What Are Mis-, Dis-, and Mal- Information?: Book Censorship News, December 9, 2022

“Fake news” has been the news for years, thanks to a president who helped empower distrust in people and institutions which have experience, expertise, and history in delivering information. But from “fake news” has been the larger discussion of mis- and disinformation, which themselves have been used to weaponize authority. But what exactly does misinformation or disinformation mean? Let’s break it down.

Misinformation is incorrect or misleading information. Misinformation is not deliberate — you might see a tweet from a reliable source share something that has some of the facts wrong, but the intent behind it is not to do harm. It’s a mistake. An example might be a missing persons story wherein the individual has been reported found and the story is updated to reflect that…even though the individual was not, in fact, found. Misinformation from reliable sources is often retracted or updated to clarify the mistake. Misinformation is harmful, but it is not intended to be so.

Disinformation, on the other hand, is purposefully incorrect or misleading information. The intent behind it is to create confusion or to create an allegiance to a source or a bias or political persuasion. These are lies meant to create profit and power. For example, disinformation is why individuals still believe 45 won the last election (he did not, by any means of measure). Disinformation is why individuals believe there are litter boxes in schools for students “who identify as furries” (completely debunked…and retracted from the dangerous disinformation machine who started it).

There is a third type of information worth including, as it has been particularly relevant in the world of book bans and censorship: malinformation. Malinformation is close enough to reality to feel believable, but it is used as a means of doing active harm on an individual or group. An example of malinformation would be the idea that schools are teaching Critical Race Theory. Schools are not teaching Critical Race Theory, of course, though they have taken up far more inclusive literature and lessons, all grounded in the reality of our world. But that doesn’t create an enemy. Critical Race Theory, though, can: it makes it sound like white kids are going to be made to feel bad about who they are.

Another example of malinformation? The use of “woke” as a rallying cry against educators and librarians. When pressed to define that word, turns out that it’s not the bad thing that right-wing politicians claim it to be:

Keeping these three types of information in mind helps offer yet another layer of context in the ongoing fight for First Amendment rights for all (and not just those with lots of money, power, and desire to create a joyful nationalist war). By unleashing the use of the above three tools of those with weak information literacy — and to a media that is eager for clicks over the investigation to uncover the trutheveryone’s freedoms remain at risk.

If you’re itching to add more knowledge to your own information literacy bank, I cannot recommend highly enough that you read What The Fact?: Finding the Truth in All The Noise by Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Book Censorship News: December 9, 2022

  • To be clear, LGBTQ+ books are banned in Russia. This is where “parents rights” advocates want to take the U.S.
  • The ACLU has sued Independence School District (Missouri) over the banning of Cats vs. Robots. As a refresher, it was a nonbinary character in a book about cats fighting robots that made book banners mad.
  • In Colorado Springs, Colorado, where a bigot just murdered several queer people at a gay bar, Moms For Liberty is gearing up to get a ton of queer books removed from school libraries. Do you see the line yet?
  • “The Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees [South Carolina] voted Dec. 5 to relocate sections of books that deal with parenting and early childhood farther away from the children and juvenile areas of library branches.” This is a real opening line to a story, and more, the Board did not take any action on the other 20-some books being challenged in the library.
  • Sheila in Cody, Wyoming, is mad that the Cody High School library is keeping If I Was Your Girl on shelf. How dare they explain it is not pornography and not explain her absolutely scientifically incorrect premise of the dangers of gender in it. These are the people wanting to be on school boards, y’all.
  • It’s only three dozen parents across the entire state of Utah creating a moral panic of “parental rights” and “explicit pornography” in school libraries.
  • Speaking of Utah, here’s the current state of book access in Alpine School District.
  • “That may explain why, while other districts are seeing reams of books being challenged, the number of titles challenged in Flagler has remained relatively limited […] There were 42 requests for reconsideration submitted this year. Many of those were duplicates. The number of titles challenged was 22. Six of those titles were “weeded” before the start of the school year.” The books that are listed as “weeded” are curious, aren’t they? Why would Flagler County Schools (Florida) weed popular YA titles?
  • Several book banners who are proud of not reading the titles they’re itching to ban were just sworn into the Catawba County School Board (North Carolina).
  • I’m paywalled, but two books were removed in Wilson County, Tennessee, schools. Those books are Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen and Tricks by Ellen Hopkins.
  • In League City, Texas’s public library, “[a] vote of 4-3 calls for the end of using tax payer dollars for purchasing, displaying, or stocking of books for minors that feature the following topics: Pedophilia and/or incest, Rape and bondage, Books that discuss or depict any type of sex, nudity, sexual preference, or related topics where the intended audience is below the age of 10.” This is the party of small government, determining down to the books in the library what is and is not okay. Furthermore, this is a blatant erasure of any and all queer books for kids.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published