We are now in the annual Fall time frame social media tag meme of #hangry and #hungeraction and the “wear orange” meme, in response to the annual release of a USDA report on “food insecurity”.
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.
A local politician came out to speak to an enthusiastic audience? Could be an entirely fake audience of paid participants.
A local protest takes to the streets to demand ACTION over whatever – and gets extensive media coverage? Could be a fake group of paid participants. Or sometimes, it is a mix of paid actors plus others who think its an organic, grass roots event. But its fake too.
There are “public relations” firms (a.k.a. propaganda firms) that specialize in hiring crowds of people to create a media friendly spectacle. Here is a screen capture (August 14, 2017) of crowdsondemand.com:
We are surrounded by public relations/propaganda messaging campaigns 24 x 7. The term “grass roots” refers to an action that is allegedly coming “from the people”. The term “astroturf” refers to fake “grass roots” programs, like the above, designed to trick politicians and leaders into taking action based on a false perception of a “grass roots” effort. Most “grass roots” efforts today are actually “astroturf” operations run by professional propaganda outfits. More on our blog, here.
Powerful people in our society use rent-a-crowds to give the appearance of support to their own agendas. They could could be a business (say wanting to expand a building and needing local public support), a property developer wanting to build a new development, a non profit activist group seeking to raise donations, a politician seeking support for legislation – and on and on.
I first learned about this from an item shared on social media, an item, which like the “fake photos”, is incorrectly attributed to the Charlottesville, Virginia riot. Here it is – note the ad actually references Charlotte NORTH CAROLINA – not Charlottesville, Virginia.
- Snopes also looked into this and was unable to confirm that Crowds on Demand was not involved in Charlottesville, VA or at similar protests. The company would not say much about what they do, except to say they do not support hate groups.
 The flip side of this is the use of paid audience members who are trained to help shape the discussion in the direction the politician or other leader desires. This is done even at local community meetings. Ostensibly a meeting is held to obtain community input. In reality, the decisions have already been made and the purpose of the meeting is to steer the group into a consensus around the decision that was already made. Techniques include rearranging seating to avoid “organized blocks” from emerging, the use of “planted” audience members who are called upon and give feedback supporting the desired meeting outcome, and other methods. These are methods of persuasion, propaganda and control. We are subjected to them daily without even realizing that we’ve been “had”.
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.
- Snopes.com also notes the above information I first posted on August 13th.
- Time magazine finds the photographer and talks to the officer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration.
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.
Everything is fake on social media:
Ghostwriting for social media stars is the secret new Millennial It-career.
Read the whole thing – including the biography of a teen Instagram star written by an author had to create a nearly entirely fictional account of the background of this teen social media “star”.
I just scanned Twitter for items about the Affordable Care Act.
I estimate 99% of the Tweets were lies, contained significant errors, left out key information, or significantly exaggerated points. This included linked news stories at main stream news services such as the Los Angeles Times and NPR and others, which contained significant inaccuracies or left out crucial information and data that refuted the thrust of the article.
How many read the ACA? Probably a number approaching zero.
How many researched any of the topics at all? Probably a very small number.
So why are these people posting so much nonsense on Twitter?
Because of the effectiveness of propaganda that has delivered messages to them, which they in turn, regurgitate online, further spreading the propaganda message.
I covered this previously in National public opinion surveys are propaganda messaging in disguise.
Unfortunately, most national surveys of “American’s opinions” are surveys of propaganda effectiveness. The survey itself then adds to the growing body of propaganda messaging on a subject and becomes, itself, a form of propaganda.
You can go to news.google.com and find similar surveys.
- 9% of American’s Feel Shingles Vaccination is a Priority
- Many believe race relations will worsen under Trump
- 68% of Americans believe humans are causing warming
- 71% of Americans consider granola bars to be healthy
Surveys often follow a period of concerted propaganda messaging in the media.
In these and other cases, the survey is primarily measuring the effectiveness of the propaganda messaging around a subject. Most American’s understand little of the facts or logic for any of these items (and many more). Survey respondents are regurgitating the view given to them by propaganda messaging and the methods used to persuade masses of people.