[Fis] FW: The Age of Discord. The Foundations of DIS-information Science

Joseph Brenner joe.brenner at bluewin.ch
Mon Nov 25 16:38:31 CET 2019

Dear Pedro and All,


Disinformation is produced and disseminated in four major domains: politics,
science, communications and the operation of the current social system.


1.	Politics
2.	Science
3.	Communications
4.	The Social System; Hypocrisy


The reason I refer to disinformation as a science is not to ennoble it, but
to emphasize that combating it requires close attention to its scientific
and philosophical properties and dynamics. Let us use the term narrative to
refer to a ‘unit’ of the discourse in the domains, and I give just a few
examples here.


1.	Politics

Left-wing and right-wing politicians are equally bad. This doctrine pushed
by the left­-wing publicist Ralph Nader during his run for the U.S.
Presidency in 2000 led to his gaining enough Democratic voters to result in
the victory of the Republican Bush and the Iraq war. Despite the Obama
interlude, it set the pre-conditions for the subsequent emergence of Trump.


2.	Science

Driven by fundamentalist dogma, disinformation about the risks vs. the
necessity of vaccination is increasingly common. Similarly, the number of
people who believe (or claim to believe, see below) that the Earth is flat
is increasing compared to the last Century. Many Americans still believe
that global warming is a hoax, propagated by ‘Communists’, interested in
destroying our economic system (see 4).


3.	Communications

Disinformation about the Internet leads to resistance to control in the name
of ‘Free Speech’. I defy anyone who has seen recent interviews of Zuckerberg
on TV to claim that he does not deserve criminal prosecution.


4.	The Social System; Hypocrisy

If people are forced to pretend publicly that they believe the
disinformation they receive (to keep their jobs, etc.), hypocrisy becomes
institutionalized and endemic. It is then possible to ask whether the
current neo-capitalist system in fact depends on disinformation for its
continued existence.


Finally, it is very easy, IMHO, to distinguish between disinformation and
misinformation, without becoming too ‘technical’: the latter is essentially
accidental, although its consequences may be disastrous in individual cases.
The former is intentional, and its consequences are becoming increasingly
disastrous. Theories of Information Science that neglect or occult the role
of intentionality in the transfer of information, that is, communications,
leave the door open to further disinformation.


I welcome both agreements and disagreements with the above, as well as
possible themes for FIS and FDS discussion.


Best wishes,







From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es] On Behalf Of Pedro C.
Sent: lundi, 25 novembre 2019 14:22
To: fis at listas.unizar.es
Subject: Re: [Fis] FW: The Age of Discord


Dear List,


Am responding to Joseph and to Diego.


To the former, I agree on the quantitative mirage when trying to formalize
history. Perhaps the best contents in Turchin's books refer to qualitative
aspects, for instance the development of "frontier" countries he discusses
(the cases of Russia, Spain, and US and others). The main point on the
emergence of those long term trends of progression/regression or
oscillations is very intriguing and I think we cannot substantiate it
easily. The organization of an ad hoc discussion session would be quite
interesting (can someone help on that possibility?). The relationship with
the historical acceleration an the emergence of new of information flows
would also be intriguing. As I comment below, it can be a fertile new field
and a necessity to be covered by information philosophy. We badly need to
put the most relevant aspects in an integrative view.


To Diego, my focus was not only in the Latin American countries. If we
contemplate recent months/years, we see many other mass explosions (Algeria,
Tunisia, Thailand, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, Jordania...) and I had
already included other Arab countries, plus Spain, France, and other
movements: Trumpism, Brexiterism, and also we could include Metooism,
indignados, and all kinds of offendidisms & populisms... Everywhere there
are deep causes around for mass-mobilization, some are different, some may
be common. But it is not just the arrival of "conquistadores" scapegoat. By
the way, they parted away two centuries ago, and some of those countries
were not in bad shape 50-60 years ago (Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay,
Cuba.... The case of Argentina is amazing: after WWI she was the fourth
richest country of the world. Venezuela's case, unfortunately, is more
dramatic). Coincidentally, in discussions with Islamic-inclined parties, I
was surprised to find another scapegoat widely argumented: the Crusades.
Islamic societies failed to make the different modern transitions due to the
cultural-political crisis brought forth by the crusades (seven-eight
centuries ago!). Well, to escape from traditional cliches or from political
preferences I think Acemoglu's views are quite balanced about these themes,
particularly in his 2012 book, Why
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Nations_Fail>  Nations Fail. Our
colleague Howard Bloom has also written penetrating analyses on the
historical evolution of Islamic societies versus the Western world.


