The Science Of Fake News & Disinformation — Guest Post by Jaap Hanekamp

The Science Of Fake News & Disinformation — Guest Post by Jaap Hanekamp

It is time to talk about something pedestrian: untrustworthy public utterances via e.g. written media, newsreels, webpages, a.k.a. fake news.

Fake news is carried by some form of mis/disinformation that might be found in different sources, science journals included.

Why is fake news boring, common, prosaic, humdrum, and the like? Because there is nothing new about it. That’s why.

One thing sticks out: academics and intellectuals are just as susceptible, if not more, to fake news than anyone else.

Academics and intellectuals, however, have a means to hide their gullibility, for themselves and others, by emphasising their expertise that seemingly protects them against fakeness.

However, history teaches us that that is in fact profoundly mistaken. Let’s have a closer look, so that we might learn something.

My esteemed colleague Michael Burke, together with co-authors, have tried to tackle the issue of fake news in their 2021-paper Countering the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Underpinnings Behind Susceptibility to Fake News (emphasis added):

…fake news is the intentional creation, repetition, or presentation of deceptive disinformation which masquerades as the truth. The effect of this is to instill false beliefs with intentional misinformation behind them…; the intention to be taken seriously, and to be instrumentalized sociopolitically, is what sets it apart from satire and hoaxes… Furthermore, fake news lends its own credibility by framing invented or distorted news stories tangentially as related to true events and real people. Fake news links itself to real events while doing so in a politically contested…climate so that the reader draws those events into question. Therefore, fake news finds support by relying on the general distrust of the public and the overly critical individuals in the minority who repeat disinformation.

Now, this paper extensively delves into the psychology, linguistics and other aspects of fake news, addressing also the aspect of the recipients age.

Another paper from 2022, Lateral reading and monetary incentives to spot disinformation about science by Panizza et al. [see also this], tries to delve into the subject matter as well, with reference to so called fact checkers:

…fact checkers adopt two core strategies to avoid being biased in their search. The first strategy is lateral reading, namely leaving a website and opening new tabs along a horizontal axis to use the resources of the Internet to learn more about a site and its claims. Appearance of websites can sometimes mislead about their reliability, hence reading laterally helps to identify potential issues such as undisclosed interests or false credentials. The second core strategy is click restraint, that is, to sift through search results of a browser search before clicking on any link.

The aim of this particular paper is to measure participants’ ability to identify whether information was scientifically valid or invalid.

Now, overall, both papers don’t tackle the ‘fakeness’ of texts as such, whether these texts are found on websites, newspapers, journal papers and so on.

In fact, both papers try to define proxy’s of fakeness, whether in linguistics, psychology, lateral reading, click restraint, or even scientific validity.

It seems to me that it would be quite helpful, academically and otherwise, to have something to say about the reality of fake news (pun intended) and in what ways one could unveil the fakeness of public texts.

First and foremost, if we want to understand fake, we need to know what is real. In other words, fundamentally we need to be able to distinguish between truth and falsity.

This implies, and the authors of both papers would agree with me here I believe, that there is actually truth to be had about the world we live in and the knowledge we have of our world.

To be absolutely clear: if someone says “there is no such thing as truth”, truth has been expressed, whereby the originally articulated proposition is incoherent.

Fake news, therefore, is just a subset of untrustworthy public utterances about the world, in whatever ways these are brought to the attention of the public.

In that respect, photos, film (documentaries, newsreels), written texts, as in newspaper articles, blogposts, scientific papers(!), can be, for lack of better term, very fake.

And that is far from new. Au contraire.

Let’s go back in time and explore fakeness on a truly gargantuan scale, to the detriment of millions that fell victim thereto.

Paul Hollander’s book Political Pilgrims – Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society will be excellent and shocking reading material. This is Hollander’s research question, in my own words:

Why did the intellectual creme the la creme of Western culture fall hook, line, and sinker for the communist lie, the massive fake of a utopian society they visited, that hid its gargantuan violence in plain sight for these intellectuals?

