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Sun Dec 18, 2016, 01:26 AM

It can't be overstated that tens of millions exist within an alternate reality.

They're comfortable there and aren't going to leave. They have to be outnumbered at the ballot box. Remember, Trump himself said he could shoot someone in the middle of a crowded street and not lose a voter. I get that the mainstream media as a whole (the ratings-focused obsession with spectacle and the promotion of false equivalencies due to some twisted sense of what constitutes "balance" is a bigger problem than fake news, and that those drawn to fake news (which is decidedly pro-Republican/anti-Democrat) were already determined to vote for Trump, but it is nonetheless disturbing and problematic that tens of millions of people believe utter nonsense. Society must find a way to address this problem by focusing on youth who can still be saved, so to speak.

I listened to an interview with Craig Silverman, who studies media inaccuracy. You can listen to the 36-minute interview or read the transcript here: How False Stories Spread And Why People Believe Them.

It's depressing but not too surprising, except perhaps for just how much fake news is out there. The bottom line is that the likes of those who support Trump are, as one might expect, drawn to utter falsehoods like flies are drawn to manure. And presenting them with facts, such as by pointing them in the direction of a debunking site like Snopes, seems to have no effect. Those who believe and spread the sort of content that is debunked by Snopes (or by logical reasoning) will do so over and over and over again, regardless of how many times you make them aware of how false the information is (a member of my family is a prime example, sadly).

From an article during the campaign:

Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted to MSNBC’s Brian Williams Thursday night that the Republican presidential candidate’s recent campaign-trail proclamation — that Hillary Clinton faces a “likely indictment” by the FBI — is based on inaccurate reporting. Still, she said, factual or not, “the damage is done to Hillary Clinton."


Because the likes of Conway know full well that Trump supporters don't seem to give a rip if something is actually true. Trump and other Republicans have a cult-like following.

It's probably too simplistic to say they're all gullible or uneducated, though that's certainly a factor. It's that they've created an alternate reality and refuse to leave that comfortable space. Without that space, their ideology withers in the light of truth, and somewhere deep down a portion of them probably realize that. They can't acknowledge being bigots, so they must cling to other reasons -- any reason -- why they support who they support.

So, an unqualified, Putin-backed, supremely bigoted, sexual predator 'reality' TV celebrity is now the president-elect. His supporters don't care that Trump is nominating people to head up the very departments that they despise or an AG who is opposed to civil rights. In fact, they celebrate that. This will have devastating consequences (for education, the natural environment, civil rights, the US's international standing, health care, etc.).

Anyway, some excerpts from the Silverman interview:

But when we went three months before the election, that critical time, we actually saw the fake news spike. And we saw the mainstream news engagement on Facebook for those top 20 stories decline.

And so at the end of the day, in that critical moment, the fake news of those top 20 stories was getting more engagement on Facebook than some of the stories from the biggest media outlets in the U.S. And that was incredibly surprising. I didn't actually expect fake news to win out in that sense.


And as I filled out the spreadsheet it became very clear that they were overwhelmingly pro-Trump. And as I visited the websites and read their content, I saw that a lot of the stuff that they were pushing was misleading, was to the extreme of partisanship and also occasionally was false. And so we dug in even more and realized that among the top shared articles from, you know, these range of sites, the majority of, like, the top five were actually completely false.


But the answer that they always gave me was that, you know, it was simply for money. There are a lot of sites run out of Veles, run out of Macedonia in general that we found. In particular, there's a huge cluster of websites in English about health issues because they find that that content does really well.

And if they sign up, for example, for Google AdSense, an ad program, they can get money as people visit their sites and it's pretty straightforward. So they tried election sites, and over time they all came to realize that the stuff that did the best was pro-Trump stuff. They got the most traffic and most traction.

