Bad Experts: The latest “misinformation” report

In public relations, the concept of an “embargo” is used to guarantee maximum coverage of a news story at a time chosen by the people behind the story. How it works is simple enough: A media organisation is given access to a piece of news well in advance, and told that it may not run the story until a particular time on a particular day. That allows media organisations to write their articles in advance, and hit “publish” at the agreed time.

Yesterday morning, the Irish Times story about the latest report on “misinformation” in Irish society by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) went live at 6.10 am. Almost every outlet had some version of the story written up in detail, and published, before 8.30am. The report led the Irish Times, Journal, and RTE, and featured prominently in morning radio shows and news reports. The public relations team did its job well.

Such a PR operation can only really be pulled off with the active co-operation of the media outlets involved. Embargoes are not legally binding. They are generally abided by solely to maintain good relations between the people who report the news, and the people who, as in this case, generate the news. The Irish media, it is fair to say, appears eager to stay on the right side of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

I mention this because it was quite clear from the coverage of the report that many of the journalists writing pieces about it had indeed thoroughly read the accompanying press release sent out ahead of time. Alas, it is not clear that many – if any – of them read the actual report itself.

Notable in the coverage of the report is that while the “findings” of the document were widely reported, the document itself was even linked in the reports for public inspection by those reporting on its contents. To break that pattern, the main body of the report may be found in full here. It should be read by anybody interested in its findings.

What should strike a reader first is the lack of any discernable methodology. The report refers consistently to something called “the Irish mis-information and dis-information ecosystem”. This “ecosystem” is never defined. It is, according to the methodology of the report, simply a collection of social media accounts that were identified by an obscure process involving searching for various keywords on social media sites.

The quality of the document might well be summed up by this paragraph which introduces a brand new concept – the “bad expert”:

“‘Bad experts’ are often used to make similar points or interpret medical evidence; these are usually people who have scientific or medical qualifications that add a veneer of credibility to false or misleading claims.”

Consider the breadth and scope of this assertion: It essentially amounts to a statement that an expert in a given field should have their views assessed not in light of their own expertise, but in whether or not those people at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue – with no relevant experience in that field of their own – consider an expert opinion to be in line with their own views.

This is the logic that led to many of those critical of covid lockdowns being denied a platform in the Irish media when their own expert views disagreed with those of NPHET. It is reasonable to ask, given the long hangover from that lockdown, who the “bad experts” really were.

Across the board, the document begins and ends with a single assumption: That the prevailing views of the liberal order are correct, and other views are misinformation. Consider this example, again, taken from the report, which concerns allegations of “misinformation” during the last general election in Ireland, in 2020:

Within this topic, housing and immigration tended to be mentioned in the same posts, particularly in claims that the government were deliberately housing migrants, asylum seekers or refugees at the expense of the native Irish population.

This is cited, in the report, as an example of “misinformation”. In reality, it is an example of political argument. In fact, this publication is very comfortable in saying that the statement is not only an example of political argument: It is truthful. The Irish Government has, by its own admission, prioritised the housing of “migrants, asylum seekers, or refugees” at the expense of the “native Irish”. One need only ask the following question: When was the last time the Irish Government re-purposed an army barracks to accommodate Irish citizens without homes?

Another example of this trend comes on page 18, discussing the alleged involvement of Senator Sharon Keogan in the undefined “misinformation ecosystem”:

Amongst the most-shared posts mentioning Keogan were posts that praised her for criticising a media-orchestrated “hate campaign against unvaccinated people” during the COVID-19 pandemic, posts that praised her for speaking about the supposed threat of “radical trans ideology” and posts that supported her for discussing and “exposing” the WHO pandemic treaty.

Again, note that the positions listed are fairly straightforward political views: The report does not mention the reality of the Government and media campaign against unvaccinated people which even yours truly, as a vaccinated person, could not fail to notice: Ryan Tubridy famously warned the public not to invite their unvaccinated relatives to family gatherings. And note the word “supposed” in relation to the “threat of radical trans ideology”. Opposition to “trans ideology” is shared by, amongst others, the British Government, but is presented here as an example of “misinformation”.

For the sake of brevity, I will not continue: Suffice it to say that the report is littered with the same inherent assumptions – that political views in opposition to the mainstream liberal views of the Irish media are, ipso facto, “misinformation”.

You will note that in this article I quote far more extensively from the body of the report than any other media outlet in Ireland did, or ever will. The coverage elsewhere relates wholly to the headline findings that “misinformation” is on the rise, but never tells you what that misinformation actually is, aside from vague allusions to “conspiracy theories”.

