I grow weary over reading about asinine — but widespread — claims that this or that is DISINFORMATION. The essence of the charge is that certain statements are
- reprehensible, unacceptable, poisonous, vicious, deleterious, horrific, right-wing, and generally bad manners,
- so utterly irresistible and beguiling that any hearer must figuratively bind himself to the mast to escape the siren songs of untruth (SSU), and
- hideously damaging to whatever the party line is at any one moment.
Yes, the earth will stall on its axis if such a powerful untruth is permitted to be promulgated. If an innocent, unsuspecting citizen has the slightest encounter with this truth the consequences are dire.
(From one of the great movies of all time, “Top Secret.”)
Of course, all that is required is to level the charge of “disinformation.” It is unnecessary to make any kind of a case for the falsity of the statement or to focus on any of the elements of fraud. It’s wrong and that’s all anyone needs to know and the infantile understanding of the citizenry is a given.
Well, what ARE the elements of fraud? In the common law the practice developed over the centuries to require fraud to be proved with particularity as, for one reason, it’s a serious attack on another’s reputation for good character to allege that he or she is a lying sack.
In 1996, the Montana Supreme Court laid out the elements of fraud in great detail.
The elements are: (1) a representation; (2) falsity of the representation; (3) materiality of the representation; (4) speaker’s knowledge of the falsity of the representation or ignorance of its truth; (5) the speaker’s intent it should be relied upon; (6) the hearer’s ignorance of the falsity of the representation; (7) the hearer’s reliance on the representation; (8) the hearer’s right to rely on the representation; and (9) the hearer’s consequent and proximate injury caused by the reliance on the representation.
H/t: Montana “Workers’ Compensation Court.
Other courts say essentially the same thing but this is the most detailed list I’ve run across. I would add after (1) that the representation or statement must be of fact not opinion.
So you can see that making a fraud (or “disinformation”) case stick requires more than proving that a false statement was made. If I’m buying a used car and the seller tells me that the suspension and engine are in top shape I can’t claim I was defrauded if the front tires are obviously worn unevenly and the engine runs but with clouds of blue smoke coming out of the muffler.
But the “disinformation” maroons take it to another level by standing pat on a mere allegation that a certain statement was made. Ergo fraud. But we all know their angst is merely that they don’t care for the statement because it is destructive of their agenda. If they have to break the unsuspecting speaker’s neck in the process then, well, that’s just what the bastard deserved.
This approach at best assumes that words, allegedly false, have merely to touch the ears of any citizen schlub and the damage is done like the bumper strike we saw above. Independent agency or responsibility of the hearer is blithely assumed away and he or she is implicitly treated as a gullible infant without critical skills of any kind.
Bear in mind too that this phenomenon has arisen in that very nation whose citizens devised or at least perfected the term “bullshit.” Can we accept in the public sphere of this particular country the notion that citizens have no concept of that term or of their own responsibility to assess information from others with a critical eye? And what citizen doesn’t every bleeping day exist in a blizzard of commercial hype? Do they just sit there like rubes and assume that their lives are incomplete if their family circle doesn’t include at least three homosexuals, four black Harvard grads, and a Mexican feminist?
So, the next time you hear someone level the charge of “disinformation” ask yourself who it is in that case who is a lying, deceiving, vicious horse’s ass?