When it comes to spreading disinformation in our
society, the most effective way to accomplish this is through " disinformation agents ." And these fall into two distinct
The first (and overwhelmingly the larger of the two
groups) are the "Neutral" or " Passive Agents " (also sometimes scornfully known
as "Useful Idiots"). They spread false information or views based on incomplete
or fragmentary data, and are often motivated not so much by testable or
verifiable "facts" but rather by allegiances to persons or factions whose views
they happen to promote. These allegiances are often unrevised and automatic,
perhaps even "inherited" (for instance, if their families or friends share a
given view, the passive agents themselves often adapt the same view,
uncritically). Other times, these allegiances are a matter of personal choice
("I like this group I hang out with, so I won't rock the boat with views which
this group doesn't endorse").
The principal characteristic of Passive Agents in
the manner in which they spread false views or data is, most typically, their
lack of will to actively and thoroughly test the assertions they promote. When
they do evaluate the given information or data, they typically tend to stop
their research at authority figures. If so-and-so confirms their espoused view,
then that's sufficient proof for them. This lack of critical thinking isn't due
to their inability to do so, but rather their unwillingness , typically due to group
Because the "Passive Agent" is not motivated by
spite or bad will, but rather by something which might usefully (if slightly
offensively) be termed "sheep mentality", it is not impossible to change his or
her mind , given enough evidence, time and patience. It is, however, not always
an easy process, because in the course of establishing any such "objective"
proof to the contrary, the Passive Agent will invariably have to make a choice
not so much between the two sets of data (facts versus falsehoods, for example,
or "logic" versus "convenience"), but more importantly between the social groups
to which he or she belongs - and is about to alienate him- or herself
The second, much smaller group, are the " Active
Agents ." These people know the facts and nuances of a given dataset or
viewpoint, but deliberately set out to deceive the population at large, with an
"alternative" version which best suits their interests. Active Agents are
the definite minority but are typically directly connected to the social power centers and are frequently in
positions of influence or political or economic power.
The manner in which they operate has changed over
the years, most especially from the late 19th Century onwards, with the birth of
the new branch of scientific inquiry: Psychology - and later
Extensive observations, experiments and tests on
the human psyche which have been carried out over the years revealed, among many
other things, that "a lie shared" can trump "isolated truth" even among
otherwise honest and decent people, for no better reason than their
strong desire to conform.
Well-known psychological tests have confirmed that
most individuals will conform to the group even when the object of their
conformity is seemingly innocent, and quite obviously wrong - even in their own
secretly repressed views.
In one such experiment an unsuspecting subject would
enter a testing room where, unbeknownst to him, all other participants were not
subjects themselves, but rather assistants in the experiment. All would give
deliberately wrong answers to obvious questions, and by the time the test
subject had to give his answer in over 70% of the cases he or she would support
the view of the group, no matter how patently false! (Some questions concerned
the relative sizes of geometric figures, for example, where the
obviously-smaller object was pronounced "larger" by the group - and the
test subject agreed!).
Knowing this and other aspects of human psychology
" Active Agents " no longer need to "personally lie" to the society. They only
need to "influence" or "lobby" - and communicate in a manner, language and tone
which is calm, wise-sounding, logically reassuring - and at the same time
good-naturedly (or otherwise) dismissive of any potential opposing views. This
is also known as "arguing from position of authority".
The public at large, having been exposed to such
" Active Agents " will be extremely likely to support those views, no matter how
flimsy the evidence to support them. And, in the process, become Passive Agents !
Now comes the tricky part.
You'd think that " passive agents " will only be
present in the "lower" spheres of our society, while the " active " ones will most
certainly hail from the "upper" governmental or corporate classes. While this is
definitely true to a large extent, it is by no means the only way. Popular
- (or by-definition "respectable") people such as celebrities, artists, politicians, popular scientists, newscasters, etc,
can all be " Passive Agents " too. In fact, a staggering number of them are! Many
among the mainstream news anchors, for example, are Passive Agents , clearly.
Their desire to conform with Powers That Be, to maintain their job security and
the current circle of friends, makes them less-than-critical when representing
information to the public. They're not "dishonest." Just conforming. "Brainwashed?"
A particularly infuriating aspect of this
conformity ("sheep mentality" to you and me) is the Passive Agents' tendency to
use "derision as argument". Or insult. This a priori shutting off of
constructive, fact-based dialog is directly responsible for most of our societal
woes. Perhaps it's been that way forever during human history. But it's never
been as intensive as it is today, in the Age of Information. Or is it
In fact, we can easily extend the above
"active/passive agent" paradigm well beyond "information." It affects everything
from legislation to research, to science, to interpersonal relations. Lack of
will to dialogue with persons who advocate opposite ("unpopular") views all too
often masquerades as false superiority ("let's not waste everyone's time by
It is my contention that more than " Active Agents, "
more than any would-be "Grey Eminences," "Secret Governments" or "Hidden Power
Brokers", it is the " Passive Agents " - essentially the majority of all of us -
who are the most responsible for the very issues we all complain about on a
daily basis ( including the Passive Agents themselves! ).
By passively endorsing untested, unrevised and
un-challenged views (on any number of issues), we have contributed to the
creation of the modern "Nanny" (or rather "Police masquerading as Nanny")
states. We have helped shield - and vastly enrich - the worst criminals in our
governments and most influential corporations, and we have allowed morality,
ethics and human values to be subjugated to our desire to conform.
Well done, Passive Agents!
Paul Sedkowski, co-founder of Meer Music International and co-creator of Fame Games, has spent most of his life in music. He's worked with platinum-selling managers, producers, artists and songwriters. From long-term partnerships with John Coletta (more...