Monthly Archives: June 2016

A surprising System 1 style response to a social media propaganda meme

Most highly successful social media propaganda is visual, has few words, and is processed within seconds by the intended target, Liked and Shared, passing along the message to others. This is our System 1 quick, easy, intuitive thinking style in operation. In other words, we do not think, we respond at a gut or emotional level.

Much propaganda messaging can only be countered, typically, with logic and facts, which requires, slow thinking (System 2), which is hard and thus the correction to a propaganda meme is mostly ignored. “False facts” are therefore easily created by effective System 1 targeting in propaganda.

Recent floods on the Seine River in Paris were quickly blamed on “climate change”.

Someone responded with their own propaganda message using an effective System 1 approach. It is rare for a counterpoint to a social media propaganda item to be done so effectively and succinctly:



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 on the subject of “priming”. This acknowledgement is independent of the System 1/System 2 thinking style issues.

Social media peer pressure enforces conformity to group norms

If you want the tl;dr response, stop here: social media is a pretty effective mechanism for peer pressure. If you disagree, please consider how many temporary profile pictures have been updated on Facebook to red, white, and blue in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris (including perhaps your own). We know that online peer pressure is powerful. But what we don’t know is whether that pressure is driving real change.

Sharing your opinions and thoughts online is as simple as clicking a button. But you might want to hold off on clicking that button if your opinion or thinking differs from the at-the-moment sentiment sweeping through your social network. To do otherwise, might bring the ire of your connections, and with it ostracism from the group. While it has never been easier to share online, it’s also never been harder to share things that differ from public sentiment or to not offer an opinion in the wake of emotionally charged eventsPeer pressure, which was once categorically regarded as a negative driver of drugs and deviant behavior, has morphed to a broader expression of social pressure in online spaces and is more aligned with maintaining group norms.

Source: What Do Those Temporary Facebook Profile Pictures Really Mean?

(Emphasis added in bold face text)

The above was written after the attacks in Paris but is just as relevant today after the ISIS-affiliated attack in Orlando, Florida.

Peer pressure is the same as the propaganda method of “Get on the bandwagon” (or don’t be left out or off the bandwagon).

Let us re-emphasize the last point:

Peer pressure, which was once categorically regarded as a negative driver of drugs and deviant behavior, has morphed to a broader expression of social pressure in online spaces and is more aligned with maintaining group norms.

Not having an opinion on social media is the same as having the wrong opinion! There is no escape! You must have an opinion to, among other things, signal your virtue and membership in your social media groups!

Social media platforms degenerate from trivia to propaganda and censorship

If you have followed this blog, you understand social media has become a frictionless conduit for the spread of propaganda. Propaganda is messaging intended to encourage a target to take some action.

There are two sides to propaganda messaging – those promoting a propaganda message and those with opposing views. The strongest form of opposition is when platform operators directly censor third-party opinions. Normally, the answer to speech someone disagrees with, is more speech, not censorship.

Today, Reddit censored comments from those quoting published news reports, quoting the FBI – even banning posters from using Reddit. Large scale deletions of comments, factual in nature, were deleted. (Reddit confirms this occurred – see below for their response.)

Separately, Facebook reportedly shut down a 6 year old, 50,000 member group that advocates against “Islamification” (apparently this is a strongly anti-“Islam in the U.S.” group). (Their account has since been restored.)

Update: Allegedly even Twitter began censoring this topic.

Update 2:  Twitter blocked a gay conservative who voices strong views that upset many after making comments about Orlando shooting. (Since reinstated after online uproar to Twitter.)

Update 3: See the end of this post.

Social media has degenerated from useless trivia to propaganda and censorship.

Reddit has responded to their mass censorship today:

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Unknown conservative group creates fake poster to spread untrue meme

ConservativeNationPhotoTL;DR Summary


Photos are “re-purposed” all the time on social media. A photo of X is purported to be a photo of Y. We just posted another example of this a few days ago, where a 2003 photo of a USAF Thunderbird pilot ejection is passed along on social media as a photo of a recent USAF Thunderbird crash in June of 2016.

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