The 5D's (dismiss, distort, distract, dismay, divide)

From ADTAC Disinformation Inventory


Nimmo's "4Ds of propaganda": dismiss, distort, distract, dismay (MisinfosecWG added divide in 2019). Misinformation promotes an agenda by advancing narratives supportive of that agenda. This is most effective when the advanced narrative pre-dates the revelation of the specific misinformation content. But this is often not possible.

The four Ds (dismiss, distort, distract, dismay) were designed by Ben Nimmo to describe the techniques used by Russia to create alternative narratives to the facts around an event. ‌MisinfosecWG added a fifth D, Divide, to the list.

  • Dismiss: push back against criticism by dismissing your critics. This might be arguing that the critics use a different standard for you than with other actors or themselves; or arguing that their criticism is biased.
  • Distort: twist the narrative. Take information, or artefacts like images, and change the framing around them.
  • Distract: shift attention to a different narrative or actor, for instance by accusing critics of the same activity that they’ve accused you of (e.g. police brutality).
  • Dismay: threaten the critic or narrator of events. For instance, threaten journalists or news outlets reporting on a story.
  • Divide: create conflict between subgroups, to widen divisions in a community

Narratives are the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are, who we belong to, and what’s happening in the world. Narratives can be personal, or group narratives, or the basis of who we believe ourselves to be as nations. The 5 Ds are usually used to affect narratives at the nationstate level.


  • Explicit attacks on the storytellers - attacks on the integrity of journalists and reports, ad-hominem attacks and direct threats.
  • Twists in narrative framing that go beyond differences in viewpoint. Look for omissions of key information, and use of already-debunked narratives key to the actor.
  • Misdirection


  • Ben Nimmo, Anatomy of an Info-War: How Russia's Propaganda Machine Works, and How to Counter It, Stop Fake, May 19 2015 - original description of the 4Ds
  • Digital Sherlocks: PROPAGANDA: Dismiss, Distort, Distract, & Dismay (30 minute presentation)
  • Lukas Andriukaitis, Disinfo bingo: The 4 Ds of disinformation in the Moscow protests, Sept 24, 2019
  • Andrew Wilson, Four Types of Russian Propaganda, Aspen Review, 2015. Nudge propaganda and alternative realities: mentions 4D as an older Soviet tradition.
  • Rhetorical fallacies: Propaganda in 4 D's - interesting additions to the Ds[1]