Monthly Archives: November 2016

Too complicated, TL;DR. Way too detailed.

10986496_880177065389784_6136522222064413250_oTL; DR Summary

  • If you need to spend more than 5-10 seconds to gather the propaganda message, then the message is a failure. This poster is a big failure.
  • This poster originates from a right-wing leaning group.
  • It’s propaganda method is basically to present lots of facts.
  • In terms of effectiveness, this poster is awful. Far too detailed, far too complex, way too much tiny print. Nearly impossible to figure out the message.

Did the Washington Post publish a fake news report about fake news? The Intercept says yes.

With the help of uncritical journalists, a story about “fake news” ended up disseminating far more than it exposed.

Source: Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group

The Intercept (and others) allege the Washington Post published a fake news story based on anonymous sources and lobbyists, making assertions and allegations without supporting evidence.

The WaPo story reads like fake news stories prevalent on social media, typically based on allegations sourced from flimsy evidence and quotes of “she said, he said”. RT notes WaPo has agreed to publish a correction to provably fake allegations made in the article.

The article appears designed for the so-called “outrage culture” – literally the shouting and sharing on social media. Social media amplifies the media’s propaganda message, as people Like and Share online, attempting to persuade their “friends” to adopt someone else’s agenda. As we note on this blog, few will attempt to question or correct such stories, as few want to take the time or risk their friendships. The consequence is that social media becomes a friction-less platform for the spread of nonsense.

The WaPo article appears to use many propaganda techniques including appeals to anonymous authorities, logical fallacies, patriotism, lies, and emotion.

Celebrity endorsement: And it is even true!

11755723_1665401040359778_8484174513935202244_nTL;DR Summary

Celebrity endorsement and Testimonial.

This quote is true.

How well this poster was shared is unknown.

The quote was contained in Lincoln’s first State of the Union speech, both in terms of concern over the potential concentration of wealth (Lincoln had been a lawyer that defended the rapidly growing railroad industry), but also in terms of capital being used to own labor (as in slaves), as well as to hire. His point was that labor comes first to create wealth, which then begets capital. From a government/regulatory perspective, some wanted to give capital a priority over labor, a choice which Lincoln said was not right.


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Excessively complex, too much detail for effective propaganda


TL;DR Summary

  • This is an example of a poorly designed social media propaganda poster

In terms of design, it is complex and no one is making eye contact with the viewer. It takes too much time to understand what it is about and what it is trying to say. .There are enough details that it likely engages (Kahneman’s) System 2 thinking rather than the quick, intuitive, gut-level response of System 1. Propaganda works best when quickly invoking a System 1 response, rather than System 2.

I do not have TV so cannot comment on TV coverage. Our regional newspapers did do a lot of coverage on Bernie Sanders and there was no evidence that the media was “ignoring  Sanders outright” or was “routinely ignored”. That claim is the emotional hook needed to grab the target into Liking and Sharing. This poster might have been more effective if that was the main claim, presented prominently, rather than diluting the message with lots of words.


Thinking Fast and Slow author Kahneman, and creator of the “System 1 and System 2” thinking concept acknowledges that 11 of 12 studies cited in his chapter on “priming” were from weak studies. That chapter implied that “subtle cues in their environment can have strong effects on their behavior outside their awareness“. This does not mean his conclusions are wrong but that the evidence supporting his conclusions may be weak. This acknowledgement is independent of the System 1/System 2 thinking style issues.