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30 May 2019 | Draft

Varieties of Fake News and Misrepresentation

When are deception, pretence and cover-up acceptable?

-- / --

Fake news and misrepresentation in the media
Fake news and misrepresentation in advertising
Fake news and misrepresentation in marketing
Fake news and misrepresentation in agenda promotion
Fake consultation
Fake declarations
Fake news and misrepresentation in social interaction
Selectivity as deliberately faking it
Deception as misrepresentation and the deployment of fake news
Fake culpability
Mythology, religion, superstition and fiction as misrepresentation and fake news?
Nature's "misrepresentation" and "fake news"
Engaging proactively with fake news and misrepresentation

Produced in the light of concern regarding dissemination of "fake news" undermining elections to the European Parliament, of claims regarding the "fake news" purveyed by those seeking election, and in anticipation of an imminent false flag justification for war


Widespread concern is currently expressed about "fake news" as it may be variously understood in relation to dissemination of false and misleading information. This extends to concerns about hate speech and its role in exacerbating intolerance, discrimination and terrorism. The concern has called into question the major role of the social media in society and most obviously the manner in which Facebook has enabled fake news in the recent past.

This has led to unprecedented interrogation of its founder (30 Questions that Facebook has yet to Answer: gaps in the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg at a US Senate hearing? 2018). Beyond the recently implemented processes to detect and remove fake news from social media, the debate continues with a view to formulating appropriate responses in different legislations, notably within the European Union.

The focus in what follows is on how fake news may come to be defined in practice by legislative and other measures. More specifically the preoccupation is the extent to which the resulting definition will be carefully crafted to include those forms of information with which authorities formulating the definition disagree -- and to exclude those forms of information which they favour or with which they feel obliged to be complicit.

Constraining the definition? Paradoxically, will the definition of fake news then confirm the acceptability of some forms of communication which might otherwise be termed "fake news"? Will what is to be defined as fake news come to be perceived by the public as the "tip of the iceberg" of false and misleading information -- with the remainder then to be treated as acceptable by authorities rather than fake?

Will any legislative measures against "fake news" then be themselves "fake" in some respect (about which little can be carefully said)? Will the response to fake news as a whole then be essentially fake -- a token response? How indeed to understand what is not fake news in some manner? Paradoxically the denial that any news constitutes fake news may well be fake news in its own right.

The concern can be understood otherwise in that suppression of vital news or information effectively renders fake what is disseminated -- through deliberately depriving it of context enabling valuable questions to be asked. Such concerns have long been highlighted in the light of the deprecated Big Lie propaganda technique of the Nazi regime and the critical commentary on newspeak by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949). Crafting communication under constraints of political correctness may also limit appreciation of context.

Necessary context? The importance of context becomes only too evident through the actions of whistleblowers and the embarrassment they evoke through dissemination of information that partially undermines a preferred narrative of authorities. This is obvious in the case of multinational corporations (Volkswagen emissions scandal, Cancer lawsuits mount for Monsanto over glyphosate), the Catholic Church (sexual abuse by clergy), and governments (leak of US diplomatic cables). The situation is far more subtle when reporting by such authorities is carefully crafted to be positive and upbeat -- skillfully omitting problematic news which may be troublesome to some and raise unwelcome questions. At what point does this become dangerously dysfunctional?

The issue is all the more evident in the case of indications of dangers or threats of any kind. Many examples have been noted of warnings that are carefully ignored by authorities. These have included institutional failures (as with abuse in hospices), structural failures (buildings, bridges, dams, railway infrastructure), and coordination failures (emergency response and security facilities). Most striking have been the warnings ignored regarding the subprime mortgage crisis.

Obvious efforts have been made to frame evidence of disaster as effectively fake news, most notably with respect to health and safety issues (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010). Some media may either avoid coverage of such warnings, question their validity or relevance, or discredit those reporting such information -- effectively by framing it as fake news. Multiple instances have been evident in the case of climate change, pollution and extinction of species.

What information do authorities consider it appropriate to conceal or ignore -- with the purported justification of needing to avoid "public panic"? Conspiracy theorists cite many examples. The difficulty is that such concealment reinforces any perception that the dominant public narrative is fundamentally tainted, namely substantively based on fake news to an unknown degree. There is considerable irony to the preoccupation with fake news in that it is accompanied at this time by the further indictment of the founder of Wikileaks (WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Charged in 18-Count Superseding Indictment, US Department of Justice, 23 May 2019). His actions notably resulted in unprecedented public access to information indicative by implication of the varieties of fake news informing public debate.

