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- Introduction : All the World’s a Stage of Misinformation
- Cognitive Biases : A Minefield of Mental Traps for the Unwary
- Infodemic : Media Landscape & Information Ecosystem Pollution
- Hype, Bias, Affect : Appeal to Emotion & Lazy Thinking
- Misquotation & Misinformation : A Gateway to Bad Conduct
- Social Media : Social Amplification & Cultural Tribalism
- Infographic : Escaping Confirmation Bias & Echo Chamber
- Social Fracture : Existential Crisis, Subjectivity & Acculturation
- Fact-Checking : An Emerging Market Fraught with Issues
- Post-Truth : Weaponizing Falsity & Normalizing Duplicity
- Authentication : Quotation and Information Checklist
- Denouement : Democracy, Education, Legislation & Sustainability
Annotated GALLERY 🖼
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Conceived by SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ in the year during which coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) became a pandemic ravaging humanity, Misquotation Pandemic, Disinformation Polemic and Viral Falsity are three neologisms that aptly reflect the centrality of human behaviour in perpetuating and accelerating not only the spread of communicable diseases via human settlement and migration, but also the dissemination of misquotations and disinformation through social media, news platforms and mass communication, thus polluting the mind, media landscape and information ecosystem to the point of inhibiting or impairing civil discourse, human rights, democratic governance, social cohesion, community psychology, critical thinking, critical consciousness and sociopolitical development. The systemic production and dissemination of misquotations and disinformation are often not merely the result of ignorance, the absence of experience, the lack of acumen, the decline of rectitude, the dearth of morality, the rise of iniquity, the product of mendacity or the upshot of enmity, but also an outcome of the struggle and polarity in socioeconomic, cultural and political domains involving unequal access to and corrupt manipulation of power, information and resources.
Misquotation and disinformation have become such fashionable tools of distortion, deception, disruption and destruction that they are categorically and universally inimical to truth, trust, liberty, equity, integrity, morality and democracy. The phenomenal rises and impacts of Misquotation Pandemic, Disinformation Polemic and Viral Falsity have been so embedded and pervasive as to render or qualify them as highly corrupting forces and exacerbating factors in the broader sociopolitical environment, manifestly contributing to not just the insurgence, proliferation and intensification of, but also the blatant pushing and perverted justification for, inequity, discrimination, polarization, conflict (of interest), dereliction (of duty), misconduct, malpractice, even systematic denigration or disenfranchisement, outright exploitation or oppression, heavy-handed suppression or persecution, and unmitigated invasion or annexation, all of which have transpired via or within the regulations, procedures and operations of social institutions both within and between entities, states or countries. The sheer extent and potency of 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠 in atomizing and polarizing people into schismatic and ill-informed individuals, as well as in fomenting and extending people’s misguided, perfidious, disruptive, destructive, provocative, reactionary or counterproductive behaviours into the nooks and crannies of everyday life, have both unveiled and unleashed the language of misperception, cupidity, corruption, deception, subreption, antipathy, antagonism, obscurantism, resentment, hatemongering, fearmongering, blame (shifting), injustice, bigotry, culture war, identity politics, ideological extremism and science denialism, often manifesting as dramatic forms of misrepresentation, sensationalism, cognitive bias, selective empowerment, discriminatory practice, invidious policy, historical negationism, social amplification and cultural tribalism — ones that are unflatteringly ill-equipped to address or moderate, but unenviably well-equipped to worsen or contribute to, the wider structural causes of complex, partisan or contested matters and wedge issues, especially those pertaining to racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, immigration, multiculturalism, crime, firearms regulation, national security, religion, abortion, vaccination, genetic evolution, climate change, the environment, the economy, as well as civil and political rights. The outstanding effects and ramifications of Misquotation Pandemic, Disinformation Polemic and Viral Falsity have become so far-reaching and wide-ranging that they are (im)posing considerable disruptions and existential threats to humanity, as they inject layers of complexity and even intractability to diverse matters pertaining to information literacy, media literacy, sociopolitical impact, sociocultural disturbance, foreign interference, political warfare, information warfare, knowledge security, social integrity, electoral integrity, media integrity and diversity, as well as conflict resolution, civic engagement, democratic resilience, public health, epidemiological response, sustainable living, environmental protection and ecological crisis. All in all, Viral Falsity has become both the recipe and the accelerant for instability, conflict, crisis and degeneracy on a global scale in pandemic proportions, burdening a large number of peoples, institutions and societies with awkward, difficult, complex, dangerous or hazardous situations occasioning gross injustice, perturbation, violence, lawlessness or dehumanization, and resulting in social, legal, political and bureaucratic quagmires, whilst (con)straining both intellectual discourse and civic life.
