Politico's disinformation of the day

This week, we had an interesting example of Soviet-style disinformation from Politico.  In this instance, it was directed toward Dr. Ben Carson, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.

Before examining the details, let’s first recap what disinformation is all about and why it is so frequently used.  Disinformation is more than simple deception. It is a technique developed by the Soviets to smear a target via an intricate web of reports, spread by seemingly reputable agents.  The seemingly independent reports are carefully crafted to contain enough truth to be believable but sufficient deception to permanently harm a targeted opponent.  For disinformation to work well, it must be carefully planned and nurtured.  It takes discipline and perseverance to develop a network of apparently trustworthy news sources that are reading from the same playbook and often funded by the same complex web of puppet masters.  The seminal work on this topic is “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism,” written by Ronald Rychlak and Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa.

Politico’s disinformation of the day was titled "Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point 'scholarship' but never applied - Republican hits POLITICO story, later admits to The New York Times he wasn’t offered aid," by Kyle Cheney - 11/06/15.  The first sentence of the report summarizes the hit piece:

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point and attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy -- despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades.

Politico first created the perception that Dr. Ben Carson claimed to have applied to West Point and was both accepted and offered a full scholarship.  Then they rebuffed their own assertion and claimed to have caught Dr. Carson in his own lie.  In reality, it is Politico that has been caught misrepresenting the facts.

Dr. Carson's book Gifted Hands, on page 49, states that "[a]s the ROTC's city executive officer, Ben met with General William Westmoreland, had dinner with Congressional Medal of Honor award winners, marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade, and was offered a full scholarship to West Point."  As any high-achieving student knows, scholarships are frequently offered by colleges in order to attract them to apply to a particular school.  Those offers are unofficial and conditional upon verification of credentials, but they bolster a student's confidence, and that is the point that Dr. Carson was making in his book.

The next sentence states, "His ROTC experience looked good on Ben's college application, and it bolstered his confidence that he could do well."  There was no assertion that Dr. Carson had applied for and been accepted by West Point.  That part was added to Dr. Carson’s simple assertion that he had been "offered a full scholarship," much in the same way that talented people are sometimes offered an attractive job as an enticement to consider working for an organization.  Dr. Carson’s words do not appear to be deceptive, which is more than can be said for Politico’s report.

So why do corrupt organizations engage in disinformation?  Because it works.  One group makes an incorrect assertion, and dozens of shared-brain organizations dutifully rebroadcast the story so that it gains a momentum that is almost impossible to stop.

Ultimately, it is not Dr. Ben Carson who is most injured by this form of disinformation.  That distinction goes to the vast numbers of limited-information readers who sip the Kool-Aid and swagger pretentiously into their misinformed futures.  Many of their vindictive and shallow comments litter the hit piece like confetti after a wedding.  Unfortunately, their misinformation and eagerness to believe anything that furthers their mindset can ultimately affect all of our hopes and dreams.

The Soviet disinformation campaign against the West did eventually collapse on itself, at least temporarily, but not before causing some eighty years of untold harm to Soviet citizens.  That is not a pathway that we, our children, or our grandchildren can afford to tread.  The time is getting short, but with sufficient diligence, there may still be an opportunity for the truth to set us free.  The alternative is an irrevocable descent down the disastrous pathway of democratic delusion and deception.

Larry Bates - Larry@unduped.org