Another social media propaganda poster today

This came through my social media feed earlier today. Another example of a simple, well crafted social media propaganda posters that elicits a quick response and a click on the Like and Share buttons.

The quote at top is accurate, so what could be wrong?

Per Snopes, the quote is in reference to before these 4 people were killed at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya and was not in reference to events in Benghazi.

As a propaganda poster, it is effective. A short simple quote with a photograph of Hillary Clinton, followed by photos of 4 people that the target knows were, in fact, killed in Libya.

Very compelling when all we do is apply our fast acting System 1 emotional style thinking.

That makes this a very effective social media propaganda poster even though the conclusion is wrong. No one will bother to research the quote when they see this – instead, they will click on Like and perhaps Share, spreading the false propaganda on to others.

And now for the rest of the story …

Source: Seattle hits record high for income inequality, now rivals San Francisco

The data presented in the article is correct. But it leaves out critical information for understanding what this means overall, or even if it means what it purports to mean.

Almost 20 years ago in a graduate economics course we learned that the “static” view of income at an instant in time is not a full picture. Not surprisingly, incomes change over time, often by a lot. Consider when someone starts a career, but over time, advances in their career or grows their own business – their income rises over time.

20 years ago we learned that most people start their earnings in the bottom #1 or #2 quintiles and then most rise to the top #4 or #5 quintiles. Upon retirement, the typical  person then falls backwards by 1 or 2 quintiles.

Other research captures this effect in a different way. 73% of Americans end up in the top 20% of income for 1 year or more (details are not provided as to whether this is due to unique, once in a life event, or spans many years, or occurs many times over several disconnected years).

Source

A professor of social welfare wrote about this in the NY Times in 2014.

The “income inequality” subject is a popular one in the news media and among political activists. By definition, political activists are engaged in propaganda – they are trying to convince you to adopt their agenda versus adopting someone else’s agenda. In this specific instance, the propaganda message supports a Seattle City local income tax.

The propaganda message is simple to understand – the top 20% (in the first chart) make more than half of all the area income. This message is very effective – the bottom 80% make less than half. This message is easily interpreted by the bottom 80% and may become the basis for policy.

Many in the bottom 80% are likely unaware that most will see considerably higher incomes in the future. Consequently, this propaganda message is highly effective, preying on lack of knowledge to push someone’s agenda.

The methods used include (usually) “appeal to authority”, “cherry picking” and sometimes “Get on the bandwagon” (some other city is doing x, y and z). The discrepancy in income stratas may also invoke an “emotional” response in the target.

This post is not about whether the income inequality in Seattle is good or bad, right or wrong or whether the solution is a redistribution income tax or not. This post illustrates how presenting one part of a complex topic leaves the public thinking they have learned something when by learning only a partial view they may be dumber than before they read the article. This post does not examine if a very small number of extremely successful entrepreneurs in the Seattle area (think who lives there!) bias the sample with outliers.

This story illustrates the power of propaganda methods – after reading only the above Seattle Times article, would you be more or less likely to support a city income tax? After reading the source for the second chart and learning about how incomes are dynamic, over time, would you be more or less likely to support a city income tax?

No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol

Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger “OK” hand gesture become a white supremacist hand sign?

Source: No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol says the Anti-Defamation League.

Another day, another Internet meme – this time claiming that people making a popular “Ok” symbol with their thumb and index finger are actually expressing a symbol for “white power”. This in turn has been used to publicly accuse people who display the “ok” symbol as clandestinely flashing a white power symbol.

All thanks to social media propaganda!

 

 

Crime is worse than ever – except not really! #crime #media

Most of us believe crime is getting worse. How often do we see yet another news report about car prowling, a break in, or especially, a violent crime? Probably every single day. Many TV news casts lead with murders and mayhem, followed by fires and auto crashes.

What effect do you think this has on how you view the world?

Pew Research took a look at the data and found that “public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data”. In fact, they wrote:

  • “Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century.

  • Property crime has declined significantly over the long term”

Source: 5 facts about crime in the U.S. | Pew Research Center

Surprised?

Take a look at the Pew charts:

Media’s interest is in selling eye balls to advertisers. Headlines about a young single mom assaulted outside her home grab our attention.