For instance, Hollander, reflecting on the Soviet’s Great Purge of the 1930s in which at least 3/4 of a million people were murdered under Stalin’s rule, has the following to say about the Western elite’s disastrous and gullible embrace of Soviet communism:

…the most credulous [gullible] visitors the attractive features of Soviet society formed a “package” which was hard to pull apart. They could not bring themselves to think or say, for instance, that the decline of illiteracy and infant mortality was admirable but clearly the Purges and police terror were not. Those who admired the decline of infant mortality persuaded themselves…that the judicial proceedings too were admirable. In some extreme cases…the believers could not bring themselves to stop believing. They became political addicts; like the alcoholic who cannot remain a social drinker, the most credulous among the sympathizers were incapable of drawing the line. If he believed X why not also believe Y? If Jerome Davis could believe that those who confessed in the Moscow Trials were guilty why not also that the Baltic people welcomed annexation by the Soviet Union? Why not the Soviet professions of innocence in the Katyn massacre in Poland? Why not the Soviet version of why the Soviet Army halted at the gates of Warsaw in 1944 and let the Nazis slaughter the non-communist Polish resistance fighters?

Hollander makes it absolutely clear that people of all walks of life can be taken in by fake portrayals of the world, which we nowadays would call ‘fake news’.

In fact, he shows with respect to the communist history that Western intellectuals such as academics are more gullible than the average person to be fooled into this hellish utopian worldview.

This historical episode of fakeness of an ultraviolent utopian society sold by the majority of Western intellectuals and academics to the rest of the world is the prime example of the inability to understand reality beyond the ideological preferences of its days.

The propagation of this monumental disinformation on a global scale went on well into the 1980s (and beyond?). Dutch politicians, such as Paul Rosenmöller, are well known for their unapologetic support of the most murderous of communist leaders. He was certainly not the only one. As Hollander remarks (emphasis added):

Socialism…still offers, after many historical disappointments, a myth, a way out. The grass seems greener on the other side, in societies which legitimate themselves by high ideals and appeal to (and promise) community, brotherhood, wholeness, social justice, equality, and selflessness; they offer some shared forms of self-transcendence… We must once more return to the concept of double standards which underlies and helps to explain the fluctuation between the critical and uncritical attitudes, belief and disbelief, moral absolutism and moral relativism (or as Ernst Fisher, the German ex-Communist, put it, “the length to which a man can go, who, though neither stupid nor vicious, deliberately ceases to see, to listen, to think critically…so as not to doubt the cause he serves…”).

Returning to the papers referred to above, both try to immediately push through to proxy findings that might be the consequences of some kind of fakeness that is supposed to be known without fail a priori.

That, however, is an extremely weak approach that would never be able to identify the intellectuals gullibility in any timeframe.

Indeed, as these past and present intellectual defenders of unpardonable murderous politics are supremely equipped to write and speak eloquently using accepted scientific-intellectual jargon, the proposed approaches of both papers will surely fail.

In the final analysis then, we have to do the hard work in separating truth from falsity. There are no, and never will be, shortcuts.

In fact, being an intellectual and/or academic might very well cripple the ability to separate fake from real. History clearly speaks against us! That simultaneously is a stark warning to self (Matthew 11:25):

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

This post originally appeared at Hanekamp’s blog under a slightly different title.

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  1. Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque

    For various reasons, people love to believe the official lies of “science.”

    I will provide a link to proof of a scientific hoax with rather serious consequences, a hoax, interestingly enough, that was presented to the public on a Good Friday. The media swallowed this hoax with as much joy and stupidity as the hoaxers accurately anticipated.

  2. Joy

    “i am going to provide a link…that will prove”

  3. Joy
    Hoax/fake science, from start to finish. I expect they were surprised they were taken seriously. They knew the quality of peer review was not good at that particular time. A chink in the armour, as a propagandist, or faker, would see it.

    All fake news is cynical by its nature.
    Failure to accept fake when you see it is telling of a degree of dishonesty or pride in admitting error, ineptitude or defeat.
    How could such a source ever be trusted again?

    Just like a certain Russian cruiser’s sinking is now being faked away, but it’s at least incompetence, how ever you spell it

  4. Joy

    The aim of this particular paper is to measure participants’ ability to identify whether information was scientifically valid or invalid.
    Why don’t they just use Wallace’s BS meter aka “just ask Gromit”?

    People could just decide to tell the truth
    It could be a matter of loaf and death:

  5. Jan Van Betsuni

    Governments hold very dear their manifold and ever expanding power(s) to disinform. Faced with inconvenient revelations, knee-jerk denials are issued. Political truth is decided not observed.

