How ideology-based thinking creates propaganda memes #socialmedia #propaganda

This is a very clever bit of propaganda messaging. Preliminary job market data for September indicated a loss of 33,000 jobs, the first decline in monthly job numbers in 7 years as the country climbed out of an economic depression. (A separate survey of households showed job growth – in time, these surveys will be reconciled).

Because of this 33,000 job loss estimate, a Facebook “friend” posted this item.

The Propaganda Technique Used

The wording on the above is very, very, very, very subtle. Most of us interpret this as adding a net positive 500,000 jobs per month to our employment. That would be great!

The sneaky part of this is the choice of the words “job GROWTH rate”. “Job growth” anchors our System 1 thinking to a growth in jobs. But that is not actually what is said here.

The poster is referring to a change in the job growth rate – which was negative the entire year of 2009. But between January and September the rate, which remained negative, declined from -739,000 jobs lost to just -220,00 jobs lost or a decline of -519,000 jobs in the number of jobs lost.

The poster then erroneous asserts this is “500,000 jobs per month” reinforcing the anchor to the idea that we were seeing a growth in jobs of 500,000 per month.

Subtle and clever!

The Data

Let us turn to the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – change in non-farm employment (the series that is commonly used) in 1000s.

Jobs were lost every month in 2009. In no month in 2009 was there an increase in total jobs.

Where does the 500,000 jobs claim come from?

In January the country lost -739,000 jobs. In September, the country lost -220,000 jobs. Since the loss of jobs declined by -519,000 jobs, this is used as the basis for the sneaky wording that that the “job growth rate was improving by 500,000 per month“. In the real word, a total of 4.587 million jobs were lost January to September but the rate of decline was slowing.

Second, the claim of “500,000 per month” is not correct. The poster is comparing January to September providing a reduction in job losses of -519,000 and falsely asserting this is a “per month” figure. That decline from January works out to -58,000 per month. In other words, job losses were declining by about 58,000 per month. Further, the reference to “500,000 per month” reinforces the incorrect interpretation of the propaganda message that 500,000 jobs were being created.

Third, the U.S. had, in 2008, entered the worst economic downturn and job loss period since the 1930s Great Depression. This had numerous ramifications on the job market decline and subsequent rebound. Historically, after all economic declines and job losses, we see significant job growth, regardless of who holds what political office. Additionally, with the unemployment rate at 4.7% in September 2017, it becomes nearly infeasible to employ 500,000 more workers each month – there are simply not enough workers available. (Economists say 5% is basically full employment as job positions are eliminated and created continuously meaning there will always be some level of unemployment as workers have to switch positions.)

Years ago, I predicted the next Presidency (2017-2020), regardless of party would likely have a notable economic recession. While recessions do not occur at precise intervals, the U.S. does experience an economic recession, on average, once every 7 years. From the chart above, the job market has been rebounding since 2010. Do the math. (The NBER declared the recession over as of June of 2009 and this is the date from which the 7 years should be counted.)

Total jobs as illustrated in this trend line, over time, from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. From January to September of 2009, 4.587 million jobs vanished and continued to disappear through early 2010.

Important Note

This post is not about the Obama Presidency or the Trump Presidency. This post is about how ideological thinking clouds judgement, leading to social media propaganda memes that get Liked and Shared. Their goal is to persuade others to adopt their agenda – the definition of propaganda messaging.

Job growth in 2017 during the Trump Presidency is less than during the last years of the Obama Presidency as shown in the spreadsheet table, above. This is a clear and unambiguous statement.

This propaganda example illustrates:

  1. How extremely clever, subtle – and mostly accurate – word choices can convey (or imply) conclusions that are not correct.
  2. Few people contest erroneous information on social media. It takes time, and in this case, attempting to point out the error resulted in others, and the original poster, torturing logic to defend it, which in turn, would then need to be contested.
  3. This also illustrates that the only way to defend ourselves against such propaganda onslaughts is to Hide, Unfollow or Unfriend such individuals, and to only post items on our social media that we can personally vouch for.

Since late 2016, I adopted a personal policy on the use of Hide, Unfollow and Unfriend on Facebook – and am thinking about whether I should “Like” any public post since “Liking” is equivalent to Sharing on Facebook.

I took these steps to clean up my social media news feed so that it is not a constant stream of perpetual outrage. As I have written about on these pages, I doubt it is mentally healthy for so many to spend so much of their day expressing outrage over whatever, nor is it healthy for their targets and the “drive by victims” (most of us) who just see this stuff in our social media news lines.

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TV news focuses on political outrage and selling eyeballs to advertisers

TV audiences can’t get enough news coverage of Donald Trump. Reporting on pretty much anything else is ratings poison.

Source: Broadcast News Misses Ratings Bonanza With Too Little Trump – Bloomberg

This year I had a chance to travel to several U.S. states. Among all the people I met, politics was avoided. Most seem fed up with politics and the purveyors of politics and definitely fed up with the culture of perpetual outrage.

Media targets a narrow demographic of the perpetually outraged that eats this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then shares their outrage on social media, with links to the “news”! And then the outraged come back for more!

Print publishers and broadcasters are counting the clicks – and outrage sells eyeballs to advertisers. They know what they are doing.

As noted before, “emotional hooks” are a powerful way to promote anything. When we are “emotionally engaged” we tend to stop thinking and are more susceptible to advertising messages (another form of propaganda).

Consequently, it is in the interest of media to imply politics is the only thing that matters in life as it riles up the perpetually outraged into a frenzy of emotion and social media outrage and sharing. All the better to sell stuff!

(Disclaimer – We don’t have cable TV, satellite TV, over the air antenna or a subscription to Internet TV service – we don’t watch TV news!)

Rent A Crowd “Crowds on Demand” – and How Absolutely Everything is Fake

A local politician came out to speak to an enthusiastic audience? Could be an entirely fake audience of paid participants.[1]

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:

Source: Crowds on Demand | Celebrity Experiences for Rent | Entourages, Paparazzi and Fans| Strategic Publicity Stunts | Corporate Events

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.

Notes

[1] 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”.

Update to Oregon Health Authority Propaganda Story from yesterday: Director fired today

Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda:

Oregon Health Authority Lynne Saxton has resigned in the wake of news of her involvement in a plan to plant negative and misleading news about a local nonprofit health provider to influence lawmakers.

Source: Pamplin Media Group – Oregon Health Authority Director Lynne Saxton resigns in the wake of planted news coverage

OHA has a long track record of incompetence and poor management and leadership and public relations staff that tell lies.

 

Oregon sought propaganda campaign to publicly demean nonprofit health care provider

Oregon’s Oregon Health Authority put together a taxpayer funded “communications plan” (a.ka. propaganda program) to publicly demean and malign a non-profit health care provider because the OHA did not want the state legislature to pass laws supported by the non-profit health care provider.

OHA was responsible for Oregon’s failed Cover Oregon, a health exchange that never enrolled anyone before being shut down after wasting nearly 1/2 billion taxpayer dollars and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens.

OHA claims the plan was never implemented. However,

“The Portland Business Journal, Willamette Week, Portland Tribune, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregonian and The Lund Report have all received targeted press releases aimed at bolstering the state’s case, as well as personalized emails to journalists and other outreach.”

This is a classic example of how “public relations” is a polite way of saying propaganda. This case illustrates the danger of government turning its propaganda apparatus loose on the public – this is a soft form of totalitarianism.

Portland Tribune: State sought to plant negative stories about nonprofit, 

The non-profit health care provider is now exploring its legal options against the state.

The least and most trusted news sources in the United States

Which ones are the most widely shared on social media? (Story doesn’t answer that question)

Something you can do for fun – visit any of these organizations’ Facebook pages and FB will tell you which of your friends “like” that page. Kinda scary.

Source: These are the most — and the least — trusted news sources in the U.S. – MarketWatch

The survey was conducted by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

News media creates entirely fictional cause for couple’s suicide deaths

Here is how the story appeared:

A New York couple upset over their rising health care costs jumped to their deaths this week, leaving a note that they could no longer pay to treat their medical issues.

 

The suicide took place in New York City’s Murray Hill neighborhood early on Friday, the New York Post reported. The couple was both in their 50s, the report noted, and they were found dead after having jumped from a building between Park and Madison avenues in an upscale part of the city.

This story was distributed nationwide. It is also an outright lie.

Two days later the NY Post story has been completely rewritten. (Somehow the archive of the earlier story has been changed to the revised story, below.) But here is a screen capture of their FB page, which they have not updated:

Clicking on the FB page link, however, goes to the newly revised version of the story.

The NY Post now writes (having erased their previous story versions):

A law enforcement source at the scene told The Post that authorities at first believed that the couple struggled with health care costs. But an NYPD spokesman said later that there was no mention of medical-cost struggles in the notes.

The health care costs meme was bogus, a figment of someone’s imagination and the media fell for it because it met their narrative that the ACA is wonderful, has no problems, and attempts to change it would cause people to die.This was nothing more than a lame attempt by the NY Post to propagandize the news.

