WHAT IS THIS PAGE ABOUT?
The use of social media for propaganda messaging. Every single day on Facebook, people and organizations are manipulating you to achieve their own goals.
“TL;DR” means “too long, didn’t read” – its now an abbreviation for the quick summary!
- What is propaganda?
- What is social media propaganda including examples.
- Who is susceptible to propaganda?
- Why the name “Occupy Propaganda?”
- Is their a political affiliation?
- System 1 gut-level, emotional, quick thinking versus System 2, data driven, logic, rational, hard to do – propaganda appeals to System 1
- Recommendation: Ignore social media propaganda posters!
- About Me
WHAT IS PROPAGANDA?
There are many definitions but all are similar – Propaganda is messaging targeting a group of people for the purpose of promoting one’s agenda, usually encouraging the target to take an action.
Propaganda is not limited to war time or political activities (most propaganda has nothing to do with warfare.) Businesses and organizations employ propaganda to promote their interests. While much propaganda uses lies, exaggerations, logical fallacies, appeals to authority, cherry picking and misleading statements, none of those methods are necessary for propaganda to be effective.
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA PROPAGANDA?
Social media is used to spread propaganda messages, many of which are logically incorrect or outright false – but which have become widely adopted as true and become unquestioned “facts”. Such is the power of social media propaganda!
The most effective propaganda is visual in nature, easy to understand in seconds, and is spread with propaganda posters on Facebook and Twitter. Because we process these emotional messages effortlessly, we give then little thought – and they effectively stick with us – even if wrong.
The following actual social media posters contain errors of fact, logic, or are straight up lies. But you cannot tell from a quick look – and a quick emotional response – so you will probably click “Share” or “Like” (same thing!):
While facts and logic can counter the impact of emotional and visual propaganda, facts and logic require thinking, which takes effort. Consequently, the emotional – but factually or logically wrong messaging wins nearly every time. And the impact is much of what we are certain we know turns out to be wrong.
Social media has become a friction-less conduit for the spread of modern propaganda.
Social media propaganda is “friction-less” because of the ease of clicking “share” and because friends rarely question their friends when the message is false or illogical. Thus, false messaging, widely shared, becomes established as “fact”.
Propaganda is used by businesses, politicians, activist groups, non-profits and academics to persuade others. We are continuously surrounded by propaganda, 24 hours per day.
This web site is itself propaganda about the subject of propaganda.
This web site is NOT Snopes.com – the goal here is to understand the propaganda message and the technique and explain why it works or does not work. Some times, that includes disassembling the fake facts presented in a propaganda poster.
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO PROPAGANDA?
Oddly, the more education you have, the more likely you are susceptible to propaganda’s manipulation! Propaganda is most effective when the target already has some knowledge about the subject. The more education and experience you have, the more likely you know something about many subjects.
Second, propaganda often provides a limited or skewed view of a topic – we fill in the missing bits (with our existing biases) to create a cohesive narrative that “works”. Knowing more stuff, or rather, thinking we know more stuff (what we know may be wrong) enables us to easily fill in missing parts to turn a false narrative into something that seems real (but is not). Strangely, this also enables us to gloss over part of the message that we know to be false – we seem to weight the rest of the message points higher.
Third, as French sociologist Jacques Ellul explained in Propaganda, academics are surprisingly susceptible (they know a bit about a lot). With their role as teachers, they tend to be self compelled to tell others what they think they know and they become vectors of propaganda. The same could be said of bloggers, writers, journalists, film makers and others.
WHY THE NAME OCCUPY PROPAGANDA?
“Occupy Propaganda” was selected because the various “Occupy xxx” Facebook groups have the “highest quality” propaganda and a very high output on social media. Quality does not mean factually or logically correct, but that their messaging is effective in its influence and achieving their goals.
I added “parody” because once you understand the methods of propaganda, much of social media propaganda begins to resemble parody. Social media propagandists and their fan base that “Share if you agree!” are often, unintentionally, making fun of themselves! Particularly when they enthusiastically share posters to their friends – posters that are truly nonsense if critical thinking gets engaged.
In late 2017, the web domain name for this web site was registered as socialpanic.org and is an apt description for what this blog is about. Propaganda is often used to create social panics.
Many “party activists” assume everyone is a unilateral party activist and have a hard time comprehending that many of us do not view the world the way they do. If we do not view the world like they do, then, in their minds, we must be the “opposing party” – there is no middle ground in the mind of an activist. Thus, even though “we” question everyone’s propaganda, if “their” propaganda is questioned, then “we” must be the opposing side.
Since I do not belong to a political party, I took an online survey (mid 2016) to see where I fall on the political spectrum. I have attached the key results as images to this FB post. You can take the same online quiz here http://www.isidewith.com/political-quiz
The results landed me in the middle – a centrist . The quiz also matched my answers to 2016 presidential primary candidate positions – and listed my matches in roughly an order of D, R, D, R, D, R and so on, also suggesting I am a centrist. (The full list – not shown – was almost split in that order.)
This page is not aligned with any political parties. But because the right side has – so far – been ineffective on social media propaganda – commentary about politically oriented propaganda may be more likely to be about the left side propaganda posters than the right. You can check this yourself by searching FB for keywords like Democrats or Republicans – you will find more Democratic Party aligned web pages than Republican. Further, the conservative pages are poorly implemented and rarely use optimal propaganda techniques. Occupy Democrats is a slick, social media based, for profit, professional propaganda operation making strong use of effective, manipulative, propaganda techniques based on propaganda theory. By comparison, most conservative Facebook pages and their posts rank as middle school student level.
If you take the time to look through a large number of posts here, you should see that nearly everyone will be offended or hurt to learn their favorite product, policy, hero, authority figure, politician, campaign slogan, non-profit group and so forth – is targeted on this blog for their propaganda efforts.