False flags and Father Xmas? It is in this context that the world is now faced with the possibility, if not the probability, of false flag operations to enable armed response with respect to Iran (Robert Bridge, US-Iran Showdown Is One False-Flag Attack Away From Global Calamity, Strategic Culture Foundation, 18 May 2019; Tyler Durden, Iran Warns False Flag "Accident" Could "Lure" Trump Into War, ZeroHedge, 25 April 2019; Whitney Webb, History's Dire Warning: Beware False-Flag Trigger for Long-Sought War with Iran, Mint Press News, 14 May 2019; Jeff Stein, America's Next Phony War: Will Iran Be Trump's Iraq? Newsweek, 11 February 2019).

Such covert operations are a form of fake news par excellence. An obvious precedent is the evidence, deliberately crafted for the benefit of the UN Security Council, of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Earlier examples have included the notorious Gulf of Tonkin incident and that envisaged as Operation Northwoods. Reframing the adage of Carl von Clausewitz, is fake news then simply the "continuation of politics by other means"?

Whilst the nature of fake news may be called into question in this way, it is also ironically the case that there are many features of public discourse which depend on an artful form of cultivated deception -- readily lending themselves to criticism as fake news. The extreme example is perhaps Father Christmas, and the many fairy tales by which children are enthralled -- exemplified by the high fantasy of The Lord of the Rings and the magic of the Harry Potter series. When is such fake news appropriate? Should it be systematically withdrawn and suppressed when detected?

Overconfidence in growth and equality as fake news? Critics of the perceived necessity of unrestricted permanent growth would readily frame cultivation of that belief as a form of fake news -- given the crises thereby engendered (Richard Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion: how economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many, and endangered the planet, 1992; Gordon T. Long, The Illusion of Growth, GoldSilver, 31 October 2017; David Stockman, The Illusion of Growth, Daily Reckoning, 21 November 2017; World Economic Forum, Davos 2016 - The Growth Illusion, YouTube, 20 January 2016).

This raises the question of how cultivation of fake news is insidiously related to sustaining collective confidence in what might otherwise be recognized as an illusion (Varieties of Confidence Essential to Sustainability: surrogates and tokens obscuring the existential "gold standard", 2009; (Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "Credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset, 2008).

Growth is claimed to be the golden route to universal equality. Is this too to be explored as an illusion (Cultivating the Myth of Human Equality Ignoring complicity in the contradictions thereby engendered, 2016)?

How are the dangers of false confidence and overconfidence to be explored in relation to the dangers of fake news?

Progressive clarification: Many of the manifestations of what may be considered fake news can be variously clustered. In the following exercise, instances considered under earlier headings may also be otherwise considered under later headings. The framework invites extension and amendment -- together with more specific examples of the controversy implied.

Fake news and misrepresentation in the media

Fake news: The primary characterization of what is (narrowly) framed as "fake news" is succinctly described by Wikipedia as:

Fake news, also known as junk news or pseudo-news, is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional news media (print and broadcast) or online social media.The false information is often caused by reporters paying sources for stories, an unethical practice called checkbook journalism. Digital news has brought back and increased the usage of fake news, or yellow journalism. The news is then often reverberated as misinformation in social media but occasionally finds its way to the mainstream media as well.

Fake news is written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership. Similarly, clickbait stories and headlines earn advertising revenue from this activity.

As noted above, of particular concern is the use of social media to promote hate speech, extending into terrorism. More subtly this can be seen as the devious and misleading process through which people are groomed towards acts otherwise held to be legitimate but deemed to be reprehensible from other perspectives.

One difficulty in any framing of fake news is distinguishing it from propaganda for political, religious, or commercial purposes. The difficulty derives from the framework through which such communication is held to be appropriate rather that misleading.

Misrepresentation: Whilst fake news is in process of lacquering a clear definition, "misrepresentation" has long been more precisely defined as a feature of contract law -- although the law is recognized to be somewhat confused in this respect. In law it is understood to be an untrue or misleading] statement of fact made during negotiations of some kind between one party and another, with the statement then inducing that other party into the contract. "Contract" can of course also be understood very generally when reference is made to misrepresentation, rather than being restricted to any formal understanding in law, The law of misrepresentation is an amalgam of contract and tort; and its sources are common law, equity and statute.