The media frequently cherry picks stories (by frequently we mean perhaps most of the time) based on their emotional hooks and novelty. Their goal is to sell advertising. Their “propaganda” is to push stories that persuade you to watch or read their story in order to expose yourself to their advertising customers.

Novelty, emotion and fear are powerful hooks. Crime stories are scary!

A side effect is we get a very skewed perspective on the world around us – and incorrectly think that crime is worse than ever.

Social media outrage can lead to jail #Facebook #Socialmedia

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a conviction to stand, where the individual was convicted of making violent threats on Facebook.

Source: Supreme Court upholds PA man’s conviction over Facebook post – Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

Our nation is consumed by a culture of perpetual outrage. Many go out of their way to be extremely rude. Many go out of their way to be offended. Comments are twisted by the alleged victim to insist the perpetrator meant something they did not say. Regardless of what is said, someone will find a way to be outraged!

Everyone is in a constant state of outrage over something.

Rather than seek a way to reduce tension, everyone seeks to exacerbate tension. Social media amplifies the faux outrage of the media talking heads who fill air time and column inches with their own outrage, and amplifies absurd statements by prominent politicians.

The result is protesters ransacking communities but who can’t coherently explain what they are protesting against or what they seek.

The point is not to seek positive change – the point is to be outraged.

We have achieved a culture of perpetual outrage.

See also:

Update:

Nice to see media has their priorities straight in regards to the Las Vegas shooting/terror attack. Screen capture taken from DuckDuckGo on 10/2/2017 after searching for “Las Vegas News”. 4 of the first six items were celebrity gossip and two were news about the massacre.

Second Update

Many protesters do not even know what it is they are outraged about. The whole point now is to be outraged!

Here in the Portland, Oregon area, protests are a way of life. The joke here is “What are they protesting?” with the standard answer “Whatever, no one really knows.”

I saw this item in the Oregonian – the University of Oregon president was set to announce a $50 million dollar gift to the university but protestors shut him down and he never took the podium. As is typical in Oregon, “The loud group of a few dozen students did not have a cohesive message

The entire point is to be outraged – you no longer need be outraged about anything specific! The point is to be outraged!

I also saw a new item about a report of a noose found in a college dormitory (not at U of O), leading an official response from the university president and a formal police investigation about racism on campus. Ultimately it was determined that the “noose” was a shoelace, in its original store packaging. A student had inadvertently dropped and lost his just purchased shoelace in the dorm. Some else hung the package on a door knob opening to a public stairwell, in hopes that the visibility would enable the lost item to be found. Another student interpreted the standard way this brand of shoelace is placed inside the packaging as a “noose” and called campus police. Today, everything and anything is seen as an excuse for outrage.

We are in peak outrage culture land now.

TV news focuses on political outrage and selling eyeballs to advertisers

TV audiences can’t get enough news coverage of Donald Trump. Reporting on pretty much anything else is ratings poison.

Source: Broadcast News Misses Ratings Bonanza With Too Little Trump – Bloomberg

This year I had a chance to travel to several U.S. states. Among all the people I met, politics was avoided. Most seem fed up with politics and the purveyors of politics and definitely fed up with the culture of perpetual outrage.

Media targets a narrow demographic of the perpetually outraged that eats this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then shares their outrage on social media, with links to the “news”! And then the outraged come back for more!

Print publishers and broadcasters are counting the clicks – and outrage sells eyeballs to advertisers. They know what they are doing.

As noted before, “emotional hooks” are a powerful way to promote anything. When we are “emotionally engaged” we tend to stop thinking and are more susceptible to advertising messages (another form of propaganda).

Consequently, it is in the interest of media to imply politics is the only thing that matters in life as it riles up the perpetually outraged into a frenzy of emotion and social media outrage and sharing. All the better to sell stuff!

(Disclaimer – We don’t have cable TV, satellite TV, over the air antenna or a subscription to Internet TV service – we don’t watch TV news!)

Social media outrage mob falsely accuses professor of racism, calls for his firing

Social media outrage led to amateurs falsely identifying a University professor as participating in the Charlottesville, VA mob, leading to people publicly calling him a racist and calling upon the university to fire the professor of engineering.

He was verified and confirmed at University event 1,100 miles away at the time of the riot. Imagine if this happened to any of us – and we did not happen to be at an event providing us with an alibi.