The major focus of this page is on social media propaganda messaging, and primarily those using effective “propaganda posters”. Occasionally, other propaganda methods or sources will be shown.
Social media propaganda messaging is often aligned with political agendas. However, social media propaganda is also used by businesses (to market products or services) and non-profit organizations (to solicit donations, encourage people to take action. Propaganda is also used by activist groups to encourage changes in government policies.
(Update – a predecessor to this blog first mentioned “fake news” in early 2014, and began referencing the use of “fake news” publishing in 2015, long before “fake news” became a popular meme in 2016 and 2017. From late 2016 on ward, the professional media has made some enormous and embarrassing gaffes in reporting. Generally I have referred to these as “fictional news” to distinguish them from “fake news”. The latter was originally about web sites that intentionally created emotion grabbing fake stories designed for online sharing, for the purpose of driving eyeballs to advertisers. By 2017, the term “fake news”, however, has become synonymous with really bad media mistakes and really bad reporting and is now the common term used by everyone else.)
This page looks at the methods of propaganda used in numerous real-world propaganda campaigns. Because much propaganda is misleading or factually incorrect, these issues are highlighted.
The best propaganda elicits an emotional response within seconds. Nobel-prize recipient Daniel Kahneman describes our two thinking styles, known in psychology as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is intuitive, easy and fast acting – where we make snap judgments. System 2 is hard, collects data and employs logic, and takes time and effort.
Good propaganda is targeted at System 1, creating a fast emotional response that does not involve thinking and analysis – its goal is for the target to quickly “Share if you agree!”
The primary enemy of propaganda is facts and logic, both of which are, unfortunately, in short supply, and both of which require System 2 thinking to understand. The consequence is that fast acting emotional “System 1” propaganda is highly effective at encouraging large groups of people to jump to conclusions and take actions.
System 2’s rational, data-backed thinking can undo the damage of propaganda – but this requires reading, thinking and analysis – steps which most people prefer to avoid. The result is that it is very hard to halt false messages spread via propaganda, once those messages and “facts” become entrenched. Too many people will not look at the argument against – too long; didn’t read (TL;DR) becomes the response.
Today, Internet mobs try and convict individuals based on a single Tweet. The lack of a full set of evidence is not a problem – targets of propaganda fill in missing pieces to make the story coherent with their pre-existing bias. And then they share. A side effect is that what used to take months of propaganda messaging can now be accomplished in hours to days, leading to mobs burning down cities. Based on false information.
This blog points out propaganda fallacies – but this requires the reader’s System 2 thinking, which takes time and effort. Thus, this page will have little real world impact because few people will take the time to understand, think, and care.
MOST PROPAGANDA POSTERS SHARED ON SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD BE IGNORED. That is my conclusion after examining numerous posters for their claims and statement of “Facts”. The error rate of social media propaganda is extremely high – social media propaganda is designed to appeal to our quick acting emotional response (in just seconds), to deliver a message that sounds plausible, even if not true. You are better off using the “Hide this post” feature when you see a propaganda poster, rather than clicking “Share” and embarrassing yourself, in case your friends fact check the poster!
Social media propaganda ranges from badly done to expertly implemented and highly manipulative. Instead of “sharing”, learn to think for yourself. I know, its harder than clicking “Share”.
SOURCE FOR PROPAGANDA POSTERS
In 2015, I transitioned from reading the great works in propaganda to following active propagandists on Facebook. At first, I reviewed the posters found on several activist web sites. But as the political season heated up, more and more such posters were “shared” into my news stream by “friends”. Much of what appears here was seen in my FB or Twitter news feeds.
This page contains numerous types of propaganda, including political. As of Sep 2015, this page highlights some campaign posters – and some politicians more than others in part because certain candidates have highly effective social media propaganda operations and their posters are “shared” into my newsfeed on a daily basis.
I expect all of the candidates will develop more effective social media propaganda messaging – or they will no longer be in the race.
Propaganda posters that appear on this web site are displayed here under a claim of fair use for the purpose of critique and commentary. The posters were generally created, specifically, for sharing and wide distribution.
(Update – my “friends” were eventually broadcasting so much propaganda that I ended up unfriending and unfollowing many individuals. As I explored the world of propaganda, I found I did not like associating with people who seemed to be wholly consumed in a cultural of perpetual outrage. Being outraged, constantly, is not a mentally healthy place to be and their actions become toxic to drive by victims of their propaganda efforts. Consequently, as of mid 2017 onward, I no longer see much propaganda on my FB feed. I do, however, see much on Twitter.)
I am by no means an expert on propaganda. This is a hobby, albeit, a serious one.
One day I read one of many propaganda items shared into my FB newsfeed and I thought, “Isn’t this just propaganda?” At the time, I knew little about the methods of propaganda but decided to read up on the subject.
In 2013 I began reading the great works in the field of propaganda spanning the entire 20th century and into the 21st century. In mid-2015, I began tracking real world examples of propaganda I saw on social media, typically shared into my Facebook or Twitter feeds. As I looked at claims made in “propaganda posters”, I often found them to be factually incorrect or based on logical fallacies or cherry picking.
But few people – sometimes no one – would point out the errors and new facts become created out of thin air – and shared tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times.
I began collecting items on this blog as examples of the persuasiveness of social media propaganda: these “shared” posters are highly effective at delivering a propaganda message to a target audience.
By examining each poster to understand the propaganda methods used, we can begin to recognize the standard procedures and guard ourselves from being manipulated.
My name is Edward Mitchell. My background is in computer and software development, with an undergraduate degree in computer science, an M.S. in software engineering and an MBA degree (management). I write technical tutorials full time for software development methods. I live near Portland, Oregon.