June 1997
s m u g
net worth
by Leslie Harpold

Conspiracy Theory


I'm not a paranoid person. I have always figured that conspiracies of the most foul kind will happen whether or not I am hip to the inner workings of the CIA. It took me meeting one of the guys who works on Disinformation to give it a serious look.


And, for you hard core anti-Razorfish people, a word: Disinformation got it's start on it's own before it became part of the Razorfish subnetwork system, under circumstances that are cloudy in detail. I know, I know, and I don't like diary of a girl age 24 and a half either, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. The original Disinfo people, from what I can tell are still running the show, and Razorfish gave it a much needed design overhaul, for which I might add, they did a fantastic job. There's a lot more interesting things to point out besides how much I think those little icons are cute though, so I'll have at it.

aren't they cute?


What Disinformation is, in essence, is a search engine. A refined search engine, which selects and reviews URLs containing information then makes a huge database of the keywords, so when you want to know about something specific, you just plunk in the words you need - and the queries can be pretty simplistic, and it will point you to the best sites on the web (at least the best ones they know about so far) and return the URLs with a brief synopsis of the material at the suggested web sites.

Disinfo has positioned itself as the subculture search engine. If they continue to maintain the kind of quality in reporting that I have seen so far, and you have any interest in things even slightly outside the mainstream, this will become even more vital. Lots of kooks are on the net these days, and you can bet every one of them has a web page. Using a more simplistic search site like AltaVista or Lycos (which garner their information through the use of bots looking for keywords on a page) it's hard to tell an informative complex site about say, DMT from one that just endlessly prattles "man, that U2 show was like a DMT trip" over and over again, which would get the second page a higher rating than say, a Terrence McKenna piece about his research. It weeds out the fans and the catch phrase droppers to give you a selection of articles that are informative and enlightening.


On the more popular topics, and bigger phenomenons, like Crop Circles, Cults, Aliens and government resistance groups like the Zapatistas and the Shining Path, Disinfo will provide, as part of your search results a "dossier" on the subject. The dossiers are put together by people who are passionate and knowledgeable about a subject, without imparting a radical their radical position on that subject into the 500 or so word introduction to the topic.

I'm not saying the dossier introductions don't have a slant but they serve as decent openers to the subject, where, if you already have an opinion about the topic you seek information on, isn't strong enough to be off-putting should you disagree. That sounds lame on paper (virtual or otherwise) but the second part of the dossier is a selection of links that contain some of each of the sides of the story, so you can do your own reading and make up your own mind. It's like someone already went through the paper for you and cut out all the articles that matter to you, and you don't have to read through all of it to find what you're looking for. The sites are ranked on a scale of one to four, with four being the highest relevancy. So you can decide how deep you want to dig, and where the best place to start is.


It's not just politics and aliens either. It's broken down into 5 categories: propaganda, revolutionaries, censorship, counterculture, counterintelligence, and newspeak. The content reflects the modicum that knowledge is power and their position is that the staff of Disinformation seek to empower their site visitors be giving them access to all sides of a story, but I'm going to come out and say they've found out a way to be paranoid for a living, to our direct benefit. And they're right, they believe that what you don't know can hurt you.

They sum up themselves better than I can though:

DisInformation was designed to be the search service of choice for individuals looking for information on current affairs, politics, new science and the 'hidden information,' that seldom seems to slip through the cracks of the corporate owned media conglomerates. The goal is to get users to the information they seek, in the fastest, most efficient way possible. To that end, we're linking to a smaller, higher quality pool of websites, so someone looking for up-to-date 'alternative' news on the situation in Bosnia, for example, won't have to sift through endless webpages which say something like 'Hi, I'm Dave. I think it's terrible what's going on in Bosnia. Here's a picture of my dog.'


If you want to know about scientologists, Whitewater, Shining Path, Bovine Growth Hormones or interdimensional travel, this is the place to start. Even if you think the people who believe in aliens are a little loco in the coco, it's always good to see what the world is up to where you're not looking. Get a little dose of empowerment and take a look at Disinformation. It's not as fun as SMUG, and of course, no digital love, but they know what's good for you, and sometimes medicine can taste pretty good.



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