Photo said to be from August 12 – Charlottesville, VA, circulating on social media is not from August 12

The following photo is now circulating widely on social media as shown in this screen capture from Twitter: 

The image used here appears, currently, in Google Image search results spanning an astounding 15 pages. The above tweet has alone been shared 227,000 times on social media. This is not the only social media copy, either. It is likely this has now been shared tens of millions of times on social media.

The photo, while from Charlottesville, is of a different event in early July, 2017. And it is a very good photo, as is the professionalism of this police officer!

The situation may be similar. The sentiments expressed may be similar. And I suspect most of us agree with this caption and are impressed. But it is not a photo from Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.

Update:

Another widely shared item concerns commentary about North Korea. This one uses the “Appeal to Authority” argument by citing an alleged comment from a Marine regarding threats from North Korea. As you can see, the names were blacked out in the original. We have no idea who wrote this or whether the claims or true or not. Whether we agree his or her sentiments is not the point here – the point is how we quickly share what we likely agree with, regardless of whether it is accurate, well sourced or whether any part of it can be confirmed. This may very well be from a US Marine too. But we just don’t know! Yet we share it online like crazy.

What This Illustrates

After many widely reported, highly emotional news events, many people turn to social media to spin the story for their own propaganda messaging. For example, I saw on social media a claim that the driver of the car in Charlottesville panicked after his car was attacked and was merely responding to an alleged attack and drove erratically to escape. No supporting evidence was provided for this assertion. Lacking actual information, this is propaganda messaging to spin the story in someone’s desired direction.

Be extremely cautious about what you see on social media after such events occur. As this blog previously noted, racist supremacist groups made extensive use of social media after protests at the University of Missouri.  Be extremely skeptical of what you see on social media. Most of it is propaganda messaging.

Update: I changed the caption on this post. It originally was titled “Fake photo…” but that gives the wrong connotation. This is a genuine photo but from a different event that occurred in Charlottesville in early July, and not on August 12th.

 

Nonsense: “the supervolcano is ready to blow and WIPE OUT life on Earth”

Really?

YELLOWSTONE volcano has been struck by 1,400 earthquakes in recent weeks, leading to fears that the supervolcano is ready to blow and WIPE OUT life on Earth.

Source: Fears that deadly Yellowstone supervolcano about to BLOW after 1400 earthquakes hit | Science | News | Express.co.uk

Click the link and play the video with am ominous and scary musical sound track to really drive home the point – IT’S GOING TO BLOW AND KILL US ALL!

This story does not even need a fisking. Buried in the last sentences:

“However, seismologists state that there is nothing to be concerned about yet.

Jamie Farrell at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City told New Scientist: “This is a large swarm but it is not the largest swarm we’ve recorded in Yellowstone.”

This is similar to serial fiction publisher Newsweek’s previous report on the Yellowstone earthquake storm.

The above fiction story is passed along by a newspaper publisher as real news for the purpose of generating clicks and eyeballs for advertisers.

Like much propaganda, this fiction is designed to hook the powerful emotion of fear.

But is that fake news story any different than this one?

More than 150,000 people could die as a result of climate change each year in Europe by the end of the century, shocking new research has found. The number of deaths caused by extreme weather events will increase 50-fold and two in three people on the continent will be affected by disasters, the study – that serves as a stark warning of the deadly impact of global warming – found.

Source: Extreme weather could kill 150,000 people each year in Europe by the end of the century, say scientists | The Independent

The study was a scenario generator based on assumptions – it is not a prediction, not a forecast. Instead, it says if our assumptions are correct, and if our model is correct, then this is one possible outcome. Right off the top, however, the assumptions used in their scenario are absurd and ridiculous.

Viewed standalone, did you apply  System 2 thinking when you first saw the second story? Or did you just let System 1 say “Oh My God, We are all going to die!

The second story is as absurd as the first, above. But most of us probably thought the latter is a true and honest portrayal of the future because of the consensus view (“Get on the bandwagon”) of climate change.

