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”.
This might be the first of more than one post. I have been collecting, when possible, social media propaganda items regarding recent natural and unnatural disasters (such as local arson caused wildland fires).
- First, many people use unusual events as a platform for propaganda messaging to persuade others of their own agenda.
- Second, much of this propaganda messaging takes the form of asserting claims that when examined in context of historical data, are not true or are weakly partially true (which is why this form of propaganda is often effective).
- Third, most of us lack context to recognize false claims. Virtually none of us will seek out data to confirm or deny the assertions. Remember, we employ System 1 emotional thinking rather than System 2 rational thinking, and quickly agree with a propaganda messaging that fits our pre-determined world view. (Disclosure: For extremely good personal reasons, based on extensive experience, my own world view is today to be highly skeptical of everyone’s claims.)
- As Hurricane Harvey was impacting Texas, reporters wrote news articles saying this weather event is proof of catastrophic anthropocentric climate change (or sometimes called “warming” and hence CAGW).
- Social media’s “culture of perpetual outrage” spread this and linked in western wildfires (including those started by arson after a wet cold winter) as definitive proof of CAGW.
- The news media writes that Hurricane Irma is so powerful it is sensed by seismometers with the unstated assertion this is novel and for the first time – but it is not unique.
- The media loves hype – and will often hype predictions and forecasts in advance of events that turn out to be different than forecast (Oregon’s Eclipse Armageddon that-did-not-happen being a prime example). But readers and viewers will remember the emotional and scary predictions versus the reality.
- Actors participate in propaganda messaging – actress Jennifer Lawrence seems to imply that if Hilary Clinton had been elected President, these hurricanes would not have occurred.
Validating the Claims
Some assertions, like the last one, fail the test of logic. Many assertions can be checked against past history – there is actual data and historical context.
Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Colorado and one of the world’s experts on disasters, has summarized the historical context of hurricanes and disaster damages in series of Tweets sourced to peer reviewed literature and IPCC documents.
Per Pielke’s summary, many of the claims asserted in the media and social media are not true.
- Read the link. You may be surprised.
Being told what to think by propaganda messaging is easy – and is our default System 1 thinking style. Learning to think for yourself – and employing System 2 thinking style – is hard work.
Do your best to be aware of propaganda methods and attempts to leverage current events for propaganda messaging. Set your B.S. detector to “sensitive mode”!
Not everything you see on social media is real, although I am certain this is genuine:
This post is about using events (in this case, disasters) as the basis of propaganda messaging. Nothing in this post is about climate change promotion or denial and should not be construed as such.
TV audiences can’t get enough news coverage of Donald Trump. Reporting on pretty much anything else is ratings poison.
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!)
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”.
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.
The survey was conducted by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
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.
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.
Los Angeles Times:
That’s why I’m increasingly thinking that our best solution to keeping trolls at bay may be a requirement by social-media sites that all members use their real names when posting comments.
The reporter further states that all social media users should be required to provide a credit card account in order to sign up, to insure that real names are used. Note that comments on social media – and media online forums too – are a form of propaganda. In some cases, the comments being posted are part of a coordinated propaganda campaign. Propaganda does not merely emanate from those who own the printing presses and broadcast licenses – propaganda can be produced and distributed by everyone today using social media and online comments too.
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.