Throughout the world, the seemingly relentless, inexorable move towards a principally digital, mobile and platform-dominated media environment has ushered in not just modern methods of instantaneous communication with high-speed, expeditious access to information and applications online through worldwide platforms such as search engines and social media, but also the rampant distribution of misquotations and disinformation from numerous sources and across social networks. In other words, the Internet has immensely amplified the scale and speed at which falsehoods can be disseminated, vastly increasing the likelihood and frequency of individuals and societies being harmed by Viral Falsity. “Lies spread faster than the truth”, and “[f]alse news can drive the misallocation of resources during terror attacks and natural disasters, the misalignment of business investments, and misinformed elections”, as concluded in a report investigating the spread of true and false news online. The age of information has indubitably spawned the age of disinformation and the rage of misquotation. As a consequence, many regions and countries are not merely undergoing significant disturbances or seismic shifts in their sociocultural, political and media landscapes and information ecosystems, but also engaging in a series of aggrieved contests and existential tussles between (the autonomy of) self-governance and (the autocracy of) an authoritarian alternative.
As the third decade of the third millenium dawns, the skill and resolve for winnowing truth from falsehood have become more wanting in humans than ever before. Falsity trumps probity; fallacy swamps clarity. In short supply and chronic retreat are the cognitive tools and intellectual acumen necessary to recognize the errors or defects propagated in quotations, statements and claims from numerous sources, including the media, academia, luminaries, dignitaries, celebrities, ideologues, politicians, pundits, stakeholders, advertisers, influencers, Internet users and bloggers, particularly in the era of misquotations and disinformation, numerous instances of which seem to be intractably stoking people’s partial or utter ignorance as well as growingly courting their emotional drives, biased attitudes, cardinal urges, primal impulses and tribal instincts. Riding on these naked vulnerabilities, the unprincipled, ambitious, acquisitive, illiberal, ruthless or predatory opportunists, ranging from (those who are) wrongdoers, miscreants, malefactors and reprobates to profiteers, disinformers, obscurantists, hatemongers, extremists, plutocrats and despots, are able to thrive with greater gusto, impunity or even savagery because there simultaneously exist four of the most insidious and corrosive conditions fuelled and intensified by media manipulation and Internet manipulation, whilst frequently exploited and exacerbated by a sizeable number of ideologues, demagogues, provocateurs, influencers, conspiracy theorists, corporate entities, state agents and political elites:
- The prevailing anti-intellectualism discounting the humanist value to society of intellect, intellectualism and higher education through the systematic denigration or marginalization of intellectuals, scholars, academics, scientists, teachers, journalists and literary writers as well as their academic disciplines, learned societies, intellectual works, scientific data, and the scholarly pursuit of theory and knowledge with which to critique, shape and lead in the issues, politics, policies and culture of their society; manifesting as (self-proclaimed) champions of ordinary citizens by exploiting or pandering to people’s baser instincts, gross prejudices, scientific illiteracy, ill-educated opinions, misguided views and unresolved grievances; disparaging intellectuals as deplorable humans who are “pretentious, conceited, effeminate, and snobbish; and very likely immoral, dangerous, and subversive”;[❆] siding with or acting as populists against (what is perceived to be) political, cultural and academic elitism; opposing liberal principles, enlightened perspectives, consilient approach, ethical mindset, holistic thinking and social emancipation; dismissing art, literature, philosophy and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible or reprehensible human pursuits; confusing or conflating science with scientism, “the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measured