Living with misinformation and disinformation
Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge. – Proverbs 23:12
Proverbs 23:9, 12
9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words.
12 Apply your heart to discipline And your ears to words of knowledge.
The profusion of wrong information is endemic. The first quarter of the 21st century saw a widespread proliferation of misinformation and disinformation. In 2018, misinformation was so common that it was chosen as the “Word of the Year” by Dictionary.com. Both misinformation and disinformation spread wrong or false information. They are often used interchangeably. However, they do not mean the same thing. What differentiates them? Misinformation is simply false or incorrect information. In contrast, disinformation is the use of incorrect or false facts when the intent is to mislead.
Misinformation occurs in our everyday lives. We make mistakes in hearing, remembering, and retelling the information. Without fact-checking and due diligence, we can easily spread false information but have no idea that it is false. Wrong or false information, in the form of misinformation, is simply passed on. It grows exponentially.
Disinformation occurs when false or erroneous information is deliberately spread with harmful intent. Disinformation is a common tool of espionage. Disinformation is employed for deception and manipulation. Disinformation includes scams, fake news, conspiracy theories, propaganda, deepfakes, hoaxes, frauds, etc.
Why are misinformation and disinformation so prevalent? Good information is readily available. But it is rarely recognized and embraced. Truth and accuracy are trumped by a much stronger force: group identity. Current societal conditions cause people to feel a greater need for “ingrouping.” The sense is that our group makes a strong. We derogate the outgroup. “Belonging is Stronger than Facts” (Max Fisher).
Social psychology attributes this trend to the formation of social ingroups and outgroups, “we” versus “them.” An ingroup is a social group with which we identify. By contrast, we do not identify with an outgroup. People are tribal and tend to agree with and favor the group to which they belong and identify with.
“As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings who put truth-seeking above all else, we are social animals wired for survival. In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup” (Max Fisher).
Wrong information, beliefs, advice, and choices lead to dire consequences. If we are handling wrong information and disseminating it disastrous results may follow. Truth and wisdom are to be highly valued, sought, and acquired. But right knowledge is not enough. We must choose to follow it.
13 honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, natural, and demonic.
16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
Proverbs 23:12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
To be able to wisely live amidst a culture full of antipathy, suspicion, misinformation, and disinformation, requires children of the King to make a diligent effort and make use of critical thinking. We are to give ourselves over to instruction, discipline, and knowledge.
So many children of the King tentatively approached the Father. We are to jump in with both feet and plumb the depths of wisdom that we might know how we should then live.
We are to apply our minds to instruction. In Hebrew, this literally reads “bring your heart,” where “heart” is the center of thought and commitment (UBS). This expression can be rendered “submit your mind.” We are to “Listen to . . .” (CEV) and “Pay attention to . . .” (TEV). We are instructed to “pay attention and listen” (BKC). “CEV renders the whole line as ‘and do your best to learn.’”
REFLECT & PRAY
There are two kinds of wisdom: God’s wisdom from above and foolish wisdom of the earth. The wisdom of a fool leads to a dead end, but God’s wisdom leads to life-changing perspectives and opportunities to serve Him.
Father encourage my heart and mind to seek wisdom, be open and responsive to it. Help me to discern foolishness and reject it.
“Only when the heart is applied to instruction, and the ear bent upon hearing right and profitable words, will there be progress in divine things. Careless learning by rote will never profit. It is when the whole being is occupied with the truth, that Wisdom makes her abode in the soul of him who seeks her” (Ironside).
Proverbs 23:9, 12
9 Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.
12 Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge.
“There is no easy way to gain instruction. It requires discipline and application” (BBC). Proverbs 23:9 could be rendered, “Don’t try to teach a dull, stupid fool. You are wasting your time on him,” or “Do not waste words on a fool,” or “Don’t try to talk sense to a fool” (UBS). Fools despise words of wisdom. To get this right, we may have to separate ourselves from fools and avoid conversations with them. They bring little or nothing of value to the table and frequently will not listen to reason. We “should not waste sound teaching on the stubbornly unresponsive” (Garrett).
Matthew 7:6 Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
Wisdom is not about simply trying to follow the rules, but rather depending upon the Father’s guidance to direct us in every situation.
© Dr. H 2022