The technocratic response to misinformation and conspiracy theory only exacerbates the problem and further validates the most extreme reactions. Instead of responding with humility and transparency, technocrats and their media partners attempt to reassert epistemic control. They refuse to admit mistakes, they appeal to authority and credentials instead of evidence, and they attempt to shut down dissenting voices instead of taking up their challenges. They lump legitimate critiques together with the most outrageous disinformation, with the implicit message that more deference is needed, rather than more debate. As a result, their crusade for truth begins to look more and more like censorship and scapegoating from an establishment doing everything in its power to deflect responsibility for the cascading crises.
When technocrats construe misinformation as a problem of “information literacy” that must be solved by experts, they don’t just misdiagnose the ailment; they express a worldview that generates much of our information dysfunction to begin with. It is a view of misinformation that excuses cases where elites themselves have misinformed or lied. It papers over the ways technocrats have earned mistrust. It ignores the obvious problems with conceiving of truth as the remit of a special class. And it considers the public’s suspicion of technocrats not as an occasion for self-reflection, but only as another public policy problem to “solve.”