or confirmatory”; and favouring faith, conviction, superstition, folk wisdom, myths, conspiracies, pseudoscience, Internet memes, fake news, alternative facts, misinformation, new age beliefs, religious fundamentalism, denialism or populism over well-established data, empirical knowledge, scientific paradigm, evidence-based practice, academic rigour, intellectual integrity, logical reasoning and critical thinking, which are dismissed as instruments for disdaining, deceiving, exploiting, dominating, oppressing or marginalizing people of conservative persuasion or alternative worldview, and those of lower status or education. The outcomes have encompassed a self-centring of values; a denunciation of authoritative findings; a defensive rejectionism of science; a reactionary approach to knowledge; an acute abandonment of pluralism; a dramatic polarizing of identities; an unabashed display of sanctimonious pontifications; an irrational, exaggerated sense of ego, entitlement or self-righteousness; an unreflexive attitude that devalues long-term consideration for short-term gain, instant gratification or expedient advantage; a brash repudiation of broad-minded approaches and reformist policies; a wilful dilution of or opposition to sagacity, fairness, freedom of expression, transparency and accountability as well as academic freedom and media independence; a propensity to endorse or embrace parochial, insular, bigoted, intolerant, illiberal, authoritarian or even fascist views and practices; a stereotyped, dismissive or fatuous characterization of educated people and erudite scholars as (belonging to) a status class largely detached from the concerns of ordinary folks and disproportionately dominating higher education and (socio)political discourse in the service of human liberation, critical theories, progressive agendas and social reforms; and a concerted effort to restrict, stifle, hinder, defund, delegitimize, politicize, criminalize, pervert, misrepresent, hijack, invalidate, obfuscate, terminate or legislate against the works, services, advocacies, recommendations, publications, contributions and innovations of intellectuals, academics or scientists, some of whom may even face severe threat, intimidation, surveillance, harassment, sanction, ostracism, expulsion, exile, abduction, imprisonment, inquisition, persecution or even execution.
- The cult of anti-expertise sentiment (fuelled by information democratization, intellectual egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism) manifesting as misguided distrust, dismissal and denigration of experts and established knowledge by those in the public and in office, where facts, data, evidence or risks are distorted, ignored, delegitimized, dismissed, fabricated, obfuscated or concealed, and opinions or even untruths are upheld or promulgated as facts by ill-informed, misguided, biased or corrupt citizens and officials alike. Oblivious to or ignorant of what depth of knowledge and acumen must be acquired to be a veritable expert at a professional level with high proficiency and masterful competence, these non-experts tend to assume or assert that concrete fact or even objective truth is subjective, that all voices are equal, and that selectively citing some academic findings or cherry-picking certain research data — even to the extent of relying on manifestly dubious or patently discredited kinds — is both reasonable and sufficient to support or qualify their putative positions or reputations. They have no qualms in insisting that their opinions, recommendations or even demands should have equal standing with those of the experts. Such non-experts mistakenly believe that they (can) know or fare better than true experts by means of superficial Internet research, adherence to pseudoscience, allegiance to conspiracies, recommendation from influencers, endorsement by politicians, persuasion by pundits, and solidarity with like-minded peers. Accordingly, they have a high likelihood of and pronounced propensity for becoming purveyors, promoters and profiteers as well as victims of misquotation, misinformation and disinformation whilst leaning heavily on their feelings, intuitions, perceptions, beliefs, implicit stereotypes, emotional reasoning or motivated reasoning to adjudicate the validity and veracity of information and its attendant social, political or moral messages. To achieve their goals and objectives, they