By Peter Metzinger
With the increase of misinformation and downright disinformation campaigns in connection with COVID-19, but also with topics such as 5G and climate change, the question of how to find one's way through the jungle of information is increasingly becoming important.
In 2003 I wrote in my book Business Campaigning:
"Knowledge is the foundation of every campaign, information is the raw material from which knowledge is forged. Your planning can therefore only be as good as your information. It is therefore essential that you qualify your information.
There are basically three different types of information: Statements, facts and conclusions.
Information which you have heard or read somewhere and which has not been confirmed by another and independent source is to be considered as statements. This includes in particular information from media reports, because experience shows that these are not very reliable.
Only information that has been confirmed by independent sources or that comes from a proven reliable source should be considered facts. (The second next blog post will deal with the question of reliability or trustworthiness).
Conclusions are the result of the analysis of statements and facts.
On a Sunday afternoon in 1997, Greenpeace began blocking railroad tracks at a nuclear power plant with the aim of preventing the removal of a nuclear waste container from the plant. On Monday afternoon around 4 p.m., the operators issued a press release stating that the transport had crossed the border with France a few hours earlier and that the blockade by Greenpeace was completely in vain. At first chaos broke out in the office. The local campaigner in charge was harassed by the media, which smelled a story that Greenpeace was about to make a fool of itself. The management was already beginning to formulate possible excuses. A crisis center was set up in the media department. They listed all the information they had in chronological order and sorted it according to statements, facts and conclusions. It was only this overview that brought the decisive hint that possibly not only one but two containers had been loaded, and that one of them was still in the power plant. While the media were held back with the argument that they did not believe a word the operators said anyway and were in the process of verifying this statement, a helicopter with a photographer on board took off. Barely two hours later, the proof was provided. A second container was still in the power plant, the blockade could continue and the story even made the evening news. Without the triage of the information, the blockade would probably have been called off completely unnecessarily."
Today I would add two more types of information to that statement: misinformation and insinuations.
This gives us five types of information:
Conclusions, speculation and presumptions
To the facts I would like to add today that it is really enormously important to look for the original source of the information and to see whether the information in question is really there and whether it has been confirmed by a second, independent source. Not everything that is disseminated on the Internet today is a fact, even if it is presented as such.
False information is information that is proven to be false. For example, conspiracy theorists disseminate documents that they call secret, even though they have always been publicly available. Or 5G opponents claim that new frequencies are being used, while in reality only frequencies that have been used in the past (for 3G, 4G, TV broadcasts, etc.) are used.
Insinuations are information that someone deliberately manipulates in such a way that despite the correctness of the content of the statement, a certain impression is created that is factually incorrect.
In the near future it will be important to be aware of these types of information and to analyze whatever you read according to them. Especially with YouTube videos that are many minutes long, this may be tedious, but it is worth it, because usually you discover inconsistencies after a short time and can then save the rest of the time to turn to other, more meaningful things or research real facts to really know what is going on.
Two days ago I launched a new platform to campaign for factfulness. Have a look at www.ReclaimTheFacts.com and follow me there. You will also find links to Facebook and Twitte, where you can follow the campaign. Other Social Media will follow.
Are you facing an impossible mission in the fields of leadership, marketing, communications and/or politics?
Or are you currently struggling with the Corona crisis?
Then it is now the time to contact Mr. Campaigning. Since 1998 he has been supporting startups, global companies, organizations, and individuals. His clients range from "A" like ABB to "W" like the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Impossible is just a word for change.