Paul — COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story