Emphasis in law is placed on the concept of an untrue statement, whereby to amount to a misrepresentation, the statement must be untrue or seriously misleading. A statement which is "technically true" but which gives a misleading impression is deemed an "untrue statement". Actionable misrepresentations must be misstatements of fact or law. Misstatements of opinion or intention are not deemed statements of fact. Statements of opinion are usually insufficient to amount to a misrepresentation.

Misrepresentation has been distinguished as fraudulent or innocent with the latter dividing into two separate categories of negligent and "wholly" innocent. The intention is thereby to recognize that the defendant may have been blameworthy to a greater or lesser extent; and the relative degrees of blameworthiness lead to differing remedies for the claimant.

Media bias: Some categories distinguished below were identified in a previous concern with media bias and related strategies (Clues to possible vigilant interpretation of media coverage, 2014). This noted the categories of confidence tricks usefully clarified by Wikipedia (List of confidence tricks). Also noted was the well-developed process of religious, legal and political doublespeak as a means of exploiting suffering towards questionable ends (Indifference to the Suffering of Others: occupying the moral and ethical high ground through doublespeak, 2013).

That discussion noted the recognition of the set of related techniques of media manipulation used to enable an image or argument favouring particular interests. The Wikipedia entry discusses such manipulation firstly by context

This is followed by a discussion in terms of technique:

Distraction types Other techniques

As a notable feature of bias in media coverage may be the use of a variety of forms of cover-up. These have been organized into a remarkably extensive typology of cover-ups in the relevant Wikipedia entry -- based on analysis of a number of typical cases.

Information "laundering": The earlier discussion also noted extension of this understanding from initial use of "whitewash" as a metaphor meaning to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals, or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation, or through biased presentation of data. It is especially used in the context of corporations, governments or other organizations. Variants now extend to:

Statistical deception: There is widespread recognition of the misuse of statistics, namely when a statistical argument deliberately asserts a falsehood for the gain of the perpetrator. Wikipedia describes the following types of misuse -- which may be variously present in biased media presentations.

Such deception has been variously documented (Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics, 1991; Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics: untangling numbers from the media, politicians, and activists, 2012). Of particular relevance is the process described as massaging statistics so that they conform to a required media message, namely to manipulate results for the political convenience of some user, often the government.

Misrepresentation of electoral results: It is now common for claims to be made with respect to pre-electoral gerrymandering, restrictive voter registration, and hacking of the electoral process itself -- all variously resulting in misrepresntation of the results, especially to the extent that the election could be understood as a negotiated contractual process. Wikipedia offers a List of controversial elections. These do not highlight the issue in dictatorships (The Dictator's Dilemma: to win with 95 percent or 99? Foreign Policy, 13 February 2012).

Potentially far more curious and undignified is the manner in which the losers in an election engage in tortuously spurious arguments, despite the voting results, to the effect that in they did "really" loose. This has been evident in the claims made that in reality more people voted for Donald Trump's opponent and that it has only been the obsolete processes of the US elctoral college system which enabled him to have won. This is equivalent to claiming that greater possession of the ball in football justifies the declaration of a team to be the winner -- even though it scored fewer goals according to the rules.

Another form of misrepresentation has been evident with respect to commentaries on the European Parliamentary elections. In the case of France, spokespersons for the party of Emmanuel Macron are vigorous in their convulated assertions that their unprecedented loss was meaningless in practice, that their program had a viable popular mandate, and that there was nothing they really needed to learn from the loss. Arguably such a bias has even been evident in the tone of commentary by the BBC:

In France, for example, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen beat President Emmanuel Macron at the polls. A huge victory for her, right? And for the nationalist Eurosceptic cause, while Mr Macron clearly failed to persuade voters with his reform agenda for France and the EU. But the margin of difference was so small between the two politicians, you could argue the opposite: that Marine Le Pen failed to truly capitalise on the weakness of an unpopular president, allowing him to emerge post-election with feathers ruffled, but not plucked. (Katya Adler, European elections 2019: What were the clear trends? BBC News, 27 May 2019)

Misrepresentation takes a different form within national and European parliaments where every effort is made to minimize the time their representatives are allowed to speak -- if representatives of other parties do the courtesy of according attention to them. Variously framed as a "cordon sanitaire" -- but usefully understood as a "democratic chastity belt" -- this effectively constitutes a misrepresentation of parliamentry democracy from which populism is institutionally excluded as a legitimate expression of the people.