Summing up, that the new media are one of those deep causes contributing to
irritated socio-political and cultural climates is an idea that can be found
in quite a few analyses today. Coincidentally I could read this weekend an
international analyst with very similar opinions to my own on the
e-destabilization in the mentioned world regions. Widespread mass-additions
to e-life are a fact: data on use of screens are outrageous. Adults in the
US spend on average more that ten hours daily watching, reading, listening
to or simply interacting with media. US adolescents spend an average of 9
hours daily in front of their cell phones screens. In parallel, a growing
epidemics of adolescent medicalization and prescription of opioids and drug
abuse is taking shape. That means a brave new style of life and a brave new
mode of thinking are on the advance... 


Best regards



El 22/11/2019 a las 12:54, Joseph Brenner escribió:

Dear Pedro and All,


I agree in general with Pedro on the importance of Turchin’s
transdisciplinary approach, but feel that something is missing in his
attempted synthesis in Cliodynamics. I say attempted for two reasons: for
me, he overemphasizes the role of mathematics – historical databases and
such, and the title of his journal is Quantitative History and Cultural
Evolution. This is not to say that mathematical methods do not have a role,
but if the objective is that history become an analytical, predictive
science like others so described, I see the potential loss of its essential
qualitative aspects. The statement that Trump is worse than Nixon is not


The (clio)dynamics of Pedro’s 5 points are also non-analytical and
non-mathematizable. However, he uses two, related terms that I think should
be unpacked: 1) low progress 2) secular oscillation. I see decades-long
trends of re-gress, such that only if the sinusoidal oscillation can also
move backwards is it fair to call it an oscillation.


If it is a fundamental irrationality that is underlying current cultural
evolution –or perhaps better devolution, then the practice of Information
Science and Philosophy must take this into account to be meaningful.


I am not arguing for the sake of arguing, but the repetition of only the
most commonly accepted usages of terms is not going to help.


Thank you and best wishes,








From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es] On Behalf Of Pedro C.
Sent: vendredi, 22 novembre 2019 12:14
To: 'fis'
Subject: [Fis] The Age of Discord


Dear FIS & IS4SI Colleagues,

"The Age of Discord" was the title of a lecture that the historian and
sociologist Peter Turchin, founder of the Cliodynamics approach, gave
recently in the Netherlands. The slides can be easily obtained in the web
(in his blog). The content was mainly referring to a decades-long trend of
low progress and rise of inequality, and as a consequence growing social
unrest. It would form part of a secular oscillation in history... But I
think there is a new potent factor: the hyperconnectivity we talked weeks

These days we are watching violent demonstrations in numerous countries:
Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Iran, Irak, Lebanon... plus
Hongkong, Spain (Barcelona), France (gilets jaunes), and the rising
polarization from Trumpism and Brexit. There is a contagion effect in some
cases. But a common factor is the influence of social networks. In several

--How easy is to organize demonstrations and activist concentrations.

--How easy is to disseminate information that efficiently counteracts
governments' efforts to maintain social order. 

--How easyly anger and hatred are shared among the masses, generating a
collective climate of insults, physical violence, highest irritation.

--How easily outright lies, disinformation, vitriolic attacks are jumping
from screen to screen to the eyeballs of hypnotized watchers.

--The proportion of "negative" to "positive" (say of emotional responses)
has become the highest in the history of communication.

My opinion is that the new media and new modalities of hyperconnection,
still deprived of constraining cultural patterns, are the genuine movers of
this "Age of Discord", without rejecting the other factors implied in
Turchin secular views. This time there is something really new agitating
history and the masses (like printing press, steam engines...). Is there
hope that collective intelligence will domesticate this artificial
information flow soon? Of course, without a loss of individual freedoms.

Best wishes



Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
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