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Disinformation and its impact on society

In today’s world it has become inappropriate to use Clausewitz’ dictum that “war is the continuation of politics by other means” as a point of reference to understand war and politics. In the modern world, politics has become the continuation of war by other means. Information is flooding beyond the processing capacity of the human mind and spills over the banks of comprehension, for the most part, to destroy the diversion channels of the human stream of consciousness. The troubling wind of disinformation has been moving at an alarming speed to shake the independent stand of confident countries. It has become a common tradition of international politics to assume that valiant countries opposing domination and injustice should be criticized or condemned. Eritrea, a self-reliant and confident country that has an independent political line has long been the victim of hegemonic and opportunistic propaganda intended to mislead its united people and to undermine its reputation as a country. The dissemination of disinformation against Eritrea that started during the TPLF’s military aggression continued well through out the ‘no war no peace’ years accompanied by military provocations and intimidations. The script writers and directors as well as the main actors and chorus that participated in the project of the defamation of Eritrea are known by the people and government of Eritrea. They have no shame to repeat and recycle the same content of disinformation. The leadership and the unity of the Eritrean people as well as their vision remain the target of their attack.

The propaganda technique is frequently used to divorce the people from the leadership was Name-Calling. The name of the top government officials were planted on the tongue of the squealers. They have been tirelessly working to link the leadership to something negative. No one says that the leadership of Eritrea is a cabinet of saints. But we can confidently declare until today the leadership of Eritrea has never committed strategic mistakes that jeopardize the national interest of Eritrea, the dignity of Eritreans and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Eritrea. Some pseudo intellectuals and indelicate propagandists are spending much of their time collecting snippet information and edited images. Quoting verses in isolation from the context of the speeches of the officials is one of the techniques.

Selective use of information for political effect is another propaganda technique. Propaganda always has a clear message. The propaganda arrow that hurled against Eritrea in particular targets the youth living inside and out side the country. Propaganda also tends to be one sided. It tries to deceive people by telling only one side of the story, bringing into notice the effect without mentioning the cause. For example, different media outlets have frequently brought into notice the image of young Eritrean migrants while disregarding the youth that labored in the country. Eritrea as a developing and poor country has problems that can be solved over time. But there is no equivalence between what has been said and the reality of Eritrea. Any genuine effort at uplifting the conditions of Eritrea must begin by recognizing the real status of the country. Seth Kaplan has said appropriately that “international attempts to improve the living conditions of Eritreans are more likely to succeed . . . through engagement that starts with where the country is now, not where outside actors think it ought to be” (2016, 1).

Manufacturing fake news on Eritrea has become the most profitable business for some media outlets. Aljazeera is by far the leading manufacturer of distorted news about Eritrea. In addition to manufacturing information, Aljazeera propagandists are also skilled at manufacturing sources. Due to its lack of commitment to objective reality, it often times disseminates false information that agrees with its predetermined assumption. Aljazeera propagandists do not need to wait to check facts; they just disseminate an interpretation of emergent events that seem to best favor their themes and objectives. Eritrea’s Ministry of Information has recently disproved the vicious news about Eritrea concocted by Aljazeera.

Today more than ever, fake news, slanted reporting of facts or completely false information designed to mislead the civilian population of Eritrea is being produced and disseminated through various means of communication. Propaganda experts maintain that people are forgetful and tend to be poor judges in identifying the truth from the false information. The over production and dissemination of information helped this basic assumption of propaganda. Information overload leads people to take shortcuts in determining the credibility of information.

The aim of the intensive disinformation campaign is to convince the public by manipulating emotions rather than by making a logical argument. Our enemies have been producing a large volume of disinformation to influence the perceptions of the people. At the strategic level, the fundamental objectives of the incessant disinformation campaigns have been to weaken domestic and international support to the government of Eritrea, to undermine the motivation and morale of the public and to create mistrust and instability. The ultimate objective of any form of propaganda is to drain the patience of the civilian population and weaken the fighting spirit of the people so as to create hopelessness among the target society.

The campaign of disinformation aimed at demonizing both the motives and behavior of the Eritrean government has certain distinctive features. Quoting verses in isolation from the speeches of Eritrean officials and assembling edited photographs are some of the usual techniques employed by the falsifiers. The propaganda machine’s aim is not to inform but to confuse and overwhelm the public. They lack the minimum standard of ethics and principle. The other hallmark of the disinformation campaign hurled against Eritrea is that it is not delivered with consistency. Those who produce the propaganda messages have no shame in changing their tune. They are like chameleon, changing their colors and themes with the political weather of the day. During the last twenty years some of the renegades who have worked hand in glove with and praised the aggression and illegal occupation of TPLF have now raised issues that were never mentioned before. Previously they described the ‘no peace no war’ condition as the invention of the government. When the peace and friendship treaty was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia, following the acceptance of the Algiers agreement by the new government in Ethiopia, they accused the government of making a peace deal with Ethiopia. When the two countries agreed to open the border, they described it as a deliberate action of the government to encourage the people to leave the country. When the unstructured border crossing in some areas was partially restricted for legal arrangements, they were the first to bark.

Repetition is another technique used by the manufacturers of disinformation. They repeat the same story. Through repetition they seek to make people familiar and receptive. In weighing evidences it is not repetition that matters but the content of the substance. False statements are more likely to be accepted and are more pleasing than facts. We have a common dictum in Tigrigna that goes ‘truth is bitter.’ We have to strengthen our mental muscle to make truth better and sustainable.

The disinformation on Eritrea has a clear target. Disinformation attempts to tear the walls of unity of Eritreans by targeting the youth living inside and outside of Eritrea. The waves of disinformation also aim to demolish the history of Eritrea. Our enemies concentrate their attack on the source of our pride. The foundation of Eritrea is laid on the heroic history of our armed struggle for independence and the defense accomplished for the most part under the leadership of the Peoples Front. Therefore, every able Eritrean must say and write in defense of this vital national security issue. We have nothing to defend more than our history.

Eritrea is known by few words. We have to change this tradition to provide effective retraction, refutation and correction measures. The Ministry of Information and interested citizens must work hard to protect the mental sovereignty of the Eritrean people from the invasion of disinformation by providing accurate, up-to-date and appropriate information. We must not give favorable space for dishonest and corrupt elements that use the silence of others as goldmine to enrich themselves and to obfuscate the reality of Eritrea. And in order not to be tricked by and to protect ourselves against the virus of disinformation, we have to question and see things from various perspectives.

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