may even resort to supporting, imposing or authorizing improvident behaviours, incompetent administrations, ill-considered legislation, injudicious governance or inimical policies. All too often, such misguided and disruptive non-experts insistently dismiss or renounce college professionals, experts, specialists and academics populating the world of academia and the domain of scholars as being untrustworthy, ideologically driven and hopelessly entrenched in some pertinacious stance, elitist intransigence, progressive mindset, academic paradigm, empirical evidence or scientific consensus. Being outsiders and lacking credentials or proven track records, non-experts are prone to being strongly dissatisfied, incensed, alienated or antagonized by their targeted or vilified lettered authorities, cognoscenti and members in the university-educated and professionally active social stratum who consistently refuse to recognize and defer to dissents or alternatives, much less willingly partake in the often raucous, gossip-driven, opinionated, hyperpolarized and politically charged arena of public exchange characterized by or saturated with streamlined ideas, simplistic views, conspiratorial claims, unfounded assertions, ill-informed debates, ill-founded criticisms, prejudicial affronts, unreasonable stipulations, unscientific parti pris, narcissistic interests, narrow-minded convictions, rampant denialism, hubristic posturing, partisan sloganeering, calculated self-interest, as well as self-righteous indignation and complacency, all of which have been disseminated far and wide and rendered even more intense and inimical by the commercial machineries in mass media and social platforms via media manipulation, social amplification and cultural tribalism.
- The politicization of science for manipulating public policy and pushing ideological agendas, especially when government, business or advocacy groups use legal, political or economic pressure to influence or interfere with the survival, viability, findings, reporting, interpretation and dissemination of scientific research, or to impinge on scientific and academic freedom, independence, transparency and accountability; or when empirical findings and expert recommendations from the academic, scientific or medical community are subordinated to or distorted by ideology, dogma, herd mentality, political expediency, corporate interests, propaganda, obfuscation, denialism, chicanery or profiteering. The prevalence of external control of and political pressure on scientific institutions and individuals working in scientific domains has in turn reduced their capacity and autonomy to make decisions and act according to their own logic and discretion commensurate with (the evolution and contribution of) their respective disciplines, whilst also exacerbating the disruptions and crises in their educational, business and funding models, leaving them more vulnerable to external influence and corporate interference as they seek to establish alternative partnerships and revenue sources. In many academic environments and research sectors, austerity measures as well as economic, commercial, corporate and political interests have led to large-scale budget cuts, workforce casualisation, audit culture, managerialism and neoliberal orthodoxy, dislocating employees and limiting innovation in research and development. The social environment in which the hijack, co-optation, exploitation, displacement, delegitimization or misrepresentation of science by politics or via a litany of political means, financial controls and legal avenues, let alone the treacherous arsenals in the tobacco industry playbook, can lead to a far-reaching vicious cycle with numerous ramifications and even disastrous results, given that science has permeated nearly all aspects of modern life. An indicator of a lack of independence in science caused by rising politicization (and commercialization) is the level of public trust in the credibility (and efficacy) of science. As the politicization of science waxes and the trust in science wanes, reflecting declines of public confidence in and overall respect for academic knowledge and scientific expertise, the realm of academia and intelligentsia is also increasingly becoming susceptible to political capture and polarization, thus further eroding the trust that the public may have towards science, scientists and intellectuals per se.
