“In the age of the Internet, the truth does not matter”

“In the age of the internet, the truth does not matter. The message you want to propagate can be told, and it will spread like wildfire. And spread it did.”

Propaganda spreads faster than wildfire on social media, often torching everything in its path. The marriage of social media and propaganda is extraordinarily dangerous if you think about how Internet mobs convict people, groups, ideas – in a matter of hours – in the absence of a full set of evidence. Or how similar behavior may rally support for a war – or rally a mob of protesters that trash a community.

The above quote is from a scientist that was slimed, tarred and feathered by an Internet mob about a supposedly secret email he had written to help stop an anti-GMO initiative. The story began with incompetently written and unvetted news reports from Wired, Nature and others and was then shared online in social media. The report and the social media mob, in fact, had the story backwards – and completely wrong.

Social media then propagated the false story – manufacturing a “new fact” out of thin air – a fact that was never true nor even possibly true. And in so doing, ruined the reputation of an innocent scientist.

The scientist did not write the email, but was passing the email on to someone else, and criticizing the actions of the company involved in GMO work, the exact opposite of what was portrayed by the news reports. But the news reporters neglected to verify the source of the email involved.

The anti-GMO initiative he was accused of trying to thwart was on the ballot two years before the email exchange! In other words, the simplest of critical thinking and skeptical questioning would have caught this error.

This is a classic propaganda method – ignoring time – to string together a narrative that sounds plausible but is false as parts of the story take place in different time periods.

In the end, the scientist’s reputation was damaged by a social media mob that believes what they want to believe. The social media “consensus” rapidly evolves into the creation of “new facts” that live forever. In terms of propaganda, this then leads to the “Get on the Bandwagon” method, applying peer pressure to agree with the new (false) fact.

Social media – particularly Facebook-style – is an extraordinarily dangerous tool for intentional and accidental propagandists. Accidental propagandists are those of you that Like and Share such posts and become a cog in the larger propaganda machine.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s