Fake news and misrepresentation in advertising

It is appropriate to ask what proportion of advertising can be understood to be fake news -- at least from some point of view. The promotion of products and services of health concern can be explored in this light, notably tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.

Employing iconic models: The question is relevant given the heavy investment in crafting the verbal or visual message to the point of distorting the perspective of the viewer -- cultivating a perception which could be held to be false. This is evident from the choice of physically exceptional models, their cosmetic enhancement, their clothing, and the setting in which they are filmed -- in a context decorated with status symbols to which many can only aspire. The distortion may be reinforced by using celebrities in that role in order to echo the message. Whilst the result may indeed be considered "fake", to what extent does it constitute reprehensible "fake news"?

Puffery: A key question on which legislation has focused is whether and how advertising is misleading, namely the use of false, misleading, or unproven information to advertise products to consumers. Arguably, in that narrower sense, this could indeed constitute fake news. The issue is whether legislation is carefully and generously crafted to permit forms of advertising which could otherwise be recognized as fake news. A particular indication of this is the permissibility of what is defined in some legislations as puffery, namely the ability to formulate a promotional statement or claim that expresses subjective rather than objective views, which no "reasonable person" would take literally. How frequently is the subtlety of that distinction challenged in practice? How easy is it to go beyond the bounds of puffery in practice?

Of interest in this respect is the constraint on the use of superlatives in advertising in some countries, notably Iceland ****. When is hyperbole to be understood as framing fake news, rather than being acceptable as puffery? From that perspective, how is the choice of the most attractive models to be understood -- exemplars of superlative qualities -- when few can aspire to such attributes, whatever the implied claims for the products made by their use by the models? There is increasing sensitivity in this respect -- resulting in the choice of models more reflective of average attributes.

Implication: An intriguing aspect of fake news is advertising by implication, avoiding specific claims but implying a case which may well be unproven. This is consistent with the marketing principle of "selling the sizzle but not the steak". Much advertising of products does indeed make claims for the proven performance of a product -- without being challenged to indicate where that proof is to be found, or by whom it has been substantiated. A feature of fake news is then the denial of the existence of proof to the contrary, or discrediting its nature. Such counter-claims are typically beyond resolution in the context in which the claims are made.

One style of advertising is of particular interest through "before" and "after" photographs of the use of a product (typically health products). Crafted as they are as advertising, to what extent do these constitute proof rather than the faking of proof -- possibly with the aid of photo enhancement software?

Labelling: Other issues are evident in labelling, whether or not the elements are legally defined. Problematic issues, potentially to be considered as fake news, include:

More generally such advertising, whatever form it takes, can be understood as the making of a promise without any sense of whether what is advertised can be delivered -- as the consumer has been led to imagine (Dreamables, Deniables, Deliverables and Duende, 2015).

Descriptions of techniques of deceptive and false advertising, are clustered by Wikipedia into the following categories.

Fake news and misrepresentation in marketing

The above instances of fake news in advertising are engendered by strategic use of fake news in marketing more generally. Relevant examples include:

Such strategies are notably deployed in presentations, as exemplified in the role of lobbyists. Curiously the latter could be said to adopt the strategies of witch doctors of the past in cultivating terror and appreciation of the existential threat it represents. As with witch doctors, lobbyists are thereby able to position themselves as purveyors of remedies to issues whose reality they may have been associated with engendering.

This raises the provocative question as to the proportion of products and services which have been adopted on the basis of fake news of some kind. Would any response to that question take the form of fake news?

Fake news and misrepresentation in agenda promotion

The emphasis above is primarily on the fake news associated with commercial products and services. That is however a particular instance of the use of fake news in the promotion of agendas more generally. Facts may be misleadingly selected and presented. Statistics may be massaged. Media presentations may be biased, whether through advertising or otherwise.

