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.
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.
I spotted this sign at a political party booth at a county fair. This poster is designed to frame the discussion and limit it to 3 items: ObamaCare, TrumpCare or Universal Health Care.
I removed any indications as to which political party used this poster as it does not matter and truthfully, more than one party could have posed this set of questions.
The “false dilemma” method implies you have a set of specific choices – and leaves out other potential options. In some cases, the choices are set up so there is obviously only one correct answer, thereby “winning the argument”.
The key idea from a propaganda perspective is to anchor your subsequent thinking to these 3 options. Depending on your political persuasion, you may like or dislike one or all of these ideas even though they actually mix and match the concepts of health insurance and health care (which are separate). For example, ObamaCare is about insurance (not actual health care) and Universal Health Care while sometimes referred to as health insurance is actually about care delivery (as in some other countries). I am not sure how to classify TrumpCare as it was not clear what it was trying to accomplish.
Other options might be variations of “single payer” (which is about the payment or insurance side) or other models such as direct primary care coupled with a catastrophic-like insurance policies, and other free-market approaches. These, though, are not even offered for discussion.
The intent of the poster is to anchor your thinking to these 3 options only. This is the “false dilemma” technique of propaganda. You may combat this type of propaganda by recognizing this method when you see it – and immediately ask “Why are they limiting the discussion? What are they leaving out and why? What other choices might there be?”
The key, as always, is to think for yourself. Everyone is trying to influence your thoughts and actions; we lose when we outsource our thinking to others. Think for your self!
The Seattle Times publishes an opinion column advocating Medicare for All.
The column gives quotes of insurance prices with and without Medicare (the author of the column is now on Medicare) and says, see, Medicare costs so much less why can’t we do this for everyone?
Incredibly she left out that she has spent her entire working life subsidizing Medicare by paying Medicare payroll taxes. She fails to recognize the accumulated Medicare fund is subsidizing those lower prices (a fund that runs out of money in about 2024). The Medicare tax is 1.45% (employer) + 1.45% (employee) or 2.9%, plus 0.9% for certain high wage earners, yielding a maximum 3.8% Medicare tax on wages.
From the hundreds of comments to the column, no one noticed this error. Of course Medicare costs less when you leave out decades of payroll taxes. Duh. Have we lost our ability to think?
Further, as well documented, Medicare is the big kid on the block who pays providers less than anyone else, who in turn, make it up by charging everyone else more.
There may or may not be good reasons for “Medicare for All” (I can think of both advantages and disadvantages) but this column takes a prize for cherry picking idiocy in propaganda messaging. Sadly, the Seattle Times lacks sufficient adult supervision to catch this error: where were the “layers and layers” of editors and fact checkers?
With such a whopper of an error, this column appears to be propaganda messaging by the Seattle Times. By cherry picking, they have created a false argument to favor Medicare for All. The error seems obvious, but then, they are getting away with this as no one seems to see the problem! See how easy it is for propaganda – even blatantly false messaging – to sway public opinion?
Source: Medicare for All: Health care is a right, not a privilege | The Seattle Times
But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking.
Key points from the column:
- News misleads.
- News is irrelevant.
- News has no explanatory power.
- News is toxic to your body.
- News increases cognitive errors.
- News inhibits thinking.
People who stop following the news are able to think more clearly and lead happier lives.
Source: News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier | Media | The Guardian
The next post – coming soon – looks at the trivial nonsense reporting now coming from the Texas flood disaster as reporters spin the story in multiple and pointless directions.
All of these reports are emotional in nature and designed for sharing on social media. Pointlessness.
This past week, my Facebook news feed showed a shared item that claims Confederate soldiers of the U.S. Civil War were declared as “U.S. veterans by an Act of Congress”.
Not exactly. In fact, most of this claims is false.
Snopes.com explains that this is mostly false.
