Monthly Archives: November 2016

Partial truth is secret to successful propaganda


TL;DR Summary

  • Testimonial from unknown (or “ordinary”) person in Belgium
  • Half true, half logical fallacy.
  • Works in part, on the basis of “What you see is all there is”.

Belgium really does have “automatic wage indexation” that requires wages to be adjusted to the “retail price index” cost of living calculation. Belgium and Luxembourg are the only countries in Europe that have this policy. Thus, “This is the opposite of America” is true, but it is also true for Europe and most of the world! This claim works on the basis of “What you see is all there is” – the target does not know that few countries have “automatic wage indexation”.

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Everything is now fake news with emotions

What media consumers reward outlets for are rarely deeply reported stories on matters related to consequential items of public policy. What takes off are emotionally stimulating stories that don’t require of their readers any background knowledge to fully understand them and to opine on them.

Source: The Scourge of Dumb News | commentary

Social media’s penchant for quick, emotionally outraged responses merely amplifies what the professional media does every day.

During the past 10 months, our local newspaper features an article, prominently on their web page (labeled “Featured”) , that has a topic and headline designed as click bait. The purpose is to emotionally arouse their readers into reading, commenting and sharing the story. “Featured” stories often receive thousands of comments.

This is the same business model used by fake news web sites that spread propaganda stories on social media.

Clickbait, fake news and the power of feeling

The story linked below is an excellent report – real journalism – about the linkage between fake news as click-bait and the targeting of our emotions:

Sentiment analysis can’t be used to show whether news is true or false, but it does show the way headline writers, like marketers, manipulate our emotions to inspire us to click, like or share a story.

Source: Clickbait, fake news and the power of feeling

Read the whole article – it is spot on.

Did “Fake News” have an impact or is this just propaganda too?

I prefer propaganda to describe the use of propaganda methods to influence others to adopt ones agenda. “Fake news”, however, describes a form of propaganda that grew rapidly in 2016. “Fake news” are stories produced to emotionally target selected groups in to an “outrage” response. They quickly Like and Share these fake stories, which ultimately generates clicks for selling advertising. Fake news has been around for  years; Facebook itself noted that “fake news” was becoming a problem back in 2014. Our blog wrote publicly about fake news back in January of 2016.

Unlike propaganda, the purpose of “fake news” is not to persuade anyone to adopt an agenda – the primary goal is to sell eyeballs to advertisers. Propaganda is for persuasion while fake news is for making profits.

In the fall out from the election, the mainstream media found itself embarassingly out of sync with the voters and caught off guard by the election outcome. Rather than question why the media was out of touch, they have jumped on to the “fake news” meme. Their spin is that “fake news” caused people to be dumb and vote wrong.

Because the election outcome was different than the model, the media has adopted the view that the model was correct and something must be wrong with the real world.

It’s because Facebook has become a platform for the sort of fake news stories that helped elect Donald Trump

Source: I’m leaving Facebook; follow me | The Seattle Times

Fake news targeted both Clinton and Trump and some targeted political parties (rather than candidates). Fake news is targeted at people who already agree with the emotional sediments of the fake news item – thus, it is unclear that fake news had any influence on people voting differently than they already were planning to vote. Those who share fake news items on FB and Twitter appear to already have strongly held partisan views.

The “fake news” meme is itself a propaganda message, trying to persuade everyone that “fake news” caused a different election outcome than the media “elite” expected.

For example,

This time, it’s centered on “fake news”—the idea that Trump’s victory can be chalked up to phony right-wing news websites, which allegedly had an outsize presence on social media networks in the run-up to the election. As with “Bregret,” the obvious implication is that the election of Donald Trump is not a real rejection of the cosmopolitan establishment, because if voters actually understood their options, they would not have elected him.

Source: “Fake News” Is the New “Bregret” – The American Interest

In other words, we blame the voters for being dumb, but at least it was not their fault – it was the fault of “fake news”.

A major flaw in this assertion is that at least some of the partisan web sites are run by people who hold opposing political views to their target audience. To them, it is just a business. Paul Horner, for example, specifically targeted conservatives – strictly for business reasons, not ideology. On the other hand, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham owns one of the right wing fake news publishers and is under consideration for a White House job. On the flip side, the largest fake news publisher is the left wing Occupy Democrats for profit social media publisher.

Rather than attempt to understand why voters made the decisions they made, rather than understand why the media was out of touch, rather than examine why the pollsters were wrong – the new propaganda meme is to blame “fake news” as the culprit.

The media’s explanation du jour is that “fake news” spun the election (which assumes fake news was a right wing phenomena, in spite of tremendous left wing fake news too) and that Russia (identify a bogeyman) was behind this fake news (in spite of substantial evidence that fake news is the work of entrepreneurs in the U.S. and outside the U.S. seeking profits, not agendas):

What could be a time for useful introspection is regressing back to where we started – with fake stories about fake news, in an attempt to explain why the media were out of touch.  The real world data is wrong and our original model was obviously correct, so the spin goes! By targeting Russia, the media pundits create a “bogeyman” (a classic propaganda technique) on which to focus the target’s attention.