Scholars have been debating that question for ages, along with “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?” and “Why don’t we see any baby squirrels” and “What the heck is happening on ABC’s Lost?”
[BTW, if anyone actually knows what the heck is happening on Lost, how Sayid ends up being Ben's hitman (!), let me know -- I still believe the "island is purgatory" theory -- it certainly is for viewers -- even though it has been debunked by the show's creator. As if! I guess that makes me a Lost denier ... but I digress.]
I was inspired to re-examine this age-old question after the recent remarks of the Disinformer-in-Chief in his keynote address at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), a ministerial-level conference hosted by the U.S. government. He said:
Now, look, I understand stereotypes are hard to defeat. People get an image planted in their head, and sometimes it causes them not to listen to the facts. But America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence; we’re in the lead when it comes to new technologies; we’re in the lead when it comes to global climate change — and we’ll stay that way. (Applause.)
[Side note: The "Is it still disinformation if the speaker gets applause?" question was actually settled by Aristotle himself in his little known book -- The Duh of Rhetoric.]
Now I do think that the President actually believes what he is saying — even though he has been no friend of renewables and even though the second sentence obviously applies better to him than anybody in his audience, perhaps than anybody who ever walked the Earth. Indeed, if Bush were on the new reality show The Moment of Truth, strapped to a lie detector, I’m sure he’d break the bank.
If the speaker actually believes the utter falsehoods that he or she utters are true, then technically those words probably qualify as “misinformation.” I am, however, here proposing Romm’s Rule of Disinformation: Even when speakers believe the nonsense being spouted, misinformation becomes disinformation if it meets at least 2 of these 4 criteria: