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.

Much social media “influencers” content is ghost written and fictional

Everything is fake on social media:

Ghostwriting for social media stars is the secret new Millennial It-career.

Source: Which Internet Influencers Use Ghostwriters? – Ghostwriting Secrets of Internet Influencers

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”.

The remarkable power of propaganda

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.

 

Fascinating how fast false rumors spread on social media

This post is about how social media propaganda appeared immediately after a proposed House bill was passed, then spread like wildfire, and was mostly not true. The NY Times reviews the main social media propaganda memes and how their messages are extreme exaggerations, distortions or outright lies.

I have not looked at the bill because I doubt its going anywhere and no need for me to waste time on that. We were ObamaCare consumers starting in 2014 until our insurance rates rose by 140% from 2014 to 2017 to the point we had to drop out of the ACA markets. News reports rarely mention the majority of purchasers receive no subsidies and their rates have risen so fast and so high that many can no longer buy insurance. If you are interested in learning about the real reason for this, please read my lengthy paper on the subject to understand why ObamaCare is fatally broken, by design, with proposed solutions.)

Most car crashes caused by cellular phone usage?

I saw an item on a Facebook group where the general meme was that everyone knows cellular phone usage while driving is the cause of most vehicle crashes. The data, however, paints a remarkably different picture. Cellular phone usage, per the government’s own data, is a minor causative factor in vehicle crashes.

There are many causative factors in car crashes: one category of causative factors is “distracted driving”. Cellular phone usage is a subset of “distracted driving”.

The U.S.government’s National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report in 2016 on distracted driving, with data up to 2014 (the most recent data available).

Here is what they write on page 1:

“A distraction-affected crash is any crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.

  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes…”

Let’s restate this:

  • 10% of fatal crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 18% of injury crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 16% of all reported crashes involved a driver distraction

The proportion of those distracted driving incidents where a cellular phone was a causative factor is a subset of these percentages (see tables in the report):

  • 7% of 10% of fatal crashes or less than 1% of all fatal crashes
  • 13% of 18% of injury crashes or about 2.3% of all injury crashes
  • Cellular phone usage for “all crashes” (including non fatal, non injury) is not provided in the report but is likely similar to the two other categories.

The data provided by the U.S. government does not support the widespread meme that cellular phone usage is the leading cause of vehicle crashes. Is my interpretation off in space? The report uses remarkably plain language for a government report. Am I missing something?

Why do people believe cellular phone usage is a leading cause if not pre-dominant cause of vehicle crashes?  (This was the conclusion of those in a Facebook group discussing this topic.)

There is no official answer to that question so we can only guess:

  1. Selected (cherry picked) emotional stories are given widespread media exposure
  2. Bad journalism/bad reporting (fake news from “non-fake” news sources) – often using a variety of propaganda methods to convey this. One common approach in news reports is to quote an “expert” (appeal to authority) who says “Over 30% of crashes are caused by cellular phone usage”. This is a common quote in many news reports, none of which substantiate the number except by an appeal to authority.
  3. Propaganda efforts by the insurance industry to promote a reduction in risk (and their costs)
  4. The tendency to generalize from n=small numbers (I once saw a bad driver using a cellular phone, therefore most bad driving is due to cellphone usage, and if most bad driving is due to cell phone usage then this must be the cause of most crashes). This is a”logical fallacy“.
  5. Everyone just knows that cellular phone usage by drivers causes most crashes (both the assertion and the get on the bandwagon propaganda methods).
  6. If anyone cites the data in a social media reply, this unleashes a barrage of name calling (another propaganda method) that if you disagree, you are a denier, an idiot or whatever.

Facts and logic are the enemy of propaganda. When many people believe something to be true, and that “something” is not supported by official data, it is likely that propaganda messaging has been used to persuade the public.

Using lies to spin a story

Lies work because people are absurdly trusting of others and surprisingly trusting of authority figures.

We saw this during the past week as both Chicago Aviation Police and United Airlines told lies to defend unlawful actions against a paying customer. Much of the media bought the United story without skepticism, reporting initially that a belligerent passenger refused to get off an overbooked flight and then injured himself as police were forced to remove him from the plane. Except none of those assertions were true.

If there had been no cell phone video, the story would have ended there. But as has become typical, multiple videos showed a different story of abusive police. And we learned the United Airlines flight was not overbooked but United was unlawfully assaulting a passenger because their own employees were more important than paying customers.

While much propaganda does not rely on lies, lies are used often enough because they usually work. As we saw here, the media merely regurgitated United propaganda assertions and lies – turning their initial news reports in to fake news.

Two other big lies were caught this week. One, the Daily Mail newspaper paid a nearly $3 million settlement to Melania Trump after printing false and defaming allegations about her for which they had no evidence.

Continue reading

How bureaucrats use passive language to escape responsbility

Long article (link below) explains how corporations and governments torture language to escape culpability. By carefully crafting the message, these organizations use propaganda to intentionally mislead the target audience – and they get away with it because it works and rarely does anyone call them out for their malfeasance and lies.

