It may be virtue signalling, but at least its not actually true

This propaganda poster came across my news feed.

According to Snopes,

  • He occasionally rides a subway but is more often driving one of his sports cars or classic motorcycles.
  • He generously support several charities; however, his net worth is estimated at $350 million.
  • He lives in a $4 million home (shack, not a mansion, in Hollywood Hills, which is in California, not New York City).

Typical of propaganda, this poster extracts “bits” and extrapolates those to make broad or generalized claims that are not true.

The purpose of the poster seems to be to deliver a message that

  • Reeves is humble
  • He donates all his money to charity and lives a life of poverty (or something)
  • We should all be like this
  • Those who share or like this poster are virtue signaling their commitment to this ideal (or rather, they like it when other people choose this hypothetical life style)
  • The poster makes several assertions, most of which are not true (lies).
  • The poster uses celebrity endorsement.
  • The poster uses cherry picking of the available information.
  • The poster may be suggesting that we should “get on the bandwagon” too.

Why people are compelled to share items like this on social media is bewildering.

News: Journalists fall for false meme: why?

The long time thesis of this blog is that social media is a frictionless platform for the spread of propaganda. In the “good old days”, propaganda required owning a printing press or broadcast license. Today, anyone can become a propagandist by posting an appropriate meme on social media and watch it shared thousands or millions of times.

Journalists frequently use their personal accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (but especially Twitter) to share items of interest to themselves. Due to the immediacy of tweeting and sharing, and the lack of fact checking, professional journalists routinely share items that are shown not to be true.

In the past few days, numerous journalists posted photos related to immigration into the United States and the detention of children – in most cases, implying or stating a conclusion about immigrant children. The photos included 2 children lying on the floor inside a cage, and another said to be “a prison bus just for babies”. They allege that these are contemporary photos of situations created by the current U.S. Administration.

The photos, however, were from a 2014 news story, and from 2016, taken during the tenure of the prior Administration.

Here are two of the example tweets shared recently.

Antonio Arellano is a journalist with KTRK, ABC 13 television in Houston TX. He posted this Tweet, which was not true; the Tweet appears to have since been deleted.

This is a school bus for children built in early 2016 – the photo used in the tweet is from the contractor’s own page describing the bus:

The expansion created new demands to an already unique transportation mission by requiring larger capacity vehicles to provide offsite field trips. These field trips are part of the contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Field trips are provided to all children, ages four through seventeen enrolled in educational programs provided by the John H. Wood Charter School, located at KCRC. Field trips consist of going to a variety of places, such as the San Antonio Zoo, seeing a movie at the local theater, going to the park, etc.

Per Wikipedia, Ana Navarro is a “political commentator for various news outlets, including CNN, CNN en Español,[3] ABC News, Telemundo,[4] and The View.”  She shared the above Tweet:

The above bus photo and another of children lying on a floor behind a chain link fence were widely shared by journalists, even editors of publications, politicians, Hollywood connected stars and producers and many others.

In an interesting twist, we turn to Russia Today to learn details of these photos and the famous people, including the editor of NYT Magazine, who were all sharing these photos:

Journalists, Obama’s former speechwriter and other public figures all quietly deleted their misplaced horror at images of caged migrant children in the US when they found out the picture was taken under President Obama.

Source: ‘Caged migrant children’ go viral… until picture turns out taken under Obama, not Trump — RT US News

UPDATE: June 15, 2018

There’s yet another photo of a “caged boy” going around on social media; it is also false and the professional journalist acknowledges that he got the photo from a friend’s Facebook post. The photo was, in fact, taken at a protest when the child and his brother got on the opposite side of a fence, from their mother, and the youngest one broke out in tears:

The tweet showcasing the photo was posted by Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist and filmmaker, and it doesn’t say where the photo was taken–whether at a protest or inside a facility. Vargas’s tweet otherwise says: “This is what happens when a government believes people are ‘illegal.’ Kids in cages.”

Vargas further said, in a tweet responding to his photo tweet, that he’d pulled the image from a friend’s Facebook page and hadn’t determined its precise origin.

At the end of these stories all we have learned is that journalists lose objectivity when not corralled by editorial staff and management. They tweet and share what they presumably want to be true, rather than that which is actually true. Their actions destroy the credibility of journalism and journalists.