The purpose of both of these fictions is to hook the most powerful of propaganda techniques: fear. Whether it is for advertising click bait or to encourage you adopt someone’s agenda, this is propaganda messaging.

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Charts that do not mean what you think they mean

A popular meme in media and social media is commentary about income distribution. The typical chart distributes the population into fifths or quintiles, like the chart shown here.

The popular interpretation of this chart is to find your income level at left and conclude you are stuck in that quintile forever – and your prospects for advancement are non-existent.

Did you know this interpretation is wrong?

Most people do not stay in the same quintile. People look at this chart, figure out where they are, and incorrectly assume they stay there forever – but the reality is that the people in the n-th quintile in 1990 are not the same group in 2000 or 2010!

Most begin their working life in the bottom or second quintile and over the course of their work life, rise to the 4th or 5th quintile. At retirement, their income (from investments, savings, pensions, government programs) causes them to fall downwards by one or two quintiles.  On the other hand, many people will fall into the 5th quintile – even the highest few percent of income – the day they sell their fully paid for home whose price has risen due to inflation (or technically, due to the Fed’s devaluation of the dollar).

The logical fallacy is to see this chart and assume that everyone stays in the same position over time.

A valid interpretation is that the 5th quintile sees rising incomes while others do not, but we go on to make the logical fallacy assumption that this is the same group of people, year over year.This is part of our brain’s ability to quickly jump to conclusions (Kahneman’s System 1 style thinking), which are often wrong!

The logical fallacy is to assume that only those in the 5th quintile today receive the rising income benefit – when in reality, many people will move up and down between the quintiles, over time.

Using Questionable Statistics to Drive Up Wedding Costs?

What is the claimed average cost of a wedding in the U.S.?

$35,329 in 2016, says “The Knot” (not including costs of a honeymoon trip). More on their press release.

This value is *widely* distributed in the media, on social media, and in online forums.

Other estimates come from Conde Nast Bridal Infobank and The Fairchild Bridal Group.

How can an average wedding cost $35,329 when 62% of American have less than $1,000 in their savings account and only 10-20% have more than $1,000 in savings? (Perhaps this is because they spent it all on weddings and are now complaining they have no money?)

In my state, about 1 in 4 children live in poverty. More than 1 in 4 citizens qualify for Medicaid, which has extremely low income levels for qualifying.

The only way these numbers can all be true is a small number of people spend a huge amount on weddings or a large number live in poverty because they spend a lot on elective luxuries like high end weddings. Or the wedding estimates are bogus.

Propaganda Benefit

This survey is likely designed to produce a high dollar figure for the purpose of “anchoring” brides and grooms into an expectation of how much they should spend: The wedding industry wants you to believe you must spend a small fortune on your “special day”.

By anchoring this value, this “grounds” brides (especially) into how much is appropriate. But this is propaganda designed to set your expectations as to how much you should spend! Once this value is in mind, one’s costs will soon grow to fit with in this “budget”!

Undoubtedly there will soon be a Federal program to provide loans and direct subsidies to needy couples!

Facebook collects massive amount of information about all 2 billion users

Facebook has collected massive amounts of personal data through our online habits (including advertising networks that track the web sites we visit), our posts on Facebook, the posts we like and share, the sites we log in to using our FB log in ID for access, and possibly scanning even our text messages on smart phones (their Facebook app gets permission to do so), and the details of our travel (via the Facebook apps use of location data).

No one knows the algorithms that FB applies to discern patterns about us. No one knows how much data FB has collected on each of us. No one knows how this information is stored. No one knows who has access to this data.

All we know is that Facebook is the largest, friction-less platform for the dissemination of propaganda. One company has the ability to rule the world.

Past week was great demo of power of propaganda

As everyone now knows, last week Sunday evening, United Airlines forcefully removed a passenger from one of their United Express branded aircraft.

The initial official statement from United Airlines was that they reluctantly had to remove a belligerent passenger from an overbooked flight, the passenger’s injuries were because the passenger fell and hurt himself, and the airline had every right to do so.

