Counter intelligence

Filling in the Blanks

How do you explain things you are seeing for the first time? How do you give objective information when you do not know all the facts? Consider the arguments presented in the Disinformation films about the shape of the earth, and the tales of strange and wonderful creatures witnessed by gentlemen travellers. How can we explain these unbelievable scientific theories and tall tales? What makes them believable, and how would they eventually have been disproved?

Select a set of unexplained phenomena or alleged facts from popular science, conspiracy theories or the news media. Make up your own convincing accounts of these theories. How do you make your story seem authentic and believable? Is your explanation plausible, and how does it compare with existing accounts or hypotheses of the same phenomena?


Interpreting Partial Facts

How do we test the veracity of a statement if we do not have access to the facts? How do we sort opinion from objective information? Alone or in small groups, select a recent news story and isolate some facts within it. Swap the facts among yourselves, and try to recreate the story from the fragments of information you are given. Think about how you will proceed: will you carry out research (on google, or in the library) to see if any interpretations or explanations of your facts already exist? Will you try to test the veracity of the information by locating its original context or site of discovery? Or, will you simply create a sensational and seductive claim? How many ways can you find to interpret the information given to you? Present your stories and be prepared to defend them against probing questions and counter claims from the rest of the class.


Manufacturing the Truth

Look through the media for examples of individuals or groups who have lied about particular situations before being caught out. What strategies did they employ to make their manufactured truths appear as facts? Why didn't they succeed in keeping the lies going? Consider that disinformation is not just about stretching the truth or omitting certain facts, but also about making up believable counter information, or planting rumours to obscure the actual truth thus making the truth seem implausible.