Examples include:

Common to promotion, taking the form of fake news, is the incidence of spurious arguments and use of logical fallacies in presentations. This is indicative of the possibility that it may well be such factors which render the presentation false rather than any information to which reference is made.

It is appropriate to recognize the manner in which deliberate misrepresentation (notably through the presentation of fake news) is now a feature of social engineering, understood as the psychological manipulation of people into divulging confidential information or performing actions -- whether or not these are in their best interests (Ian Mann, Hacking the Human: social engineering techniques and security countermeasures, 2008; Christopher Hadnagy, Social Engineering: the art of human hacking, 2011).

Fake consultation

The merits of consultation are variously recognized and upheld as necessary for the progressive qualitative improvement of stakeholder experience of various kinds -- as a variant of the democratic voting process. The manner in which it is organized renders such processes vulnerable to recognition as purely token exercises -- pseudo-consultations and token consultations -- thereby transforming such claims into a form of fake news:

An 8-rung ladder of consultation has been usefully distinguished:

At the first stage there is cosmetic consultation where citizens may hear and be heard, although they lack the resources to ensure that their views will be taken into account. The ladder moves through various degrees of token consultation where the ground rules allow the consulted to advise but these rules retain, for those who hold power, the right to decide. Further up the ladder citizen power begins to develop, with partnership at stage 6 encouraging negotiation and trade-offs between the consulted and decision takers. At stages 7 and 8 citizens have obtained full managerial control and participation is complete and real. (Jeffrey Jowell and Dawn Oliver, The Changing Constitution, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 2052; emphasis added)

Fake declarations

A wide variety of declarations are made, typically using documents. These raise the question as to the extent that they effectively constitute fake news or should be considered as such:

Fake news and misrepresentation in social interaction

The process of inter-personal interaction can be variously seen as engendering or dependent on fake news.

Selectivity as deliberately faking it

Whilst that which is expressed may be unquestionably authentic, that which is deliberately or unconsciously omitted may thereby transform the former into fake news. The "unsaid" may therefore have a vital contextual role in determining falsity, irrespective of its acceptability (Varieties of the "Unsaid" -- in sustaining psycho-social community, 2003). Examples include:

Cover-up tactics -- fake news in their own right -- may be used to reframe or disguise any recourse to selectivity or recognition of its limitations (Biased coverage of controversy by news media, 2014 ).

Deception as misrepresentation the deployment of fake news

Engendering "fake news" may well be fundamental to processes of deception and bluff, variously considered appropriate (Timothy R. Levine, Encyclopedia of Deception, 2014; Kevin D. Mitnick and William L. Simon, The Art of Deception: controlling the human element of security, 2011;  To Bluff or Not to Bluff, KellogInsight, 2015).

Examples include:

Fake culpability

Of particular relevance is the manner in which fake news is related to fake culpability, as instanced by the following:

Common to all these examples is the question of plausible deniability and culpable deniability and how these relate to fake news.

Given the current role of Donald Trump and its extensive coverage in the media, of particular interest is the manner in which he is falsely singled out as culpable for multiple forms of disruption. As the President of the USA, duly elected by the American People according to well-defined electoral procedures, it is currently irrelevant whether those procedures are in any way in question. Trump is therefore the legitimate representative of the American People, and their current mouthpiece in political, legal, executive, and public relations terms, as clarified separately (Who to Blame: "Donald Trump" or the "American People"? Let's get real clear on any responsibility for imminent global disaster, 2019). How is scapegoating to be understood in relation to misrepresentation?

Mythology, religion, superstition and fiction as misrepresentation and fake news?

Potentially the most controversial understanding of "fake news" is that relating to religion, superstition or mythology, as instanced by the following:

It is appropriate to note the extensive literature on pretence

Nature's misrepresentation and "fake news"

The examples above suggest many possibilities of deprecating fake news. A number, notably those involving deception, involve comparison with processes in nature (Martin Stevens, Cheats and Deceits: how animals and plants exploit and mislead, 2016). Examples include:

Covering both humans and the world of nature, Loyal Rue argues:

