Social media outrage mob falsely accuses professor of racism, calls for his firing

Social media outrage led to amateurs falsely identifying a University professor as participating in the Charlottesville, VA mob, leading to people publicly calling him a racist and calling upon the university to fire the professor of engineering.

He was verified and confirmed at University event 1,100 miles away at the time of the riot. Imagine if this happened to any of us – and we did not happen to be at an event providing us with an alibi.

Social media is a platform for hate – and not just the racists and their evil, but also the hatred that emerges from the outrage culture leading to venomous attacks on innocent individuals and groups. Social media – Facebook, Twitter – are leading to the downfall of civilized society.

Eating too much protein will kill you? No, but it grabs the emotions and gets shared on #socialmedia!

Eating too much protein will kill you? That’s the message left by hundreds of headlines and news stories earlier this week. But the statement was misleading at best and untrue in regards to the individual who died. Yet most stories ran with quotes like this:

Meegan Hefford, a mother of two and bodybuilder, died after an overconsumption of protein shakes, supplements and protein-rich foods.

Source: Bodybuilder mom dies from too much protein before competition | New York Post

or “That Extra Scoop of Protein in Your Shake Might Actually Kill You

The family is calling for government regulation of “protein shakes or supplements”, presumably to require a doctor’s prescription and be dispensed at a pharmacy.

Many news stories about this event imply that eating too much protein will kill you. Which it can, if you too suffer from a rare medical disorder. She had a genetic disorder that caused her body to fail to remove ammonia from the blood stream. That’s what killed her.

The disorder is “urea cycle disorder“:

is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation that results in a deficiency of one of the six enzymes in the urea cycle. These enzymes are responsible for removing ammonia from the blood stream. The urea cycle involves a series of biochemical steps in which nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism, is removed from the blood and converted to a compound called urea in the blood. Normally, the urea is transferred into the urine and removed from the body. In urea cycle disorders, the nitrogen accumulates in the form of ammonia, a highly toxic substance, resulting in hyperammonemia (elevated blood ammonia). Ammonia then reaches the brain through the blood, where it can cause irreversible brain damage, coma and/or death.

Men’s Health got the story correct. Days later some of the other headlines morphed into the accurate “Australian mom with rare disorder dies eating high-protein diet“.

The media spun this into a viral fiction suitable for sharing on social media. When push comes to ad revenue, the media pays lip service to accurate reporting: It’s about the clicks and the social media shares. One writer says the media was straight up lying about this story to sell ads (I agree).

To make this work for them, the media down played or censored the rare disorder aspect of the story (censorship, cherry picking). If it is mentioned, it is mentioned in passing or at the end of the article. As shown on our blog, most people only read the headlines (especially those shared on social media) – the headline is the story.

The report – which comes from Australia and has no importance to people in the United States – became a focus because of multiple hooks:

  1. “eating too much protein” puts fear into everyone that this could happen to them (use of fear)
  2. Story involves a 25 year old Mom of two kids (stories about Mom’s with young kids target an emotional response),
  3. The victim was a 25 year old blonde fitness fanatic (she’s cute). You may have noticed that CNN and FOX generally *only* cover “cute lost white chicks”, sometimes for days and weeks on end – yet nearly a million people go missing every year and most are eventually found. But unless the missing are cute or have some other emotional hook attached, there is no news coverage and certainly no national news coverage. The subject’s cuteness is a prime reason for the story to run in the United States (every version of the story I checked had at least one and sometimes many photos of the victim). Heck, this one, with its outrageous fiction headline has five photos of the cute victim! And to further prove the point, the 12 year old story of missing Natalee Holloway is back to “Breaking” and “Developing” news reports today because … she’s cute. Remember, over 2,300 people go missing every day but only the missing cute white chicks get covered by the “news” services with saturation coverage for years.

In short, this story used multiple methods of propaganda for the purpose of selling eyeballs to advertisers. The hooks encouraged the sharing of the story on social media, thereby enlarging the potential ad audience.

 

 

This is not even physically possible: Yahoo News fictional headline

Yahoo News goes full on stupid with this fiction news headline, which links, in turn to a news report having nothing to do with the headline. Remember, they have layers and layers of fact checkers. The fictional news just never ends, does it?

This headline has been live for at least 4+ hours without correction. Unfortunately, on today’s online and social media world, the headline is the message that sticks. Most people only read headlines, unfortunately.

This works as propaganda by using the primary method of “fear” and the secondary method of “appeal to authority” because “Study:” says something. This sort of nonsensical headline is often shared on social media – and may gradually become a “fact” as it spreads widely and for a long enough duration.

Snopes rips the media for fake news stories

An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration.

Source: The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas

Read it, please.

I am not a fan of President Trump, did not support him and I am not involved with either the Democrat or Republican parties. I have watched with disbelief, however, as the full power of propaganda messaging has been brought to play by “professional journalists”. There are many, many, many negative things that can be reported accurately and get the point across – but as Snopes documents, reporters have crossed a line into fantasy writing, as if it is their intent to interfere with democracy itself. I have not previously written about this specific topic – propaganda versus Trump – because the topic is overwhelming in scope.

Thankfully, Snopes does an excellent job addressing the absurd levels to which propaganda messaging has become the default position and concludes:

It has to be acknowledged that since January, many of Trump’s opponents, and even lukewarm supporters, have found considerable fault with his policies and behavior, based on accurate facts. There have been many occasions when Trump himself, undistorted and unfiltered, contributed mightily to the four personas we have outlined.

….

[but regarding poorly produced news stories] these sorts of massive exaggerations and gross distortions are even more corrosive and destructive than fake news about diarrhea on the golf course, because they bear some distant relationship with the truth.