- The prevalent manifestation of populism pitching “the people” against “the elite” and brazenly disregarding critical matters ranging from empirical accuracy and ethical integrity to social justice, public morality and national security, whilst (im)posing greater exposure to and thus incurring liability of sociopolitical outcomes that damage democratic institutions, erode checks and balances on the executive, cause democratic backsliding (also called autocratization and de-democratization), undermine socially inclusive ideology and policies, and attack individual rights and the freedom of expression.[❆] Populism can often result in or be characterized by highly discriminatory, narcissistic, fragmented, incoherent and symptom-oriented political reactionism, historical negationism, extreme nationalism, Machiavellian conservatism and inimical illiberalism, which are increasingly manifesting under the sway, influence or dominance of post-truth politics and demagogy, in which politicians or demagogues offer overly simplistic answers to complex questions in a highly emotional but deceptive manner by manipulating information, misrepresenting views, manufacturing dissents, twisting truths, spreading lies, sowing doubts, casting aspersions, shifting blame, deflecting attention, denying culpability, avoiding scrutiny, glossing over details, making sweeping remarks, engaging weasel words, planting and fostering rumours, feeding conspiracy theories, raising false accusations, deploying smear tactics, opposing political correctness, and detesting woke consciousness. Encompassing a range of political stances that emphasize the idea or centrality of the people, and spearheaded by various politicians, parties and movements across different regions in the world, populists challenge the established parties by presenting “the people” as a morally good force along class, ethnic or national lines, and juxtaposing them against “the elite” as a homogeneous entity comprising the political, economic, cultural and media establishment, which is portrayed as being out of touch, corrupt, unjust, oppressing or self-serving, and is accused of favouring the interests of other groups such as intellectuals, liberalists, socialists, progressive constituents, large corporations, foreign countries, LGBTQIA+ communities, persons of colour, indigenous people, immigrants or refugees. Protesting that “[e]lites and ‘outsiders’ are working against the interests of the ‘true people’”, proclaiming that “[p]opulists are the voice of the ‘true people’ of a country and nothing should stand in their way”, and “[p]romising to deliver more ‘wins’ for the ‘true people’, [populists] discredit those who would oppose these tactics as part of an illegitimate cartel of elites or the complaints of a bitter opposition that has failed to win at the ballot box”, according to an empirical assessment published on 26 December 2018 and conducted by political scientists, Jordan Kyle and Yascha Mounk, of the populist harm to democracy. Encapsulating populism’s “anti-elite orientation and its distinctive mode of political organisation, which involves bulldozing over political and civil-society institutions in the name of enacting the popular will”, the key findings of the assessment reveal that populists last longer in office (twice as long as democratically elected non-populists and nearly five times more likely to survive in office for over ten years); that populists often leave office in dramatic circumstances (only 34% of populists willingly leave office after free and fair elections or because they respect term limits, whereas the rest are impeached, forced to resign, or remain in power); that populists are about four times more likely to damage democracy (23% of populists cause significant democratic backsliding compared with 6% of non-populist democratically elected leaders); that populists often erode checks and balances on the executive (over half of populist leaders amend or rewrite their countries’ constitutions, many of which extend term limits or weaken checks on executive power, not to mention that their attacks on the rule of law increase corruption: 40% of populist leaders are indicted on corruption charges, and their countries register substantial declines in international corruption rankings); and that populists attack individual rights (freedom of the press shrinks by 7%, civil liberties by 8%, and political rights by 13%). All in all, populists gain popularity by degrading, subverting or bypassing established norms of political conduct, civil discourse, human rights, democratic governance, social cohesion, community psychology, critical thinking, critical consciousness and sociopolitical development; by arousing the common people against elites through oratory that stirs up the passions of crowds; by appealing to emotion, inciting grievance politics and fermenting the cult of big personality; by scapegoating critics, objectors, opponents, outgroups or outsiders and exaggerating risks, dangers or disadvantages to stoke fear, suspicion, paranoia, distrust, anxiety, anger, hatred, resentment, vindictiveness, spite, bigotry and moral outrage; and by speaking rhetorically, lying vociferously and exploiting dramatic forms of misrepresentation and sensationalism to provoke or inflame the raw emotions of the audience so as to drown out reasoned deliberation or objection on the one hand, and to achieve immense popularity and gain fanatical following for their cause on the other, thus paving the way for the attenuation of democratic processes, the weakening of (socio)political accountability, the intensification of demagoguery, the concentration of corruption, and even the inception or consolidation of autocracy.