... that it may be more accurate to describe the history of our culture as a flight from deception than as a quest for truth. He turns then to the natural world to reveal how deception works at every level of life, ranging from plants that mimic dung, carrion, or prey to lure insects that then spread pollen.... Moreover, he points out that psychological research has shown that strategies of deception and self-deception are essential to our personal well-being, that we sometimes shore up our self-esteem by deceptive means, by leaving others in a state of ignorance, by manipulating others into a state of false belief, by suppressing information from consciousness, and by fabricating or distorting our own sense of reality. And he argues that social coherence is achievable only within certain optimal limits of deception -- the social fabric would be threatened by an overabundance of lies and false promises, of course, but it would also collapse if everyone were perfectly honest all the time. (Grace of Guile: the role of deception in natural history and human affairs, 1994)

In contrast with such arguments is the misrepresentation of nature (The Hidden Biases that Shape Natural History Museums, SmithsonianMag, 20 December 2017). Paula van Eenennaam notes the extent to which anthropomorphism, or personification, results in a false and idealised representation of nature which encourages the idea of human dominance (Anthropomorphism and the Call of the Wild in Children's Literature, Publishing in the Digital Age, 11 November 2018). The idealisation of nature in children's literature?-- ?its misrepresentation?--?has also been found to constitute one of the key drivers of biodiversity knowledge loss, as it creates a biased perception of local biota.

Engaging proactively with fake news and misrepresentation

Of interest is the manner in which prohibition and censorship of what is deemed "fake news" may effectively be called into question as a form of fake "fake news" in its own right.

Skills required: Reprehensible or not, the examples from nature suggest that there is a need to develop skills in responding to the widespread incidence of some form of fake news -- however it may be deplored as reprehensible. This was the focus of an earlier commentary (Vital Collective Learning from Biased Media Coverage: acquiring vigilance to deceptive strategies used in mugging the world, 2014).

Possible framings include:

A number of authors have responded more specifically to the challenge of how to navigate a world characterized by multiple forms of fake news and misrepresentation -- rather than simply recognizing and deploring its existence:

As suggested, perhaps the most readily comprehensible survival mode is that required in any street market or souq where vendors engage proactively in the presentation of their wares -- deploying any tale that has the potential of being attractive. Claims of any kind can be made and it is for the buyer to be discerning in engaging with them to determine whatever can be considered credible -- knowing full well that it may not be. Both parties may derive a degree of pleasure from the bargaining process.

Dynamics of reinvention: Another mode is evident in the pleasure which women or men may derive from reinventing themselves on a daily basis through the clothes they choose to wear -- possibly complemented by jewelry, hairstyle, and cosmetics. This mode can be readily understood as one of disguise -- essentially a personal indulgence in misrepresentation, variously appreciated or deplored by those encountered. For some this extends to narrative, to the stories which complement such presentation -- readily recognized as fake news. Collectives may similarly reinvent themselves, using public relations to deploy a new narrative.

As a possibility in which some engage on a daily basis, this raises the fundamental question of how the fake is to be distinguished from the genuine. It calls into question whether choice of presentation should be consistent with a declaration of who one is -- or rather a playful pretence of who one is variously not. The latter is a recognition of how much presentation is a case of acting -- in which "actors" indulge. It is then a fundamental mistake to require that the genuine qualities of a person should be marked and constrained by any particular presentation -- serving as a form of uniform for a stereotype. In the case of international institutions, the argument relates to the potentially greater viability of "variable geometry" (Alternation between Variable Geometries: a brokership style for the United Nations as a guarantee of its requisite variety, 1985).

Corresponding to the clothing metaphor is the chosen narrative deployed -- individually or collectively. This too may be adjusted according to circumstances, thereby framing the challenge of the extent to which it is an exercise in fakes news and misrepresentation to be deplored. Again the flexible narrative of a market vendor clarifies the point -- and the challenge of how credibility is engendered and accorded in that process. Are truth and authenticity of a nature which enables them to be effectively "set in stone" for all time? Or does their essentially dynamic nature transcend the constraints of any particular presentation?

The static constraints of the "stone" metaphor can be speculatively explored (Transforming and Interweaving the Ways of Being Stoned: imagination, promise, rocks, memorials, petrification, 2012). They point to the possibility that genuine identity and authenticity may be more closely associated with a dynamic between a variety of manifestations of what indeed amounts to misrepresentation and fake news -- the focus being on reinvention and the identity which enables that capacity. This can be explored as cognitive shapeshifting (En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003; Resonance: enacting the world through shapeshifting, 2011).