Social media is a platform for hate – and not just the racists and their evil, but also the hatred that emerges from the outrage culture leading to venomous attacks on innocent individuals and groups. Social media – Facebook, Twitter – are leading to the downfall of civilized society.

Photo said to be from August 12 – Charlottesville, VA, circulating on social media is not from August 12

The following photo is now circulating widely on social media as shown in this screen capture from Twitter: 

The image used here appears, currently, in Google Image search results spanning an astounding 15 pages. The above tweet has alone been shared 227,000 times on social media. This is not the only social media copy, either. It is likely this has now been shared tens of millions of times on social media.

The photo, while from Charlottesville, is of a different event in early July, 2017. And it is a very good photo, as is the professionalism of this police officer!

The situation may be similar. The sentiments expressed may be similar. And I suspect most of us agree with this caption and are impressed. But it is not a photo from Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.

Update:

Another widely shared item concerns commentary about North Korea. This one uses the “Appeal to Authority” argument by citing an alleged comment from a Marine regarding threats from North Korea. As you can see, the names were blacked out in the original. We have no idea who wrote this or whether the claims or true or not. Whether we agree his or her sentiments is not the point here – the point is how we quickly share what we likely agree with, regardless of whether it is accurate, well sourced or whether any part of it can be confirmed. This may very well be from a US Marine too. But we just don’t know! Yet we share it online like crazy.

What This Illustrates

After many widely reported, highly emotional news events, many people turn to social media to spin the story for their own propaganda messaging. For example, I saw on social media a claim that the driver of the car in Charlottesville panicked after his car was attacked and was merely responding to an alleged attack and drove erratically to escape. No supporting evidence was provided for this assertion. Lacking actual information, this is propaganda messaging to spin the story in someone’s desired direction.

Be extremely cautious about what you see on social media after such events occur. As this blog previously noted, racist supremacist groups made extensive use of social media after protests at the University of Missouri.  Be extremely skeptical of what you see on social media. Most of it is propaganda messaging.

Update: I changed the caption on this post. It originally was titled “Fake photo…” but that gives the wrong connotation. This is a genuine photo but from a different event that occurred in Charlottesville in early July, and not on August 12th.

 

This is not even physically possible: Yahoo News fictional headline

Yahoo News goes full on stupid with this fiction news headline, which links, in turn to a news report having nothing to do with the headline. Remember, they have layers and layers of fact checkers. The fictional news just never ends, does it?

This headline has been live for at least 4+ hours without correction. Unfortunately, on today’s online and social media world, the headline is the message that sticks. Most people only read headlines, unfortunately.

This works as propaganda by using the primary method of “fear” and the secondary method of “appeal to authority” because “Study:” says something. This sort of nonsensical headline is often shared on social media – and may gradually become a “fact” as it spreads widely and for a long enough duration.

14 year old electrocuted by cell phone? Amazon’s Alexa calls 9-1-1?

Something is missing from this story (and other versions of it that are all over the media) – a 14 year old taking a bath, reached for her cell phone that was connected to a charger, and this caused her death by electrocution.

A cell phone charger outputs 5 volts, typically at less than 1.0 amps (newer chargers may go up to 2.0 amps). This low voltage and power level is not going to kill anyone, in a bath tub or not.

If this is a true story (and we have no way of knowing that) it is likely she attempted to plug the charger in to a wall outlet and made contact with 110 volt AC power, which is often lethal. (Update: Newer reports note this involved a charger plugged into an AC electrical extension cord.) The cell phone part of the story creates the novelty that translates into clicks, eyeballs for advertisers, and social media sharing.

Texas teen electrocuted after cell phone incident in bathtub

A search on Facebook shows untrue claims such as “Remember your phone is an electrical device that will electrocute you when plugged in and near water.”

At this point, a lot of people are going to believe that you can be electrocuted by your cell phone, which is nonsense.

Similarly, a widely spread news report claimed Amazon’s Alexa called 911 during a domestic violence situation. Amazon says this is impossible.

Taken together, consider how these two relatively unimportant stories are translated into popular lore. Many people will vaguely remember these stories, which then become “facts”, even though neither is true. Most of what we think we know comes from the media and social media (and perhaps personal conversations). Unfortunately, most of the items promoted by media and social media are designed to hook our emotions and shut down our brains. News reporters intentionally use methods defined for propaganda to generate clicks to their stories – and you won’t believe what happened next!