Misinformation Is a Word We Use to Shut You Up

23 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2023 Last revised: 26 Jun 2023

See all articles by Daniel B. Klein

Daniel B. Klein

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: May 31, 2023


The policing of “information” is the stuff of Naziism, Stalinism, Maoism, and similar anti-liberal regimes. To repress criticism of their dicta and diktats, anti-liberals label criticism “misinformation” or “disinformation.” Those labels are instruments to crush dissent. This paper offers an understanding of knowledge as involving three chief facets: information, interpretation, and judgment.

Usually, what people argue fervently over is not information, but interpretation and judgment. What is being labeled and attacked as “misinformation” is not a matter of true or false information, but of true or false knowledge—meaning that disagreement more commonly arises over interpretations and judgments as to which interpretations to take stock in or believe. We make judgments, “good” and “bad,” “wise” and “foolish,” about interpretations, “true” and “false.”

On that understanding, the paper explains that the projects and policies now afoot styled “anti-misinformation” and “anti-disinformation” are dishonest, as it should be obvious to all that those projects and policies would, if advanced honestly, be called something like “anti-falsehood” campaigns.

But to prosecute an “anti-falsehood” campaign would make obvious the true nature of what is afoot—an Orwellian boot to stomp on Wrongthink. To support governmental policing of “information” is to confess one’s anti-liberalism and illiberality.

The essay offers a spiral diagram to show the three chief facets of knowledge (information, interpretation, and judgment) plus a fourth facet, fact, which also deserves distinct conceptualization, even though the spiral reminds us: Facts are theory-laden.

Keywords: Disinformation, knowledge, interpretation, judgment, propaganda, dissent, despotism

JEL Classification: A12, A13, D63, D78, D8, K4

Suggested Citation

Klein, Daniel B., Misinformation Is a Word We Use to Shut You Up (May 31, 2023). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 23-24, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4465604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4465604

Daniel B. Klein (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://economics.gmu.edu/people/dklein

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics