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Demagogues, dictators 'using' misinformation as tool to exploit trust of ordinary people

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* 

In this era of an Artificial Intelligence-fuelled digital revolution, misinformation has emerged as a potent weapon wielded by both ruling and non-ruling elites. Their aim is often to undermine truth, dismantle democracy, sow division among people, and exert control over various aspects of life and resources on the planet.
The reach of Deep Fakes extends far beyond celebrities, politicians, and industrialists; they now infiltrate everyday services and commodities that are consumed by the masses. This pervasive spread of deceptive information threatens not only public figures but also the trust and reliability of the information we rely on in our daily lives.
As technology continues to advance, the challenge lies in distinguishing fact from fiction and ensuring that our digital landscape and society remains a trustworthy source of information for everyone.
Misinformation is not merely an accidental mistake; it is a meticulously crafted strategy designed to exploit the masses. This deliberate dissemination of false information serves to divert attention from the harsh material realities of capitalism, steering people towards a culture fuelled by emotion and falsehoods.
In such an environment, it becomes increasingly challenging to engage with fact-based information that has a tangible impact on everyday human lives. This shift towards an emotional and misleading narrative undermines the foundation of informed decision-making, making it crucial for individuals to be vigilant and discerning in their consumption of information.
As we navigate this complex landscape, the importance of promoting critical thinking and media literacy cannot be overstated, empowering individuals to distinguish between reliable information and deliberate deception.
Misinformation is disseminated widely across all mediums of communication, intentionally blurring the lines between fact and fraud. This strategy serves to amplify deception, foster misgovernance, and create a climate where accountability is side-lined.
The pervasive nature of this misinformation campaign contributes to shaping a narrative where individuals are constantly confronted with false challenges and distorted realities. By muddying the waters of truth, those behind these campaigns aim to sow confusion, manipulate public opinion, and undermine the foundations of a well-informed society.
This deliberate strategy to disengage with accountability not only erodes trust in institutions but also hampers the ability of individuals to make informed decisions that affect their lives. It fosters a culture where misinformation thrives, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between genuine information and deliberate falsehoods.
In such a deceptive environment, tobacco companies exploit the narrative of smoking being associated with smartness, while alcohol companies promote the supposed health benefits of drinking. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies’ market numerous unnecessary drugs under the guise of securing a healthy life.
This false propaganda follows in the tradition of Goebbels, who famously stated, "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." The fraudulent and misinformation campaigns orchestrated by these industries have little regard for truth; their primary objective is to weaken the foundation of truth and undermine the realities of life.
By perpetuating falsehoods and manipulating public perception, these entities prioritize profit over the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. This insidious manipulation not only distorts public understanding but also erodes trust in legitimate sources of information. As a result, it becomes increasingly challenging for individuals to make informed choices about their health, contributing to a cycle of misinformation and exploitation.
Misinformation fuels all forms of authoritarianism by undermining democracy and leaving citizens ill-informed or misinformed. This deliberate spread of false information serves the interests of both ruling and non-ruling elites, enabling them to govern the masses without facing democratic accountability.
In this context, misinformation acts as an escape route for the elites, allowing them to manipulate public opinion and maintain control over societal narratives. By controlling the flow of information and shaping public perception through misinformation, these elites can influence elections, suppress dissent, and consolidate power without the checks and balances that a well-informed citizenry would demand.
This erosion of democratic principles and practices poses a significant threat to the fabric of democratic societies, as it undermines the fundamental rights of citizens to make informed decisions and hold their leaders accountable. 
So, combating misinformation is not just a matter of correcting false information; it is a crucial step in safeguarding democracy and ensuring that governance remains transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs and wishes of the people.
By promoting media literacy, fostering critical thinking, and holding purveyors of misinformation accountable, people can work towards creating a more informed and resilient democratic society.
Misinformation serves as a tool for demagogues and dictators alike, exploiting the trust of ordinary people who often lack the means to verify the authenticity of information shared on digital platforms. In an age where information is readily accessible but not always reliable, the hardworking masses find themselves at the mercy of false narratives propagated by those with ulterior motives.
Meanwhile, some intellectuals lazily label this era as one of "post-truth," suggesting that truth and realities have become obsolete concepts. However, post-truth has little to do with truth; instead, it is a deliberate strategy employed by both governing and non-governing elites to shape public opinion and delegitimise factual information. By manipulating the narrative and spreading misinformation, these elites seek to maintain their grip on power without facing scrutiny or accountability.
This deliberate distortion of truth not only undermines the public's ability to make informed decisions but also erodes the foundations of democratic society. It is essential to recognise the dangers posed by the deliberate spread of false information and to actively work towards promoting a culture of transparency, accountability, and factual integrity.
By doing so, we can help safeguard democracy and ensure that the voices of ordinary people are not drowned out by the cacophony of falsehoods propagated by those who seek to manipulate public opinion for their interests.
The power of misinformation campaigns based on fake news is undeniably potent in today's digital age, capable of undermining both life and truth. However, it's crucial to remember that this influence is not insurmountable nor permanent. While misinformation and fake news may obscure the truth, they cannot ultimately destroy it.
History stands as a silent yet steadfast witness to the ebb and flow of power and the enduring nature of truth. Time and again, the inherent resilience of truth has prevailed over deception, and the efforts of those who sought to manipulate public opinion have been exposed and defeated.
*University of Glasgow, UK



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