Polly Kettle
 
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Polly Kettle
Polly Kettle
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Joined: 2022-08-15
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In 2002, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 55 percent of Americans said the country had changed for the better in response to September 11, 2001. Ten years later in 2011, we were roughly divided on this question. Today, nearly half (46 percent) believe the events of 9/11 changed our country for the worst, while only 33 percent say September 11, 2001 changed the country for the better. Some commentators, like New York Times columnist James Poniewozik, attempt to provide an explanation for this alteration in our historical memory, “The attacks set off a chain of action and changes— military quagmires, suspicion and racism at home, the loss of trust in institutions—that demagogues used to undermine democracy, and that fulfilled Osama Bin Laden’s goal of dividing and weakening America.”Washington Post editor Carlos Lozada goes even further in an essay entitled “9/11 was a test. We failed.”“Rather than exemplify the nation’s highest values, the official response to 9/11 unleashed some of its worst qualities: deception, brutality, arrogance, ignorance, delusion, overreach and carelessness,” Lozada wrote.Serge Schmemann, the journalist who wrote the lead article on 9/11 for the New York Times in 2001, has undergone a similar change of heart. “September 11th is shorthand for the moment when America lost its way, especially with the war in Afghanistan, having come to a tragic, ugly and senseless end.”Disagreements about how past events should be interpreted and incorporated into our current memory become further complicated by misinformation campaigns aimed at modifying perceptions of present events and thereby affect how these events will be remembered.Some light was shed on this in November 2021 when the Aspen’s Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder came out with its eighty-page report: “Today misinformation and disinformation have become a forceful multiplier for exacerbating our worst problems as a society. Hundreds of millions of people pay the price, every single day, for a world disordered by lies,” according to the report.Disinformation is defined as false or misleading information, intentionally created or strategically amplified to mislead the public for a purpose (e.g., political, financial, or social). Misinformation is false or misleading information that is not necessarily intentional. But whether we are talking about disinformation or misinformation, the reality is the same: “From public health to election fraud to gender violence and predatory advertising, misinformation and disinformation result in real-world harms that impact people’s lives.”Perhaps the greatest harm caused by disinformation and misinformation comes from their corrosive effects on individual and collective memory. The falsifications that we can be induced to accept and believe today will form the memories that we will be recalling in the future. What’s worse, the practitioners of misinformation and disinformation aren’t so much aiming at converting people from one persuasion to another, as they are at providing false information that further bolsters their already held deeply seated convictions.As stated in the final report of the Commission on Information Disorder, “One of the most challenging aspects of addressing information disorder is confronting the reality that ‘disinformation’ and misinformation campaigns by bad actors don’t magically create bigotry, misogyny, racism, or intolerance—instead, such efforts are often about giving readers and consumers permission to believe things that they are already predisposed to believe.” Even more worrying is the suggestion by some democratic leaders that misinformation and disinformation techniques should be practiced in response to the disinformation and misinformation campaigns conducted by our adversaries.

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