These four social conditions along with social inequality and social polarization, unprincipled opportunists, media manipulation and Internet manipulation have coalesced to signify a widespread and deepening rejection of critical thinking and objective reasoning, and a significant rise of conspiracy ideations, political misperceptions and illiberal values, resulting in the erosion of civil liberties, democratic principles, civil societies and social norms, whilst highlighting consequential aspects of social inequality and social polarization, all of which are cumulatively distorting people’s opinions and judgements about, and progressively affecting their roles and participations in, some of the most important matters in their lives. As well as being intellectually and culturally deprived or polarized, many segments and cohorts of the population can be easily convinced or manipulated to defend, support or purvey the interests, beliefs, agendas and actions of those who propagate problematic quotations, statements or information intended to be factually inaccurate, misleading, erroneous, spurious or conspiratorial.
Rejection of Critical Thinking and Objective Reasoning with Seven Insidious and Corrosive Conditions
Rejection of Critical Thinking and Objective Reasoning when All the World’s a Stage of Misinformation
In such a fractious world inundated and strained by misquotations and disinformation, human beings are proving to be as fallible in their responses to global epidemics and global warming as they are vulnerable to their own mental traps, thinking styles, behavioural patterns, psychological tendencies and cognitive biases, as well as the formal fallacies (also called logical fallacies or deductive fallacies) and informal fallacies (also known as relevance fallacies, conceptual fallacies or soundness fallacies) contained in their judgements and within quotations and information.
On the whole, the dramatic ascent and conspicuous rallying of false beliefs and cognitive biases in the creation of knowledge and justified belief have ushered in a ubiquitous untruth-oriented epistemology that not merely undercuts the very notions of right and wrong, fact and opinion, integrity and dishonesty, reality and fantasy, truth and falsity, but also vitiates the validity or viability of duty, morality, civility, sagacity, self-discipline, conscience, humility, contrition, fairness, transparency and accountability. They thus undermine the common good through their progressive weakening of (the social construction and integration of) sanity, stability and rationality, on which the advocacy and efficacy of empirical accuracy, ethical integrity, social justice and public morality depend; and without which both the social fabric and social unity as well as democracy and sociopolitical stability are much more liable to being strained, compromised or damaged.
The unrestrained muddying and rampant conflation of verity and falsity as well as the incessant dilution and unbridled substitution of veracity with mendacity have not merely engendered a gross violation of epistemic principles and epistemological integrity but also usurped the primacy of natural law, universal ideals, enlightened tenets, objective reality, verified knowledge, empirical facts and even absolute truths throughout many contemporary societies.
The unconstrained sullying of the human mind by polluted sociocultural, political and media landscapes and information ecosystems is further accelerated by modern technologies and digital platforms enabling people whose opinions, beliefs and worldviews are based on falsities, fallacies and fantasies to gain as much access to social media as anyone else, and to promote their claims and asseverations in filter bubbles, echo chambers and soapboxes, attracting and emboldening like-minded adherents and influencers from far and wide to contribute their ideas, support or actions to such an extent that consequential topics, schemes, policies, legislations, manoeuvres and exploits that are blatantly outrageous, abhorrent, divisive, discriminatory, conspiratorial, dangerous, seditious, perfidious, unethical, unconscionable or even sanguinary across the socioenvironmental, sociocultural, socioeconomic, sociopolitical and military arenas have emerged and proliferated in decidedly alarming frequency and magnitude, thereby eroding stability, raising volatility, magnifying hostility and strengthening mendacity on a global scale.