Which is precisely how the best propaganda operates – it has at least some link to truth, but bends and distorts that truth to motivate the target to adopt and agenda or take action.

Years ago, I observed the use and power of propaganda to persuade others to adopt someone’s agenda. That led to much study on the subject and to the creation of this blog and Facebook page.

Politics is a minefield of propaganda messaging not only from politicians but also from their fanatical devotees on social media plus their friends in the mainstream media whose bad reporting is shared on social media as confirmation of allegations.

In the linked post, Snopes eviscerates the credibility of professional media (and some of the professional fake news web sites, especially those on social media) due to the media’s having morphed into a full time propaganda operation. In the future (which could be next week), when the Media screams “Wolf!”, few people will believe them anymore.

Remember, there are many, many issues regarding Trump that can be reported accurately and are quite negative for Trump or his policies. There is plenty to bash by just sticking to facts and policies. But the media, as Snopes documents, has become a giant propaganda messaging operation. Discerning truth from such overwhelming propaganda firepower is difficult.

We worry about allegations of foreign nations interfering in our elections but ignore media actually doing so through lies, distortions and inaccurate reporting.

14 year old electrocuted by cell phone? Amazon’s Alexa calls 9-1-1?

Something is missing from this story (and other versions of it that are all over the media) – a 14 year old taking a bath, reached for her cell phone that was connected to a charger, and this caused her death by electrocution.

A cell phone charger outputs 5 volts, typically at less than 1.0 amps (newer chargers may go up to 2.0 amps). This low voltage and power level is not going to kill anyone, in a bath tub or not.

If this is a true story (and we have no way of knowing that) it is likely she attempted to plug the charger in to a wall outlet and made contact with 110 volt AC power, which is often lethal. (Update: Newer reports note this involved a charger plugged into an AC electrical extension cord.) The cell phone part of the story creates the novelty that translates into clicks, eyeballs for advertisers, and social media sharing.

Texas teen electrocuted after cell phone incident in bathtub

A search on Facebook shows untrue claims such as “Remember your phone is an electrical device that will electrocute you when plugged in and near water.”

At this point, a lot of people are going to believe that you can be electrocuted by your cell phone, which is nonsense.

Similarly, a widely spread news report claimed Amazon’s Alexa called 911 during a domestic violence situation. Amazon says this is impossible.

Taken together, consider how these two relatively unimportant stories are translated into popular lore. Many people will vaguely remember these stories, which then become “facts”, even though neither is true. Most of what we think we know comes from the media and social media (and perhaps personal conversations). Unfortunately, most of the items promoted by media and social media are designed to hook our emotions and shut down our brains. News reporters intentionally use methods defined for propaganda to generate clicks to their stories – and you won’t believe what happened next!

Bitter almonds were banned by the US government because they can treat cancer?

TL; DR Summary

  • This appeared in my Facebook news feed yesterday.
  • Many of the commenters to it, believed this to be true.
  • A few noted that perhaps this ban was because bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide (this is true) but pointed to other “nuts” like Apricot pits, that also contain similar levels of cyanide – and those are not banned. Therefore, say the conspiracy theorists, this poster must be true!

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APA sees sharp rise in anxiety among Americans-why? Social media?

“The results of the January 2017 poll show a statistically significant increase in stress for the first time since the survey was first conducted in 2007,” the APA said on Wednesday in a report on the survey of 1,019 adults living in the U.S., conducted from Jan. 5 to Jan. 19 by Harris Poll.

….

“I don’t think it can be just be boiled down to the side that won vs. the side that didn’t,” Wright said. “There is something going on across the aisle.”

Source: Americans Just Broke the Psychologists’ Stress Record – Bloomberg

Yes, there is something – it is everyone’s attachment to social media and its culture of perpetual outrage, anger and hate. I continue to hear from more and more people who have chosen to leave the outrage behind, by reducing or eliminating social media from their lives, or “unfriending” and “unfollowing” those who are a daily source of outrage.

News media target your emotions to increase customer engagement – and increase anxiety

Regarding those who closely follow the news:

‘“These are the people with an intolerance of uncertainty, and are probably already anxious individuals, and are exactly the ones for whom negative news has a negative psychological impact on their own personal anxieties and worries,” he said.

As consumers become satiated, the news media responds by increasing the “emotionality” of its coverage, meaning negativity is emphasized to keep customers engaged, he wrote.’

Source: Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet – The New York Times

With the ability today to measure every “click” on a news story, the media is gradually becoming more and more like “fake news” web sites, designing stories and headlines with inflammatory and often perjorative headlines to drive more Likes, Shares and eyeballs for advertisers.

Inflammatory and scary stories (“fear” is a powerful propaganda tool) engage readers and viewers. Those that are emotionally hooked are more likely to read the entire story or watch the TV news report. Further, those who respond on an emotional level are also more likely to respond to advertising messages – in effect, once emotionally engaged, our “guard” is down. We stop thinking.

At some point, as we realize the culture of perpetual outrage is keeping us in a heightened state of anxiety, many of us tune out and consume less and less news.

Same country, different data – the ease of creating propaganda posters

DenmarkTL; DR Summary

  • All true.
  • Illustrates the ease of creating propaganda posters.
  • Share if you agree!

As I continue to cross-check the very popular (on social media) Denmark propaganda posters, I created one of my own!

 

 

Points that did not fit on this poster:

  • Denmark has the highest taxes in the world
  • Denmark has the highest personal debts in the world with household debt equal to 321% of disposable income.
  • Banks pay negative interest rates – meaning that savers pay the bank to hold their money
  • One of the easiest countries in which to fire workers!

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