INSTEAD of the babel of definitions that are being used to define “fake news,” I propose to readers and colleagues—and the Senate committee on information—that they adopt with me two terms that are more precise and clearer: “misinformation” and “disinformation”.
The writer Franklin Veaux has provided an arresting distinction between the two.
He said “misinformation” is information that is false, but the person who is disseminating it believes that it is true.
On the other hand, “disinformation” is information that is false, and the person who is disseminating it knows it is false. It is a deliberate, intentional lie.
Both are false information. All fake news is false information.
Some colleagues in the press contend that “fake news” is an oxymoron. They prefer the term “misinformation.”
“Disinformation” for me is more insidious and malignant. It can encompass more effectively all the varieties of fake news (one scholar lists five types of fake news that should be fought).
Cayetano’s barefaced lie
Now here’s a quiz on which you can apply this lesson.
Consider the claim of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that all drug war casualties are drug dealers.
This plainly is false information.
Is this misinformation or disinformation?
Cayetano made the claim in an interview with Al Jazeera. He declared that all 3,800 people killed so far in police operations in the drug war are drug dealers.
In the interview, conducted by Al Jazeera “UpFront” host Mehdi Hasan, Cayetano defended the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) lethal use of force in the drug war.
Hasan asked Cayetano: “How do we know that [the 3,800 people]were drug dealers]? You didn’t try them. You didn’t prosecute them. You didn’t charge them. You shot them on site! That’s not a democratic way of solving crime, is it? “
Cayetano did not answer this question directly; but he insisted that all 3,800 Filipinos who were killed were drug dealers. Hasan repeated the question.
“Yes,” Cayetano said firmly, looking like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, when he threatened to bomb the United States.
Malacañang was more modest than Cayetano in talking about the drug war. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella declared only that the government did not sanction killings under the drug war.
Abella said in a statement: “We wish to emphasize that one death is one too many. These deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators, even as it calls upon witnesses and individuals who can provide valuable evidence that will lead to [the]speedy resolution of cases.”
Significantly, as Cayetano was disinforming the whole world, seven in 10 Filipinos were telling SWS that they feared a member of their families would fall victim to an extra-judicial killing.
Disinformation at Corona’s impeachment
Our discombobulation here is akin to our discombobulation during the weird impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
A reader has sent me a hard-hitting statement that urges our people to remember CJ Corona as a victim of government-directed fake news. She wrote:
“Now that many claim to be a ‘victim’ of fake news, it’s heartbreaking to think that the original victim was ganged up on by the Aquino administration, most government agencies under Aquino, yellow media and all those who believed their lies and spewed hate without verifying the facts.
[She enumerated the fakeries one by one]:
* 45 properties as testified by LRA administrator Eulalio Diaz #Fake
* 82 bank accounts as testified by Conchita Carpio-Morales #Fake
* $12 million as testified by Conchita Carpio-Morales #Fake
* unilateral decisions #Fake
* little lady #Fake
* Bolet Banal’s mystery informant leaving bank documents at his gate #Fake
* bank documents clandestinely given to Harvey Keh, and his “presscon” outside Senate office #Fake
* Conchita Carpio-Morales’ testimony under oath based on web of lies, and her basis for case filed against Chief Justice Corona #Fake
* Kim Henares’ basis for filing cases against Chief Justice Corona and family members #Fake
* Leila de Lima’s basis for filing cases against Chief Justice Corona and family members #Fake.
Indeed, it is heartbreaking.
When I reflect on the appalling injustice to CJ Corona, I am convinced that he and the nation were victimized by disinformation disseminated by the Aquino government. The perpetrators knew it was all a lie, and they willfully spread it to convict him at the Senate. Many of the perpetrators of the falsehood and injustice are still in office. Many of the senator-jurors are still holding forth at the Senate. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is in position to commit more disinformation—this time against a sitting president. She might get her comeuppance at her own impeachment.”
Gina Lopez’s Seacology Prize
Flooded by so much false information, we see the march of events through a glass darkly. We see things imperfectly, and often miss the brighter side of life around us.
I want to direct attention today to the good news that Filipino environmentalist and former environment secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez will be presented with the prestigious Seacology Prize this year.
I find this cheering because I was one journalist who was captivated by the zeal with which she battled the scourge and depredations of mining in the country I bought into her message that it was “now or never” for the nation to correct the terrible toll that mining was exacting from the country and our posterity.
Gina fought a good fight, but she was battling powerful forces who were deeply entrenched in Congress and in the government that she was serving. She was rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
It gives me great pleasure therefore to note that there is one fight of Gina’s that is not lost. It won attention and recognition in the international community.
I refer to Gina’s untiring fight for the rights of island communities and their island environment. She has been selected to receive the 2017 Seacology Prize, which carries a $10,000 award money with it. The prize, now on its 27th year, is awarded annually to someone who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.
According to Seacology’s executive director Duane Silverstein, “Gina Lopez has shown the vision and courage the Seacology Prize is meant to honor. “She has fought for the Philippine environment and to give island communities there a voice in the decisions that affect their natural resources and their lives.”
With the Seacology prize, Gina is fittingly being honored for her work to preserve and defend our island ecosystems.
Gina said in a statement: “I am honored to receive an award for something I believe in and from an organization doing so much for island ecosystems,
“The Philippines is a country of 7,000 islands, and I hope this award will affect the entire country. And because the Philippines has so many diverse ecosystems, and so many animals and plants that occur nowhere else, saving our islands has direct global impact as well.”
As a native of one of these islands and ecosystems, I share some pride in this award with Gina. I believe it is vindication for her work and the rightness of her labors for people and country.
The struggle against the mountain killers abides. It’s still “now or never” for our people.