This item works as social media propaganda because it appears to cite what sound like legitimate sources for the information (an appeal to authority). The item also appeals to patriotism (U.S. veterans) and the use of transference (Congress said they are U.S. veterans so therefore, they should be treated the same).
However, the alleged Congressional acts either do not exist or refer to something different. The alleged “last Confederate veteran” who died in 1958, was a fraudster who was not an actual veteran. In reality, the last actual Confederate soldiers died in 1959.
This is just a propaganda meme that is mostly not true, but sounded convincing to many.
Snopes.com has a “Hot 50” list of their top most stories and analysis. As you read the titles, you get a sense of the inanity and general pointless-ness of what apparently dominates the online psyche. Most of it is politics related nonsense, yet shared sufficiently on social media to draw the attention of Snopes.
But Google is, first and foremost, an advertising company and its largest product is a targeted advert service, which it sells to the biggest brands in the world.
Billions of annual web searches, location and email data allow it to target the population with specialised marketing – and there is no reason why it couldn’t do the same with your voice data, too.
Source: How Google is secretly recording YOU through your mobile, monitoring millions of conversations every day and storing the creepy audio files
Google’s business is advertising – to persuade you to purchase a product or service, to support someone’s policy choices, to adopt someone else’s agenda.
The business of Google is propaganda, broadly defined.
Google is very effective at this because Google knows nearly everything about you. They store enormous amounts of data about you, including erroneous information – and there is no way to correct the erroneous information they have collected or interpreted.
- Google scans your emails – Google knows what you’ve bought online (thanks to email confirmations of your purchases). Google knows when you’ve bought or sold a home or stocks (due to email confirmations).
- Google knows where you have traveled to, where you stayed, what businesses you stopped at – yes, they log all of this. If you have Location services on, on your phone, Google tracks all of your activity. From this, Google can determine, for example, that you have stopped at many espresso coffee shops.
- Google voice, used to transcribe text messages, stores all of your voice recordings and text messages in the Google cloud. Ostensibly this is used by Artificial Intelligence algorithms to improve their voice recognition capabilities. (Similarly, every time you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, Facebook uses that to improve automatic facial recognition software so that FB can automatically identify you in photos – or perhaps real time surveillance video camera images.)
- Google stores your entire Chrome web history (even if you delete the history in Chrome it remains stored at Google).
- Of course, Google also backs up your contact list, calendar, apps and app data from your device.
- Google logs each time you use an app on your Android phone.
- Google also stores erroneous information. Because my email address at Google is a simple one, many people with a similar name mistakenly enter my email address rather than their own address which is typically a variation of mine. Consequently, I receive erroneous emails about my alleged purchase of a Mercedes Benz, a BMW, an Apple computer, DISH network services, CenturyLink communication services and so on. I have also received other people’s notice of discontinuation of services due their failure to pay their bills.Google likely thinks I am a deadbeat because they have no way of knowing that those emails are erroneously sent to me due to email address mistakes by others.
- Google stores vastly more invasive information about you than the NSA.
Google stores all this data and performs extensive data analysis on all aspects of your life in order to target advertising to you. Literally, Google has created a massive and detailed dossier of your life, plus they include erroneous information. There is no way to correct erroneous information in the Google dossier.
You can, should and MUST delete this data log. To delete this data, log in to your Google account and go to this Google page and hack away.
After looking at the history Google has recorded, I will be getting rid of as much Google as I can. I am no longer comfortable using Google services.
For many of us this is tough – once you have given out your email address to friends and businesses and online web sites and services, we may literally have dozens or hundreds of places we need to change our email address. For many this can be a lot of work.
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!)
Cross posted from my Internet of Things/Technology blog.
Tech companies have argued they are not and cannot be held responsible for speech, including defamatory speech, hosted on their platforms. Now they are specifically removing some types of speech, implying they can and do have the ability to control speech on their platforms, and therefore, may find themselves losing their “safe harbor” defense against defamatory speech.
Source: As tech companies regulate speech, will they lose their safe harbor? | Coldstreams
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.