    “Believe nothing until it has been officially denied.” Claud Cockburn

  6. Incitadus

    Jaap writes:
    “In the final analysis then, we have to do the hard work in separating truth from falsity. There are no, and never will be, shortcuts.”

    That’s where you’re wrong the left at least has a plan and it’s in the very obtuse study you’ve
    linked to….”Countering the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Underpinnings Behind
    Susceptibility to Fake News:” I would go so far as to say this paper is a veritable handbook in
    the nuts and bolts of fake news construction and is itself couched in academic terminology to
    obscure it’s utility.

    But what really got my left wing bullshit detector flashing red was this gem: “Detecting Fake News
    Through the Machine Analysis of Language.” The left is constructing an AI machine, they of
    course will program, that will tell us definitively and unequivocally what is and is not
    fake news. Quelle surprise the veneer of science applied to yet more bullshit.

    The very definitions of fake news they emphasize center on the online blogosphere and
    low volume news sites with modest budgets and an axe to grind. Absent from the discussion
    is any mention of the lavishly funded behemoth 24/7 legacy media waste dumps that lie
    continuously. Of course they wanted to get published and it is an interesting and revealing
    exposition of academic navel gazing. Think Ministry of Truth as you read it really is an
    incredible documented wish list that would make any totalitarian blush.

  7. The bottom line problem is that it takes non-self-delusional subject matter expertise to understand whether or not and/or to what extent, any specific bit of news is real. Most of the time I don’t have that and so decide whether to wholly or partially trust something on faith in the source and/or consistency with what I think I know – of course, half of what I think I know is wrong (but I don’t know which half).

  8. Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque

    Fake News has been around since the earliest day of the The Catholic Church which is why Saint Luke began his Gospel as he did:

    II. S. Luke wrote his Gospel against certain gaping, ignorant, perhaps even false Evangelists, who had written, in Syria or Greece, an imperfect, it may be a lying Gospel, as S. Luke himself signifies in the beginning of his work. So say Origen, S. Ambrose, Theophylact, and S. Epiphanius (Her. l. i), who, however, when he adds that S. Luke wrote against Cerinthus and Meritus, does not seem to speak correctly. For these two, and especially Basilides, were later than S. Luke, as is clear from Eusebius (Hist. B. iii. ch. 32). Theophylact and Bede think, with more truth, that S. Luke wrote against the Apocryphal Gospels of others, such as pass under the names of “Thomas, Matthew, and the Twelve Apostles.”

    Of course, there are many, many fraudulent verses and errors (Thirty Thousand) in the KJV Bible in addition to it tossing out seven books of the bible because a Fake Faith requires Fake Bible verses.

    C’est la vie

    One has to keep one’s eyes open to guard against devilish error and nothing is more devilish than modern “science” which continues to lie about Covid and propagandises in favor of the jab so idiots will subject their pre-teens to the jab – a jab that wil result in death and/or sterility for many of those whose parents were stupid enough to believe the leis of the CDC, Fauci, Trump and Biden

  9. Cary Cotterman

    You don’t have to be an expert in every discipline. You do have to have good bullshit radar so you can sense which “experts” are trustworthy and which are shilling the leftist narrative and/or looking for personal aggrandizement, power, or wealth.

  10. C-Marie

    “1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3i it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” LUKE 1: 1-4.

    God bless, C-Marie

  11. Joy

    Of course, there are many, many fraudulent verses and errors (Thirty Thousand) in the KJV Bible in addition to it tossing out seven books of the bible because a Fake Faith requires Fake Bible verses.

    “fraudulent”? they are translations of the bible in a variety of combinations, and for various audiences for purposes of understanding. To call them fraud is false.
    Bible gateway supports 232 different versions of the bible in
    74 different languages. See Nov 21 update on Wikipedia or go there yourself to verify

    Luke chapter 1: 1-4: (known as the prologue)
    United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops/(USCCB):
    1 Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us,a
    2 just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,b
    3 I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus,
    4 so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
    King James Bible (KJB)-
    1Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
    2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
    So far so good:
    Hwere’s another one NIV
    3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
    4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
    New International Version (NIV):
    1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us,
    2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 
    3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 
    4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

  12. Joy

    Ignore the following in the above text, I lost my curser on editing.
    So far so good:
    Hwere’s another one NIV

    was intended to come before NIV quote I see no problem in just those three, one of which were called fraudulent and specifically in that section of Luke.
    Seven missing books are not books which appeared in the bible of the Hebrews which Jesus would have been referring to in his references. Nor does he reference them directly;
    They were publicly known historical texts and texts of wisdom. Not relevant to Christianity at all.

