- TV news, especially, but print news too, relies on a concept of “emotional jolts per minute” to engage their viewer or reader.
- An emotionally jolted viewer or reader is more likely to retain the story in their head.
- An emotionally jolted person is more susceptible to advertising messages, which is good for the business.
- The Washington Post ended their Internet meme fact checking column because they discovered that no one cares if the meme is false; as long as it agrees with their preexisting bias and ideology, it must be true!
The spin, below, is that crazy Internet people strive for emotional jolts per minute news. In reality this is now how much of the “news” operates:
Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc dot com dot co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.
Flip the above around and the same can be said for liberal web sites and FB pages. This is how nearly all these propaganda sites operate – spreading emotional memes via shared propaganda posters that quickly hit our gut-level System 1 thinking response.
And it gets worse:
Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.
The Washington Post ended their Internet meme fact checking column because they discovered most people do not care whether an item is true or false: As long as the item agrees with their existing views, then it must be true!
In this sort of world, propaganda can readily control entire populations.