The consequences, ramifications and corollaries of those aforementioned false beliefs, cognitive biases and fallacies contributing to a pervasive untruth-oriented epistemology that undermines (the social construction and integration of) sanity, stability and rationality in conjunction with the extensive pollution of sociocultural, political and media landscapes and information ecosystems often far exceed what people are able or willing to know, acknowledge, comprehend, control, curtail or circumvent. They result from mentalities and behaviours implicated in prolonged sociopolitical predicaments manifesting as widespread anomie and social polarization, which are worsened, exploited and confounded all the more by the (re)production of misquotations, misinformation and disinformation in the midst of post-truth politics, demagoguery, plutocracy, ochlocracy, oligarchy, kleptocracy, kakistocracy and narcissistic leadership. In that regard, let us promptly and unhesitatingly take a sobering look at the following rationale constructed by Owen M Williamson, a lecturer in developmental English, with trenchant but edifying words warning people against the lures and hazards of committing or contracting the identified fallacies, numbering nearly 150 and enumerated in alphabetical order in the Master List of Logical Fallacies, as if they are (persisting and replicating like) seductive memes, resurgent plagues, deep-seated infections, insidious contagions or communicable maladies capable of reaching pandemic proportions, so much so that whole countries or regions can be inflicted, blighted or overwhelmed by misjudgement, dogma, ignorance, hatred, bigotry, falsity, blind faith, moral turpitude, spiritual stagnation, epistemological impasse, social polarization, radicalization, fundamentalism, fanaticism and extremism:
Fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments, “junk cognition,” that is, arguments that seem irrefutable but prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound and they far too often retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as false. Like epidemics, fallacies sometimes “burn through” entire populations, often with the most tragic results, before their power is diminished or lost. Fallacies are not always deliberate, but a good scholar’s purpose is always to identify and unmask fallacies in arguments.
On the one hand, the dauntingly entrenched and often visibly worsening state of Viral Falsity is not just due to the ease with which falsehood can be instantaneously and widely disseminated online, but also owing to the dearth of timely mediations, consistent controls and effective sanctions aimed at deterring actors or agents from continually purporting, professing or manufacturing manifestly false accounts, even instantly falsifiable ones, especially those influencing or pertaining to critical issues or pivotal policies. On the other hand, peer pressure, powerplays, social sanctions and career consequences are some of the main drivers of headstrong investment in or obdurate alignment with (perpetrating) falsehood, even if certain outcomes are sufficiently dire or potent to lead the lemmings cheerfully off the cliff, all the more so in the absence of critical thinking, particularly when being divergent and avoiding pitfalls in the face of nearly everyone else being convergent and following expectations dramatically increase the likelihood of encountering disrespect, punishment or ostracization, and when the penalties for nonconformity tend to be markedly more severe and persistent than those for conformity. Given that the noise of competing needs and narratives has vastly amplified (inter)personal costs, cultural trends and sociopolitical outcomes since the advent of modern technologies and digital platforms, the search for and recognition of truth versus untruth have become much more urgent and essential, lest truth be even more liable to being drowned out by the cacophony of untruth.
The upshot of Viral Falsity in which the prevalence of falsehoods ranging from terminological inexactitudes to blatant fallacies has reached epidemic or pandemic proportions is that significantly more people are continually at risk of being preyed on and duped or manipulated by actors, agents or governments who disregard ethics, exploit public relations, exert financial pressure, execute political manoeuvres, enact problematic legislations, disrupt public discourse, obfuscate expert findings, unleash dubious or outrageous claims, normalize offensive speeches or discriminatory practices, or intentionally muddle the distinction between facts and opinions, so as to mislead or corrupt citizens, social media users, journalists, communicators, public figures, influencers or politicians into believing or spreading misquotations, misinformation and disinformation; and that the average persons, let alone whistleblowers or those who work in the service of (preserving or uncovering) truth, are much more likely to find themselves becoming a target of lies, rumours, hoaxes, astroturfing operations or post-truth politics involving personal attacks (including ad hominem, damaging quotations, trolling and flaming), smear tactics, misquotations, misinformation, disinformation, misrepresentation, sensationalism, fake news, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, yellow journalism, historical negationism or anti-intellectualism. All in all, Viral Falsity has become a key means through which inequity,