  13. Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque

    Prots claim that wisdom, and other canonical books of the Old Testament, have aught to do with Christianity and they are right in that they are describing their ideologically circumscribed fake christianity.

    For Lurkers, I could give many examples but I know this one by heart;

    Wisdom 18: [14] For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, [15] Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction.

  14. Mick Jagger Gathwrs No Mosque

    For lurkers

    Baruch [36] This is our God, and there shall no other be accounted of in comparison of him. [37] He found out all the way of knowledge, and gave it to Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. [38] Afterwards he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men.

    Yeah, nothing about Christianity there..I could go on but the point is made

  15. Johnno

    Joy: “The Bible is full of errors don’tcha know?”


    Anglicanism… ladies and gentlemen. Just sit there are stare at it.

    Maybe some books aren’t relevant to Joy’s very particular and adulterous brand of “Christianity”, but the rest of us will stick to the canon.

  16. Joy

    The coming down from heaven text you quote is from the time of Jesus i.e. he would have been able to ‘access’ the book at the time, or would he?

    He never referred to it. It was not part of the Jewish biblical texts to which he
    quoted and referenced from His contemporary bible.
    Therefore for continuity of the text and the purpose of the bible for Christians it seems odd to even think to include the books. I would argue it detracts from the credibility of the bible’s compilers.
    The text itself is poetry but it’s included after the fact as no doubt countless other works of art or literature may have been considered candidates at the time.
    There are poems, songs, Hymns, carols, even “rock/pop” songs which aim at the same effect as that quote, for example.
    “long lay the world in sin and error pining
    till he appeared and the soul felt its worth”

    “so little cause for carollings of such ecstatic sound
    were written on terrestrial things, afar or nigh around,
    that I should think there trembled through, his happy goodnight air,
    some blessed hope whereof he knew and I was unaware”
    Darkling Thrush by by Thomas Hardy

    The sound Of Silence:
    So it isn’t that it is not valuable but it isn’t strictly biblical, wasn’t for Jesus. I don’t see it makes any difference.
    That selected quote is pretty though, I don’t want to give the wrong impression on its stand alone quality.

  17. Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque

    Johnno. I know it is prolly fruitless to try and get through the dense ideological jungle prots are trapped in but for the lurkers it might be helpful.

    Some appear even unable to understand that Jesus has always existed or that the Septuagint pre-existed the Catholic Church which pre-existed the New Testament and wrote every single word of it.

    To consider even for a moment the holy and brilliant men (yeah, they were all men) who developed the canon and then compare them to the ALT leftists (Autocephalic Liberals in Time) who claim they Catholic Church did not know what it was doing when it decided which books would and wouldn’t be included in the canon makes the use of LOL as legitimate when writing about them.

    Anyways, always amusing and I am done with this topic for awhile

  18. Joy

    Earlier, Mick you mentioned the Thomas gospel
    Those texts were never included in the protestant bible. Those books which are included are clear for anybody to check.

    It’s a straw man argument to introduce other gospels and gnostic texts. That might all be very interesting but not in a discussion about what is actually in the bible.
    Most scholars agree on the omissions of the Old Testament books as being an accretion too far. They were not there in the holy text for Jesus Christ, why would they be added after the fact as part of an OLD LAW / biblical text after the death of Jesus?

    Do all Roman catholics non apologists think ordinary catholics and protestants believe Christianity is there for convenience? It’s like you all read a preparatory text book on what Protestants think.

