Where Does the Idea of a Disinformation “Infodemic” Originate?

Paul Nash, “We are Making a New World” (1918) oil, 27.99 in by 35.98 in, at the Imperial War Museum, London (image courtesy and via Wikimedia Commons)

In public policy, metaphors are medicine with side effects, and these days a whole lot of prescriptions are being written for our disinformation problem. We seem to agree that disinformation is a critical problem for democracy, but what, exactly, is it? We’re confronted by an urgent socio-political predicament of global scale that is also fundamentally philosophical. Caught in this double bind, we look for ways out via metaphor. Disinformation therefore becomes a disease, a pollutant, a wildfire, a weapon. These metaphors have proven immensely useful for civil society, politicians, researchers, and the public as we try to make headway, but each of them has its own history and carries ideological freight that we ignore at our peril.

A metaphor is never just a

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