Social media propaganda poster implies world hunger is getting worse (but it’s not) #socialmedia #propaganda

This came across my Facebook time line today:

“The world’s hunger is getting ridiculous” – the word “getting” implies global hunger is getting worse – which is the message intended by this social media propaganda meme.

Some types of shampoo may contain extracts of flowers or herbs and a few may contain extract of a fruit, but they are not significant components, by mass, of shampoo. This tidbit seems thrown in to encourage the target to feel guilty.

In reality, in the incidence of global hunger is decreasing sharply. In spite of growth in the world’s population, hunger fell from 1,010.6 million afflicted in 1990-1992 to 794.6 million afflicted in 2014-2016.

Because of population growth, when translated to a percentage, the incidence of hunger fell from 18.6% to 10.9%.

Social media is filled with false propaganda claims such as the above. The target is undoubtedly aware that hunger is a problem. Due to media coverage and advertising campaigns by groups[1] doing fund raising to fight hunger (which remains a genuine problem, although access to clean water is a bigger problem), the target has received pre-propaganda messaging to know that hunger is a problem. Consequently, when a minor social media propaganda post such as the above is shared by friends on Facebook, the target’s System 1 intuitive and easy going thinking mode kicks in and thinks, wow, hunger is getting worse.

Few people will stop to think about this poster. The effect is that social media propaganda messaging, even extremely simple messages like that in this poster, have the desired impact on the target. This type of simplistic propaganda is effective at influencing public opinion – and notably, the results of public opinion polls.

As we noted in the past, public opinion polls measure the effectiveness of a propaganda campaign (at best). Opinion polls are mostly just another form of propaganda used to influence public policy.

The person posting and sharing this poster (or similar) is engaged in virtue signalling, showing to others that he or she is a compassionate, caring individual. On Twitter we see many “Re-tweet if you agree” memes. Not one of these tweets will actually fix or change anything – but the person re-tweeting can feel good about themselves because they are making a difference (well, not really) – and letting their friends know that they care!

[1] Hunger, with a focus on children, is a powerful marketing message for fund raising. Groups that depend on donations know this and make hunger the “face” of their promotional activities because it works. Many of these groups have effective programs and are doing good works but hunger programs may be a relatively minor part of their spending.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.