The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Comparative Speaker Series- Daniel Silverman (Univ of Carnegie-Mellon)

Seeing is Disbelieving: The Depths and Limits of Factual Misinformation in War

Mon, September 9, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Silverman
Silverman

Abstract: Lies, “fake news,” and factual misinformation are an endemic feature of modern armed conflicts. But when are they truly believed by the people living in conflict settings, and when are they not? This question is important, as the spread of false beliefs can spark violence, incite refugee flows, and impede efforts to find peace in ongoing disputes. In this research, I advance a new argument about the formation of factual beliefs in conflict situations. In particular, I argue that the accuracy of people’s beliefs in war depends on a combination of their extant political orientations as well as their exposure and proximity to the events in question. While civilians removed from the fighting readily accept lies that fit with their worldviews, those close enough to the action know better. I study these dynamics with a survey experiment fielded in Pakistan as well as opinion data from the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq. Overall, the results show that – as in peace – lies and fake news are pervasive in war, inciting populations against their targets, but they can be punctured by proximity to the fighting. I discuss implications for our knowledge of the dynamics of modern armed conflict as well as the role of facts in contemporary world politics.

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