This is for very good reason: The Irish media is now almost entirely reliant, financially, on Government support which is largely based off the media’s supposed role in combatting “misinformation”. It is in their interest, therefore, to highlight the threat as much as possible, regardless of whether the threat is real.

In reality, though, this report is not in any way a useful academic study of anything. Read it for yourself and you will see what it is: A long complaint that people on social media sites disagree with the authors on topics that matter to the authors’ sense of themselves.

Bad experts, indeed.

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Frankie Bananas
6 days ago

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue: a far leftist organisation from whose perspective any reasonable conservative view is far right. Very obviously, it wouldn’t advance the interests of far leftists who make a living from scaremongering about the far right to report honestly on the prevalence of far right activity in Ireland.
Aligning with government opinion and policy, and the open demonisation of any commentary that runs counter to the established government narrative, would surely secure a guarantee of unconditional support from the state funded Pravda media also.
And of course, in the lexicon of the brave new world, the terms “far right” and “hate” are very closely correlated. Thus is revealed the real purpose of the most draconian “hate speech” laws in the world: dissent will be framed as hate, then silenced and prosecuted.

Last edited 6 days ago by Frankie Bananas
6 days ago

The report is like a vacuous college assignment

Mary Reynolds
6 days ago

The article sums the report up brilliantly – ‘Across the board, the document begins and ends with a single assumption: That the prevailing views of the liberal order are correct and other views are misinformation’. This is manipulation of public opinion. The government’s need for the ISD report shows they are terrified of the backlash against their policies on hot button issues. They are trying to vilify and suppress all views that oppose their policies. They want the report to put an end to anti-immigration protests. They want opposition to gender ideology in schools to end. Instead of resistance, they want to promote the transgender ideology in the books of young children. They want their drag queens to perform freely for children in libraries without interference. The report is pure hogwash in which they are labelling sincerely held views and concerns as misinformation, to intimidate and create fear in the public, so as to stop them holding those views. This is tyranny.

Jeremy Warren
6 days ago

When nearly every political debate is framed within the poles of ‘left’ or ‘right’, when does ‘common sense’ get a look in?

Frank McGlynn
3 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Warren

Left and right have become meaningless terms in political discourse. The terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ should only be used when talking about football.

6 days ago

From the report, as quoted by RTE:
“Alternative media outlets routinely produce conspiratorial and confrontational content towards mainstream media which is extremely popular online,” 
When a ridiculously biased hit-piece such as this is swallowed and regurgitated without nuance by mainstream media, well that explains both the ‘confrontational’ and ‘conspiratorial’ reaction, not to mention the popularity.
Just underlines the need for reliable alternative news outlets.

Dan Ryan
6 days ago

The Journal had an article on this report yesterday .
No comments were allowed
The irony ¡

6 days ago

One of the authors was interviewed on Mondays Morning Ireland. Later that day, Drivetime interviewed Professor Jane Suiter and James Lawless TD, both of whom were sympathetic to the issue of misinformation and the far right. It wasn’t clear if either of them had actually read the report.
The PR team behind ISD did an amazing job!

A Call for Honesty
6 days ago

HSE Ireland on X on 17 Nov 2023

Top-up your immunity with the COVID-19 and flu vaccines to make sure you’re protected in the months ahead.

See what vaccines are recommended for you and book an appointment today

Top-up your protection
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines
with picture of a man (say sixty) of two women and two children.

Notice how the instructions have evolved from COVID vaccination for elderly then all adults then including children. From a vaccination with boosters to one that is now annually into perpetuity – despite the fact that it appears less people are dying from COVID than from flu (which happens every year).

I believe it to be medical malpractice to force people to take a vaccine when perhaps 0.01% of the population are at risk of death. I believe that for most people natural immunity will protect them not only from COVID but a whole range of viral infections during their lifetime. Pity the HSE appears to deny the science of natural immunity for COVID. Having had no vaccination, been exposed to bad COVID from a visiting relative who was vaccinated and boosted, but neither got ill nor were troubled, we find the HSE the main source of misinformation on this subject.

Last edited 6 days ago by A Call for Honesty
5 days ago

Nobody is being ‘forced’ to have a vaccine. Not compulsory. Many elderly died of covid. You are also telling people not to have any vaccine at all. I am glad to have vaccines.

6 days ago

Uisce faoi Thalamh! 😂

6 days ago

Nothing more than hit piece. is no further right than the Telegraph or the London Times

In the light of his recent political statements, would you vote for Conor McGregor if he ran for election?

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