    It’s not useful to present your opponents argument as you would have it stated, you should be meeting people where they are with their own argument and not putting false words in their mouthes. It might make you feel better to repeat your own version of someone’s arguments or statements or een thoughts, but it’s all in your head and it’s all in vain.
    Johnno, you’ve have something sticky or trapped under your caps lock key. Enough with the abuse, you’re behaving like you’ve been drinking

  19. Joy

    definition “Septuagint”
    Septuagint, abbreviation LXX, the earliest extant Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew. The Septuagint was presumably made for the Jewish community in Egypt when Greek was the common language throughout the region.
    “Jesus quoted the Old Testament texts”. is a perfectly reasonable thing to say.
    The texts are the same, they appear in. a different order to that which Jesus would have known, read and studied growing up. Yet the name has altered, that is all. the protestant bible is complete, it is the Roman catholic one which has additions. The New Testament is about the New Covenant. Changing thee inclusions of the Old, seems out o line to me but I don’t care that others have extra books, it doesn’t impinge unless they make it my problem. Perhaps the compilers didn’t foresee the level of anger and hatred that would ensure from people saying they follow the Word of Jesus Christ while doing the other thing. They probably thought they were being “helpful’!
    Since your’e both off key and off topic it’s best to put this aside for a time when it is on topic.

  20. Joy

    Jesus spoke Aramaic.

    He quoted the Jewish texts, which was written in Hebrew and some in Aramaic, (I believe).
    Why say otherwise?

  21. C-Marie

    “In the final analysis then, we have to do the hard work in separating truth from falsity. There are no, and never will be, shortcuts.

    In fact, being an intellectual and/or academic might very well cripple the ability to separate fake from real. History clearly speaks against us! That simultaneously is a stark warning to self (Matthew 11:25):

    At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

    Beautiful, Matt! Thank you!!
    God bless, C-Marie

  22. Incitadus

    Thanks Jaap for bringing this to our attention it’s right up there with climate modeling,
    and pandemic data, they’re actually trying to tease out and subvert cognition on a global
    scale. I can hear it now you can’t argue with AI it will touted as impassionate and just.

  23. Joy

    At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

    That’s right C Marie, but it only counts when you quote it!

  24. Joy

    Important dates of stipulation of biblical library:
    1534 The biblical cannon (inclusions) for protestants at the time
    1546 Catholics caught on and decided the cannon is decided in “reaction”.
    So not special divine revelation there. More like resistance.

  25. Joy

    Fake news indeed, the popes have been some of the worst hypocrites.
    This is something which catholic social justice ‘warriors’ need to listen to who don’t know their now history but are wiling to go out and do spiritual battle, so certain are they of their factoids:
    Thank you Dr Michael Horton

  26. Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque

    Heretics are forever citing scripture to defend their perfidy but Tertullian made crystal clear before the year AD 220.

    Chapter 19. Appeal, in Discussion of Heresy, Lies Not to the Scriptures. The Scriptures Belong Only to Those Who Have the Rule of Faith.

    Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians? For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.

    There are several other crucial chapters in this memorable argument:

    The Catholic Church owns the Scriptures Lock, Stock and Barrel and I erred in entering into a discussion with a heretic.

    Mea Culpa…

  27. Milton Hathaway

    “Socialism…still offers, after many historical disappointments, a myth, a way out.” And then there’s that word, “selflessness”.

    I’ve never gotten very far trying to discuss the failure of socialism with idealistic believers; the reasons just might lie with that word, “selflessness”. If humans were universally truly selfless, socialism could indeed work. Every human would everywhere and always joyfully produce their best work, pushing themselves to their limit to benefit their fellow humans, and would always and everywhere limit their personal consumption to their piece of an equally divided pie. So what if each and every human isn’t totally selfless – that can be addressed with a little enforcement, just a tiny little amount of enforcement, mind you. What could go wrong with that?

  28. Dodgy Geezer

    This article, and a lot of the papers it references, mention gullibility as one of the defining features of a believer in ‘fake news’.

    Almost certainly, gullibility has nothing to do with it. A gullible person would believe one thing if they were told to do so then believe the opposite if they were later given further instructions on what to believe. You could recognise a gullible person by their rapid changes of mind as new beliefs were provided for them.

    In contrast, most of the believers in ‘fake news’ do not actually seem to believe it as such. Instead, they use it as a weapon to suppress political or social positions with which they disagree, The Hunter Biden laptop episode was a classic here – stating that it was fake meant that any evidence from it could be ignored. Similarly with Climate Change – adjustments to temperatures ensure that the Earth’s temperature keeps ‘rising’ – so any assertion that it doesn’t can be ignored.

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