Don't get screwed by Fake News. 5 ways, advice from the birds.

Don’t get screwed by Fake News. 5 ways.

Not our usual fare, but too many kindred have fallen victim to the Dark Side (hence the Vader pic).  

There are numerous poop-up sites, (sorry, pop-up) out there manufacturing headlines and fake stories for one simple reason and it is not to be a propaganda arm of a political party: IT IS TO MAKE MONEY.

How do they do this? They understand that certain words, symbols, and association automatically engage an emotional response be it good or ill and then manufacture articles that support a claim for the targeted group. Basically, humans respond irrationally first to information. They know it, the CIA knows it, and you bettcha corporate marketing firms know it. Life isn’t about first impressions, but first impressions frame the way you process information.  

Now, remember, these purveyors of outrage don’t provide accountable sources or actual support for the claim because they are counting on a normal human cognitive process. It is called Confirmation Bias. You pay attention to things you agree with and probably accept them to be true without thought: thus, reinforcing pre-existing beliefs (the persistence of belief is a powerful thing). Then, things you don’t agree with are almost summarily dismissed as being false and many times forgotten. If you know a group’s pre-existing beliefs, you can cater to them through understanding their moral framework/values and use preconceived notions about the opposing group.

It is really easy to do if you understand that most of reality to humans is about competing stories: politics, law, religion, and most of all self. Find the values and stories, and press the emotional buttons.

We live in a consumer society and everything, and almost everyone, is trying to sell you something be it a product or an ideology. Both increase the salesman’s power with money or influence. Won’t get into the marketing techniques of status, convenience, or novelty but if you approach articles as ads/infomercials you will be one step closer to not being manipulated for another’s ill-gotten gains.

1) Repeat to yourself “Everyone is trying to sell me something.”

Even those in your own social group. Sure, you want to trust people like yourself, hey aren’t they like you and nobody is more trustworthy than you… right? I am sure you are, but many people do not operate rationally as you. Many don’t even truly understand why they believe things or why they have certain points of view. They just always have and were brought up that way. It is easy for me because I encountered betrayal at an early age. Not the “girlfriend cheated on me” variety, though I’m sure it is troubling, I encountered the existential breakdown kind that shattered my upbringing and way I thought about the world and myself. Trust nobody, especially myself.   

2) Question Everything

Treat information that you agree with or automatically think, “That’s right” as being faulty. Investigate. Find the counter arguments. Find the evidence to support the claim in more than one other source.  In fact, treat it as if you disagreed with it and were trying to disprove it.

3) Seriously Question everything

Do the same with information you disagree with. Find the counter argument. Find the opposing views. Find the sources of the information. Unreliable sources equal bullshit.

4) Psychological Priming and Hot Cognition

Understand psychological priming/hot cognition. Certain events, terms or symbols cause unconscious, emotional reactions that we are not aware.  Your mood can influence your evaluation. For example, it is an overcast day, drizzling, and you get stuck in traffic. Then, you must read essays and write a review. They will probably be pretty negative. But, perform the task on a sunny day where you had a nice lunch and all things fall your way, the reviews will be more positive and encouraging.

As for terms or symbols, humans form associations either positive or negative to certain ideas encountered in their past.     

5) Bias

We are irrational susceptible to biases by self or group. They are just shortcuts to processing information that are based on our previous conditioning. They do not control us if we don’t let them, but this takes work.  And that is the crux of all of this. To not be manipulated, we must stop, think and examine the articles put out by Fake News. We must know that hotbutton topics get our hackles all a rage and that others are depending on that to make a buck.

Sure, these Fake News articles, I shouldn’t even call them that, create a nice binary of Us vs Them and the other is an enemy lacking morality. They make the world simple by using generalizations.

Fear and hate are the easiest emotions to manipulate. Don’t get suckered. With all of the posts and blogs and ersatz news sources, people will continue to live in their Naïve Realism and let Confirmation Bias, Bias Blind Spots, Actor-Observer Bias, In-Group Biases, guide their navigation through the world. Why? Because it is easy. Thinking is hard.

To reiterate: know the source, find citations, approach the claims like a debate and know both sides. This might help you before you get manipulated by your emotions and share a post or piece that is factually untrue and allow those Ragebait parasites to suck more blood out of our humanity and society.  They are not informing you. They are exploiting you. And, they play both sides.   

Seek truth, not your own validation.

PS: Beware headlines that utilize virtue or vice of one group against another. Example: {name here} crushes {opposing group} argument with one question!!! or You will never believe what {opposing group} did to {group you support}!!!

AND YES, we are trying to sell you something... comic books!!!!! 



Fare thee well,

- Joshua and the crew.