Before the week was over, the CEO of United admitted in a televised interview that the passenger had done nothing wrong – no violation of rules, regulations or laws, the flight was not overbooked, United violated its own Contract of Carriage with passengers and video showed that the “police” had violently assaulted the passenger and then lied about it on their official report. Further, the “police” were security guards who did not have authorization to board aircraft nor arrest anyone.

A week later we find people on social media using strongly worded comments echoing United’s initial public relations propaganda, and saying the uncooperative passenger was required to obey the (unlawful) directives of flight crew and had no rights. All of these statements we now know are not true.

BUT – this ilustrates the power of propaganda. Remember that the first propaganda message that people hear and see, even if shown as false, is the message that sticks.

United’s public relations staff know this and they certainly approved, if not wrote, the CEO’s comments. Their comments were cold hearted, passive-voiced, defamatory and lies.

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Using outright lies to inflame the target and spread propaganda

11800154_1666909613542254_6320716305316920615_nTL;DR Summary

To accuse a health care practitioner of murder, as done in this social media poster, is libel.

This is one of the most disturbing and vicious propaganda posters distributed on Facebook.  This poster illustrates the horrendous danger of social media, the sick individuals who inhabit social media (and newspaper comment forums) and the undue influence they hold over others through spreading their own messages of hate.

This example illustrates how easy it is to
1. Create a propaganda poster out of anything, twisting the original out of context.
2. Quickly spread it on social media – because people share without thinking.
3. And stupidly engage in online libel.

I do not know the original source for this altered image but it has been shared widely online, and then commented by many other people who believe the poster is accurate. Thus, an outright lie was turned into a “true fact” by propaganda, even though it is absolutely false.

Social media is very, very frightening. Outright lies are shared and turned into “true facts” through friction-less social media sharing, leading to the creation of a false virtual world where people who vote are making future decisions based on falsehoods.

The more you examine social media propaganda the more you realize, “What if you everything you think you know is a big lie?” (See next post below this one)

How do we get control over this spread of falsehood and hate on line – by people who would never ever view themselves as discriminatory and yet routinely group individuals by their membership in a group (the exact behavior or racism, sexism, ageism, ethnic-ism, etc). This behavior cuts to the core of the thinking processes of those who engage in these behaviors.

The first story is the one that is remembered, even if wrong

TL;DR Summary

  • A media outlet ran a story with the headline “”Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“, based in part on muddled comments from Ben Carson that were not clear.
  • The false version of the story was picked up by media and spread rapidly on social media.
  • The story was eventually shown as incorrect and prominent media called the story a “lie”.
  • But the damage was done. Propagandists know that the first message received by the target, even if later found to be false, is the message mostly likely to stick with the target. This is why elegant lies are effective in persuading others. (Update: There are contemporary examples from the Trump administration saying things that are not true. I wrote this post, originally, in late 2015 but did not publish until January 2017.)
  • This post is not about Ben Carson but is about a propaganda method that is illustrated well by this story involving Ben Carson and Politico. Even though the initial headline and story were not correct, this is the “message” that will live on in the minds of the targets.

Kyle Cheney at Politico.com wrote a story titled “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“. After spreading online, both CNN and Washington Post  noted this headline was not true; Politico later revised the article and rewrote the headline.

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Effective propaganda posters that do not actually mean much

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TL;DR Summary

  • President Obama selected as the most admired man in the world, per Gallup Poll of U.S. residents.
  • Analysis: True! And it is good that the US President is selected for this, in this poll.
  • Almost every year since 1946, the current sitting President has been identified by this Gallup poll as the most admired man in the world. Doesn’t matter who is in office (except for Gerald Ford – it sucks to be Gerald Ford, apparently).
  • This works on a propaganda level because (a) it is a true statement, (b) the message is simple, and (c) “What you see is all there is”. When you see all US Presidents since World War II (except Gerald Ford) were selected as the most admired man in the world in this annual poll, the message of the poster becomes less significant, of course.

Continue on to see the chart of the Gallup Poll results from 146 to 2014.

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