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Literature Review for Graduate Students in Education

What is Information?

Information is the assertion of a fact within a context. For instance, merely to state a number or percentage is not information- there is no context for these bits of data.

Information occurs when you relate them together- for example, The population of New York in 2000 was 8.000,000, an increase of 9% over the year before. The two pieces of data are brought in to relation to one another. That is information.

Propaganda

Propaganda relies on information to be effective, but propaganda will assert and highlight pieces of information out of context and exclude other information which may contradict or throw doubt on an idea. The selective inclusion of certain information will support the point of view the propaganda has been created to serve.

Propaganda is always the work of entities with bias- whether individuals or institutions. The goal of propaganda is to evoke a particular attitude in the reader. Political speeches are often a form of propaganda, since they have as their express goal influencing the thinking of voters. There is a wide array of propagandistic techniques, from outright lies to selective omission of fact.

Many Tweets can be characterized as propaganda, since they are written with the express purpose of swaying public opinion in the absence of documented facts.

Or consider the following from the Republican National Committee Press Release page:

"Booker's Record of Failure
Booker has chosen Newark for his presidential campaign headquarters, a city he has used “as a steppingstone” since moving there from an affluent suburb to run for city council in 1998.
While Mayor of Newark, Booker was often criticized by his own party for not being focused on the “day-to-day” governing and was better suited for “speechmaking” than “governing.”
Six years after vowing to make Newark a “model of urban transformation,” Booker’s Newark remains an “emblem of poverty,” and residents were stuck with a city “plagued by self-dealing and mismanagement.”
In 2010, while Booker was mayor, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledged a $100 million matching gift to improve Newark’s education system, and reports now suggest the city “wasted” the money, spending over $20 million on politically connected consulting firms and generous union contracts.
In 2011, Booker’s own Deputy Mayor, Ron Salahuddin, was charged and convicted on conspiracy charges to support a pay-to-play scheme involving city contract kickbacks to supporters of Booker’s nonprofit Newark Now, which “acted as a clearinghouse for lucrative construction contracts in exchange for donations.”

Notice the tendentious tone, and assertion of unsupported facts. Also, overuse of quotation marks, presumably to indicate irony.

Misinformation

Misinformation consists of the passing on of incorrect information without any special bias- similar to misspeaking. Gossip, rumor, and some public figures offer many examples of misinformation without malicious intent.

"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three nonfatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it."  George W. Bush,—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 14, 200

 

Presumably President Bush's intent in the remark quoted above was not to reassure the American people that the government would work to increase the number of fatal shootings.

Another form of misinformation are urban legends- although they are passed along as if true, they are never associated with evidence or documentation.

The Snopes website examines and debunks urban legends.

Disinformation

Disinformation consists of lies. It is pernicious because there is nothing obvious about disinformation when you encounter it on the internet or in research- it appears to be like any other source. Scholars have to be vigilant about the source of articles- who is behind the journal, the website, the university? Does the individual or group have a strongly held belief system which might influence their publications? Is there an ovararching goal which all their published work supports?

Don't automatically trust what you find on the internet. If you don't know who wrote it, or can't validate the identity of the author, you have no way of knowing if their information is true.