According to dictionary.com, 2018 was the year of “misinformation”. Dictionary.com
also claims that the word has existed since the late 1500s. The word “misinformation”
became relevant again because of the amount of false information that abounded on the
internet last year.
The word “misinformation” needs to be differentiated from “disinformation”, according
to dictionary.com. The two are not interchangeable. Disinformation is described by
dictionary.com as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or
facts; propaganda.” Dictionary.com defines “misinformation” as “false information that is
spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” Dictionary.com goes further to
claim that, “When an individual sees this disinformation, believes it, and then shares it,
that’s misinformation.” The two definitions can be confusing. In summation,
disinformation, it seems, is deliberate; while misinformation may or may not involve
intent, disinformation becomes misinformation when it is spread.
That the word “misinformation” had existed since the late 1500s tells us that the spread
of false information is not new. However, it is only in this era that the issue of
misinformation has come into the forefront because of its ominous repercussions. People
have lied for as long as man has existed, but it is the internet that has transformed it from
something where people could do so without being identified. And, anything put out on
the internet spreads with unbridled virality, causing tremendous damage. I am sure that
everyone will agree that this is true. There is the example of how Cambridge Analytica
used the personal data in Facebook to create psychological profiles of people to influence
the outcome of the U.S. election and Brexit. And, the last two years have seen an array of
political ads of every polemic stance on the internet, from Breitbart to the New York Slate.
In addition, there are people who unabashedly spread conspiracy theories, such as Alex
Jones who contend that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting which left 26 dead was staged by
“crisis actors” to promote more restrictive gun policies.
Information, whether true or not, can be weaponized today, because it can be spread
pervasively and quickly with new technology. We once got our information from
newspapers, and later from television. These sources attempted to follow a code of
journalistic integrity. However, today, anyone can produce their own content through
social media outlets like Facebook. Because the general public has no need to conform to
the standards of journalism, it has become almost impossible to know whether a particular
piece of information is corroborated with other facts or whether its original source is
reputable or not. While we remain uncertain about the truth value of a certain thread of
news on social media, it is being passed on from person to person so rapidly that people
eventually accept it as fact.I am encouraged that 2019 will be a good year to address our present crisis because
2019 is the year of the wild boar. Let us see what the experts in Chinese astrology say are
the characteristics of the wild boar. The wild boar charges toward any goal or adversity
with one-pointed concentration, without fear. It is honest and diligent, and as a result
perseveres all manners of pain in the completion of any challenge that it chooses. When it
is interested or likes something or someone, it stays with it to the end without wandering.
If we were allowed but a single word to describe it, the wild boar can be characterized as
being very “ganko” (頑固). “ganko” is the Japanese word for stubborn.
Honestly, stubbornness is not necessarily a welcome trait. Stubborn people are usually
seen as a problem because they are not easy to get along with. But, we are in a time when
we must be vigilant of every piece of untruth spewn in the world. Lies can deteriorate our
world and make it unsafe. 2019 will bring even more untruths with even greater efforts to
mask its falsehood. We must be like the wild boar in being stubborn about demanding the
truth. If we do not, we jeopardize ourselves not only on a personal level but also as a
human race.
This is critical because many things in our world are supported by ideas alone. And, it is
these ideas that are the easiest to be influenced by the recent unchecked spread of
misinformation. The foundation of our nation, for example, depends on our confidence in
ideas. Concepts such as democracy, equality, or freedom are mere ideals, yet it is upon
these that our institutions and relations are built. Our nation is very fragile because it is
only as stable and strong as our confidence in these ideals. As a corollary, these ideals can
only be upheld by an expectation or normalcy of truth.
This is why we must be defiant in not allowing lies to overtake our lives because
untruths lead to an opportunity or birth of yet other untruths, until it magnifies
exponentially, destroying all trust in what we know. This year, let us embrace the ganko-
ness of the wild boar in demanding truth and ousting misinformation.
(Eisei Ikenaga)

Image source from vietnamonline.com