Re-imagining: With the considerable emphasis now placed on the vital importance of imagination in support of necessary innovation, the question of how people reinvent the context in which they live merits imaginative reflection (Imaginal Education: game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making, 2003). This also applies to transcending strategic escapism associated with some framings of long-term goals (Engendering 2052 through Re-imagining the Present, 2012).

The set of "misrepresentations" through which an individual or collective may choose to be presented to others can be usefully understood as a set of metaphors. The point is usefully made by science fiction in speculating on the cognitive challenge of navigating the complexity of hyperspace, as discussed separately with respect to such cognitive shapeshifting.

It focuses on the challenge of comprehending high degrees of complexity calling for decision-making under operational conditions (as is the case of global management or daily life). The fictional problem is that of piloting or navigating a vessel through "hyperspace" or "sub-space", as imagined in the light of recent advances in theoretical physics and mathematics. Because of the inherent complexity of such environments, writers have explored the possibility that pilots and navigators might choose appropriate metaphors through which to perceive and order their task in relation to qualitative features of that complexity -- for example, flying like a bird, windsurfing, swimming like a fish, tunneling like a mole, etc. The mass of data input derived from various arrays of sensors, and otherwise completely unmanageable, is then channelled to the pilot in the form of appropriate sensory inputs to the nerve synapses corresponding to s/his "wings" or s/his "fins". Perception through the chosen metaphor is assisted by artificial intelligence software and appropriate graphic displays. The pilot switches between metaphors according to the nature of the hyperspace terrain. Such speculations serve to stimulate imagination concerning a possible marriage between metaphor and artificial intelligence in relation to governance.

The existential challenge can be variously explored as Being the Universe: a metaphoric frontier (1999) or Being What You Want (2008). The latter distinguishes between the potential of "apophatic identity" and the current problematic aspiration to "kataphatic identity". Inherent in the challenge is the capacity to believe in what is believed by others to be fake as well as the capacity to question what others believe to be factual.

Embodying spin: In a context increasingly defined by its post-truth dimensions, with its inherent "curvature", expectation of a "straight answer" may well be naive. The contrast can be compared to the conditions under which a classical mechanical worldview is appropriate in contrast to those where far more "irrational" modalities offer greater coherence, as framed by Alexander Wendt (Quantum Mind and Social Science: unifying physical and social ontology, 2015).

It is an extreme irony that it is Donald Trump, as leader of the world's superpower, who offers many lessons with respect to engaging with fake news and misrepresentation. The expectation of "straight answers" is clearly naive, except as a momentary response. Everything can be reframed, as with experience in a street market (New World Order of Walk-away Wheeling and Dealing, 2018). The same can now be more realistically said of the institutions of global governance and their promises, notably in the light of the carefully cultivated myth of the "international community" (International community as a divine surrogate? 2015; International community as an act of deception? 2015). Since when has the expectation of "straight answers" from authorities been considered naive?

Given the widespread recognition of "spin" in relation to misrepresentation and fake news, there is a case for acquiring skills inspired by that metaphor -- as suggested by the bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence required for acrobatics and aerobatics. This is consistent with the appreciation of the dynamics and aesthetics of dance. Is the static invariance of truth and authenticity to be explored as a myth, as suggested by musicologist Ernest McClain (The Myth of Invariance: the origins of the gods, mathematics and music from the Rg Veda to Plato, 1978)?

The role of aesthetics in understanding is central to the argument of Mark Johnson (The Meaning of the Body: aesthetics of human understanding,  2007). The emphasis is placed on an understanding "through" the body and its dynamics by both Johnson and by Maxine Sheets-Johnson (The Primacy of Movement, 1999). This would of course be consistent with the philosophy articulated in relation to the martial arts necessarily preoccupied with possible deception.

As expressed by Mark Johnson:

Unfortunately meaning is a big, messy, multidimensional concept that is applied to everything from grandiose notions like the meaning of life all the way down to the specific meanings of single words or even morphemes.

The developing focus on the embodied mind contrasts with much contemporary philosophy with its exclusive emphasis on abstract conceptual and propositional structure, offering only a very superficial and eviscerated view of mind, thought, and language

The above argument could of course itself be construed as an exercise in misrepresentation and fake news. Why not? When are claims to authenticity themselves susceptible to interpretation as fake?


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Sissela Bok:

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