What became clear to me in this exchange is that the passive voice is itself unsuited for the lexical landscape of United’s email, which itself is part of a larger world we now find ourselves in, where corporate and government bureaucracies rely heavily on language to shape our perception. Munoz’s email relies heavily on the passive voice to evade culpability, but he also employs a host of other rhetorical moves that collude to put the blame on the man who was assaulted and carried out on a stretcher. Like a well-trained bureaucrat, Munoz used an array of syntactical choices in a predictable, quantifiable and deliberate manner, and it’s time we recognize it for what it is.

Source: The Elements of Bureaucratic Style

And how the media itself is fully complicit in this malfeasance:

Readers need to know, for example, that journalists who use phrases like “officer-involved shooting” in any context other than a direct quote from law enforcement are derelict. It is law enforcement’s prerogative to use spin and dissimulation to obtain favorable coverage; it is the media’s role to resist this. And yet, this is a role the media has almost wholeheartedly abdicated.

When corporations and government speak through their public relations staff, they are almost always lying or hiding something.

Continue reading

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.

Did a Congressman really say we do not need satellites because we have the Weather Channel?

The 2017 social media meme:

2017 True Story: A Congressman was at a hearing for a request for funding for GOES satellites. He asked the scientist why do we need to spend money on satellites when you can turn on the weather channel and get the weather!

TL;DR Summary

  • This quote appears in 2000 and 2007 and 2011 and has nothing to do with events in 2017.
  • As we will see, it appears several people who claim to have been told this were either confused or are lying.

2000:

“… we must avoid replicating the error of the US congressman who questioned the need for (publicly funded) weather satellites on the ground that the Weather Channel is available on cable TV.” (page 8, The Nature and Dynamics of Organizational Capabilities).

2007:

“But that is not always the case for politicians and some of the public, as illustrated by the congressman mentioned in the previous chapter who was not interesting in funding a weather satellite when you could already watch the Weather Channel” (page 57, Space as a Strategic Asset, and previous chapter did not mention any congressman.)

2011:

“I had a member of Congress tell me, “I don’t need your weather satellites, I have the Weather Channel.” (quote from Jane Lubchenco, head of NOAA, as quoted in a media interview).

This social media meme sounds plausible at first glance, but the attribution to an anonymous Congressman is our first clue that this most likely a false quote. Oddly, several people each claim to have been told this by a member of Congress, yet clearly, when the track goes back to at least 2000, this implies the author in 2007 and Jane Lubchenko in 2011 were potentially lying.

Social media memes – and fake news – are often crafted by leaving out details necessary to verify the authenticity of the story. Here, by leaving out the name of the Congressman, there is nothing to fact check. Similarly, referencing the GOES satellite systems adds an aura of legitimacy to the statement.

Leaving out critical details is a key aspect of fake news reports, some of which are published by major media outlets. Over a decade ago, one of the nation’s most well recognized newspapers published a story about an “ordinary transport ship” having reached the North Pole without the aid of an ice breaker.

The story gave the ship’s name, which was easily looked up online. I found the complete specification for this “ordinary transport ship” at the Finland-based ship manufacturer.

In the real world, this “ordinary transport ship” had twice the ice breaking capability of the largest ice breaker in the U.S. fleet. Indeed, at that time, about 70 “transport ships” operated by Russia were actually ice breakers re-fitted for dual use as cargo hauling transport ships.

I sent this verified information to the corrections editor of this well known newspaper. I never received an acknowledgement.

What did the newspaper do about this error in the story?

They deleted the name of the ship so that no one else could then fact check their story. Their fake news story – from one of the nation’s best known news papers – lives on to this day, minus the ship name.

By removing a key element needed to verify the authenticity of the story, fake news can live forever, unchallenged.

Everyone plays the fake news game, including famous publishers.

 

 

Paid propagandists control social media discourse

Attkisson: When people get online every day and take part in social media or do searches for news, what is it you think they don’t know?

Matthew Brown: I don’t think they know they’re being manipulated.

Matthew Brown is a data analyst who pierces the secrecy behind paid efforts to influence online.

Attkisson: What areas of the Internet are used to shape and manipulate opinion?

Matthew Brown: Everywhere social. Everywhere social means specific Facebook pages, but it also means the comment sections in every major newspaper.

Brown began investigating after his health insurance costs tripled and he commented about it on the Obamacare Facebook page. He got bombarded, he says, by digital activists disguised as ordinary people.

Brown: Digital activists are paid employees; their purpose is to attack anyone who’s posting something contrary to the view the page owner wants expressed.

Brown decided to use analysis software to crunch the numbers. He evaluated 226,000 pro-Obamacare posts made by 40,000 Facebook profiles. What he found was remarkable.

Brown: 60 percent of all the posts were made from 100 profiles, posting between the hours of 9 and 5 Pacific Time.

Attkisson: Which means what?

Matthew Brown: They were paid to post.

Source: Sum of Knowledge Part 1