Category Archives: Lies

Non profit spins news story into propaganda success?

Source: Traffic deaths surge in 2016

My local paper (not linked here) spun this story with anecdotes and quotes that cell phones were the cause of most car crashes (they are not). The story is appearing in online news reports nationwide.

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, all forms of distracted driving accounted for 10% of all fatal car crashes and 16% of all crashes reported to the police. Cell phone usage is one of several driving distractions.

Cell phone usage was a factor in 3% to 39% of all distracted driving fatal crashes (the percentage varies by age, with the age 20-29 group being the high outlier). That corresponds to 0.3% to 5% of all fatal crashes, and 0.5% to 6% of all car crashes.

Numerous stories claim or imply that cell phones are the cause of most crashes, which is not true. But judging by the comments in my local newspaper, this assertion has been turned into a fact thanks to propaganda and poor journalism.

I made this chart a very long time ago – while it only goes to 2000, the basic issue it illustrates remains true:

 

From a propaganda perspective, this story took off across the country today – originating with the National Safety Council, a safety advocacy organization. The NSC press release lists cell phones as one of many issues in auto safety – the NSC, however, wants to ban all cellular phone operation in automobiles, for any purpose.

The NSC press release also says “The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities” which is not true. The U.S. is not the worst for accident rates or total accidents even though the U.S. has more population, more drivers, driving more miles than other countries.

The NSC’s propaganda efforts have been a spectacular success, widely distributed in the media, and then amplified by poor reporting and news forum online comments that proclaim this assertion as a fact. Undoubtedly the story has been shared widely on social media. I have not been on social media for a few days as our Internet access has been unreliable and intermittent.

Propaganda: Want to Make a Lie Seem True?

Lies can be made to seem true when they are repeatedly told, over and over and over again.

Repetition is what makes fake news work, too, as researchers at Central Washington University pointed out in a study way back in 2012 before the term was everywhere. It’s also a staple of political propaganda. It’s why flacks feed politicians and CEOs sound bites that they can say over and over again. ….

The effect works because when people attempt to assess truth they rely on two things: whether the information jibes with their understanding, and whether it feels familiar.

Source: Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again | WIRED

You do not need to look very far to find examples of lies that were repeatedly endlessly:

  • “you can keep your health plan”
  • “you can keep your doctor”
  • “my plan will save the typical family $2,500 per year”

As long as it sounds possibly plausible, and even better, it agrees with your wishful fantasy, the endless repetitions turn lies into facts.

How can you protect yourself from being taken in by lies?

I have no answer to that question. You may spot the lie, but if you mention to someone else that you believe it is a lie, you will likely be insulted, treated rudely and likely told you are a denier. Even if they agree that the statement is a lie, then they often say “But everyone lies”.

Telling a lie is a positive virtue where once upon a time, telling lies got people in trouble.

As long as telling lies is tolerated and supported, fake news and social media propaganda will flourish! We are in the golden age of propaganda!

The first story is the one that is remembered, even if wrong

TL;DR Summary

  • A media outlet ran a story with the headline “”Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“, based in part on muddled comments from Ben Carson that were not clear.
  • The false version of the story was picked up by media and spread rapidly on social media.
  • The story was eventually shown as incorrect and prominent media called the story a “lie”.
  • But the damage was done. Propagandists know that the first message received by the target, even if later found to be false, is the message mostly likely to stick with the target. This is why elegant lies are effective in persuading others. (Update: There are contemporary examples from the Trump administration saying things that are not true. I wrote this post, originally, in late 2015 but did not publish until January 2017.)
  • This post is not about Ben Carson but is about a propaganda method that is illustrated well by this story involving Ben Carson and Politico. Even though the initial headline and story were not correct, this is the “message” that will live on in the minds of the targets.

Kyle Cheney at Politico.com wrote a story titled “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“. After spreading online, both CNN and Washington Post  noted this headline was not true; Politico later revised the article and rewrote the headline.

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U.S. cities fall behind in wealth measure! :)

CaptureTL;DR Summary

  • From a design standpoint, this poster is effective. Readers likely see it, quickly nod agreement, and then click Like and Share!
  • It uses simple statements with an authority figure as the source of the quote.
  • Some of the claims are false or misleading, but they all seem plausible.
  • The poster works by making assertions (some of which are not true) and using an appeal to authority. The poster was designed to appeal to the preconceptions of its target audience, who subscribe to the fake news outlet. The goal of the poster seems to be that there is a lot of wealth and a lot of poverty in the U.S., therefore, wealth is bad (or poverty is bad or industrialization is bad or whatever). Since the quote/poster never says what the conclusion is supposed to be, the conclusion is left to your own (pre-conceived?) thoughts.

Poster Source

Since the post asks, “What’s wrong with this picture?“, let’s take a look!

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