Was this propaganda campaign by journalists successful? Even though the error has since been pointed out, and many have deleted their original posts, in propaganda messaging, the first message that is received – even if subsequently show to be false – is the one that sticks with the target.

DISCLAIMER – comments here are about the use of social media for propaganda campaigns and neither support nor oppose any particular immigration measures or specific politicians.

Propagandists find new way to reach Facebook users

Propagandists find new way to reach Facebook users:

Through an unknown mechanism, these junk sites are managing to get their content posted on verified celebrity Facebook pages and spread to millions of users who find themselves inundated with spam, fake news, ads, and tracking software.

Which then results in:

Facebook users who “liked’ the pages of celebrities with large followings are inundated with spam and fake news

Which is another illustration of how social media is a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda. Indeed, the primary purpose of social media is propaganda messaging.

And then this – to which I add, Huh?

According to Matt Britton, chief executive officer of New York-based marketing technology firm CrowdTap, part of the race for readers’ attention is known as influencer marketing: a relatively new and largely unregulated area of digital advertising in which brands use celebrities or influential social media personalities to endorse products, thus encouraging fans to buy them.

“Influencer marketing” is old and in this example, it is the “celebrity endorsement” model of propaganda messaging.

Source: Misinfluencers, Inc.: How Fake News Is Reaching Millions Using Verified Facebook Accounts

YouTube’s Advertising Algorithms are killing Youtube video producers

Google and Facebook are a duopoly for online digital advertising. Through their ad placement programs, they are now – basically – using heavy handed automated content filters that censor out many videos. The result:

“YouTube is on the fast track to becoming Disney vloggers: beautiful young people that wouldn’t say anything controversial and are always happy.”

Google and Facebook are indeed so powerful that they now censor ordinary speech.


More “Look at me!” propaganda memes

I am not the only one noticing this peculiar form of propaganda, now prevalent on Instagram and Youtube social media:

There is an undeniable aesthetic and demographic conformity in the vanlife world. Nearly all of the most popular accounts belong to young, attractive, white, heterosexual couples. “There’s the pretty van girl and the woodsy van guy,” Smith said. “That’s what people want to see.”


King clicked on the account’s most successful post, which has more than eight thousand likes. In the image, the back seat of the van is folded down into a bed; King faces away from the camera, holding a sheet to her chest, her hair cascading down her naked back. The second most popular post was of King wearing a bikini, standing on the van’s front bumper. In the next most popular, King is in a bikini, slicing lemons.

“People really want to see beautiful locations,” King said.

“They want to see Emily in a bikini, they want to see a sun flare, they want to see the van,” Smith said. “Ones of Emily in the van waking up with Penny, they crush it.”

“It’s real and it’s kind of moody—”

“It’s a naked female,” Smith said…

Source: #Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement – The New Yorker

If you are cute enough and have enough followers, you can get paid promotional endorsements from advertisers. Which puts all this solidly in the realm of “celebrity endorsement” propaganda. Who knew?

Update: Hah! Here is how this post appears in my (the owner’s) Facebook news feed – I can even buy Likes for it!

Voila_Capture 2017-04-17_01-46-54_PM

Celebrity endorsement: And it is even true!

11755723_1665401040359778_8484174513935202244_nTL;DR Summary

Celebrity endorsement and Testimonial.

This quote is true.

How well this poster was shared is unknown.

The quote was contained in Lincoln’s first State of the Union speech, both in terms of concern over the potential concentration of wealth (Lincoln had been a lawyer that defended the rapidly growing railroad industry), but also in terms of capital being used to own labor (as in slaves), as well as to hire. His point was that labor comes first to create wealth, which then begets capital. From a government/regulatory perspective, some wanted to give capital a priority over labor, a choice which Lincoln said was not right.


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General Patton and yet another fake historical quote

13330952_1790759907836562_3017976614172398876_nTL;DR Summary

  • Patton said “Liberal democrats are the lowest form of politicians”.
  • No, very, very unlikely he said that. It appears to be a combination of a quote from Patton (the first sentence) and a modified quote from President Harry S Truman (second sentence) who made a similar comment 4 years after Patton died.
  • This version of the poster (there are many versions) originates on a Facebook page titled “The Truth has no agenda” which is a conservative page with an agenda.
  • This propaganda item is in the generic meme of attributing fake quotes to historical figures, trying to use an appeal to authority or celebrity endorsement. We see this a lot – a whole lot – on social media.

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