The bogus version of the story – suicides due to health care costs – was picked up and disseminated nationwide. A day later, the local news has corrected the story but the nationally distributed fictional news story will live on forever.

UPDATE: BET posts a fake correction, loaded with political overtones, falsely attributing the source of “health costs” to a Twitter user and destroying BET’s credibility on any subject forever. Unbelievable. The news media has killed itself and it was not due to health care costs.

And of course, the bogus version was then widely shared on social media, with each share presenting its own propaganda spin – as in this small sampling:

Why on earth does anyone believe a single word from the media? Why? Since the paper cited a police source for this, why believe the word of a police officer anymore either? We are now surrounded by propaganda and propagandists 24 x 7 to the point that absolutely nothing can be trusted anymore. Nothing at all.

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.

Did social media propaganda play a role in shooting?

This blog has extensively documented the use of propaganda methods to deliver propaganda messaging on social media web services such as Facebook.

A 66 year old attempted to assassinate members of Congress. According to media reports, he belongs to a number of propaganda-based social media groups:

Hodgkinson is a member of a number of anti-Republican groups on Facebook, including one called

▪“Terminate the Republican Party.”

▪ “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans”

▪ “Donald Trump is not my President”

▪ “President Bernie Sanders”

▪ “Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump”

▪ “Boycott the Republican Party”

▪ “Expose Republican Fraud”

▪ “Terminate the Republican Party”

Source: Rep Steve Scalise shot in congressional baseball game | Belleville News-Democrat

More here.

As this blog has noted, social media has created – for many – a culture of perpetual outrage. Fake news and social media agitation groups – both left and right – are widespread on social media. Many who view themselves as intelligent and understanding belong to these types of social groups on Facebook. When you visit these agitation groups, you may be surprised to find FB lets you know which of your “friends” are members of the group (FB does this to encourage you to join the group).

Such groups are properly termed “hate groups”. Go through the above list and change the name “Republican” or “Trump” to the name of an ethnic group or the name of a religion to understand this.

Facebook is filled with groups like the above – on both the left and the right. Facebook has become a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda against many. This propaganda keeps the emotions of its targets in a constant state of perpetual outrage.

Social media CEOs will tell us that propaganda on their platforms has little impact while simultaneously basing their business model on advertising (which is a form of propaganda). Simultaneously, they vow to shut down propaganda by ISIS and neo-Nazi groups that are said to cause “radicalization”. Social media CEOs and other publishers have argued themselves into a dead end (no pun intended) and want us to believe social media has no impact, but please buy advertising on our social media because we have an impact!

NBC News reports “The inquiry is raising questions about a possible political motivation” and “A motive remained unclear“. The lengthy NBC news fails to mention anything about the shooter’s background. The suspect wrote to a newspaper that a news personality owned by NBC is his is favorite TV show.

Update: Social media, is no surprise, filled with more hate speech in response to the shooting.

Media priorities driven by conflict and ratings (“clicks”)

In media, propaganda and advertising it’s all about “emotional jolts per minute”. The media provides “celebrity-like” coverage of political personalities but seldom does serious policy reporting. This problem is pervasive in political coverage but even rears up in coverage of health, science, business and technology.

Personalities, and especially those that generate “emotional jolts per minute”, are the focus of reporting – not serious analysis or policy understanding.

●Do news sites give serious, sustained attention to policy issues as well as publishing innumerable hot takes about the personality-driven dust-up of the moment?

Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, the study’s author, sees trouble on that last point.

The press is focusing on personality not substance,” he said recently on public radio’s “On the Media” program. And that reflects “not a partisan bias but a journalistic bias,” the tendency to seek out conflict. (No mystery there — it’s more interesting.)

“It’s the press in its usual mode, and that erodes public trust,” Patterson said.

And then there’s the dirty little secret that every journalist knows — Trump stories drive ratings and clicks. The word “Trump” in a headline vastly increases its chances of getting attention. (We’re all guilty; see above.)

WashingtonPost: Is Media coverage of Trump to negative?

Since so much of “news” is personality-driven trivia of “he said, she said” and faux outrage quotable quotes, we seldom develop an understanding of the policy or root subject.

Worse, many believe they have knowledge of a subject because it was reported by a well known media outlet. In reality, most of what we think we know – from the media – is likely superficial at best or incomplete and wrong at worst.

Within this celebrity gossip reporting milieu propaganda messaging and spin thrive.