So one, when people create the false stuff and if they're smart about it - if I put it that way - you know, they know that it needs to appeal to emotion. They know that maybe if it can have a sense of urgency, if it can be tied to things people care about, that's probably going to do well in terms of fake stuff. Whereas when you come in as the debunker, what you're doing is actively going against information that people are probably already, you know, willing to believe and that gets them emotionally. And to tell somebody I'm sorry that thing you saw and shared is not true is you coming in in a very negative way unfortunately. And so the reaction is often for people to get defensive and to disagree with you. And just in general you just seem like kind of a spoil sport. You're ruining the fun or you're getting in the way of their beliefs. And a lot of times when I put debunkings out there, you know, some of the reactions I get are people saying, well, it might as well be true. You know, he could have said that or that could have happened. Or, of course, you get accusations that, you know, you're biased. And so the debunkings just don't appeal as much to us on a psychological level.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 01:30 AM

1. A couple more excerpts:

So the one that comes to mind right away, this is a story that was on a website that is made to look like ABC News but its domain is slightly different. And the story that was published, you know, long before the election claimed that a protester had been paid $3,500 to go and protest at Trump rally. And this fed into perceptions that the people who are against Trump were being paid by big interests.

And that story did pretty well on Facebook. It got a fair amount of engagement. But it was tweeted by Eric Trump. It was tweeted by Corey Lewandowski, who was a campaign manager for Donald Trump, and it was tweeted by Kellyanne Conway, who was his campaign manager, not that long before the election. So when you have people in positions of power and influence putting out fake news - and I want to say, you know, there's no evidence that they knew it was fake and put it out there to fool people. I think in each case they genuinely believed it was true because, as we've discussed, I think it fed into the message their campaign wanted to put out. And it's really kind of unprecedented to think of people that high in a campaign actively putting out misinformation and it happening from several people. You would have thought that after one or two of them did it, you people would have talked to them. So that piece is really, really remarkable.

The other one that I think has to be mentioned is that Donald Trump, on a very frequent basis throughout the campaign and now that he is the president-elect, says things that are not true and things that are demonstrably false. And when you have somebody who is in that position of power, with that amount of influence, with that amount of people who are very passionate about him and what they think he can bring to the country, putting out false information - you know, I think it lays the groundwork for other false information to get out there. And it creates a fertile environment for folks to start kind of making things up because the door is wide open. And I think that there is something unique about the Trump campaign in that respect.


I really have to question Silverman's assumption that those members of Trump's campaign truly believed those stories. We already know Conway doesn't care if she spreads lies, as she openly admitted. Regardless, Silverman himself knows that even if members of the mainstream media had "talked to them" about it, they would have kept on pushing false information. Of course, the mainstream media was too caught up in the spectacle and too busy promoting false equivalencies to bother pointing out the absolute absurdity of Trump rhetoric. Until it was too late: CNN Reporter Facepalms Talking to Trump Voters. Where was the facepalming throughout the campaign? That should have been the reaction by reporters and news anchors every single day for the last year or more. Trump, Trump surrogates and Trump supporters repeatedly made nonsensical claims. Day after day after day after day. They continue to do so. And to think there are still people pushing the "liberal media" meme. Then again, as Silverman makes clear, many people will believe just about anything. The media/infotainment industry, though, is about ratings and little else. And with 24-hour cable "news", as well as the Internet, there's just so damn much (mis)information out there. Long gone are the days when it might be reasonable to assume most people are working off a largely agreed-upon set of facts. What's sad is there's probably no going back.

Silverman on what should be done to address this problem:

You know, the first thing in terms of what should be done is that - is the answer is kind of a lot of things. And that's an unsatisfying answer to give, but it speaks to the complexity of this problem. When people started circulating lists of fake news websites, it was a huge problem because a lot of the sites on those lists, sure, they may publish some stuff that's misleading or false but they weren't publishing stuff a hundred percent in those areas. And there were a lot of simply ideologically-driven sites that were on these lists. And so if, for example, Facebook wanted to just implement a big bad blacklist, get rid of lots of sites, that would be a terrible, terrible outcome. So it's not as simple as I think some people have suggested it can be.

I would like to see them make flagging more of - more easy for people and to make sure that it can't be abused. I think they absolutely need to innovate in the area of algorithmic detection of misinformation. I also think, frankly, they do need to increase the amount of people who are reviewing content, whether it's for being offensive or other things because the scale of their platform is so big that I don't think they've put the human element in there in the right places. So them figuring out where that can be applied and how to guard against ideologically-driven decisions is a big thing. And to be honest, I think that they should figure out ways to identify the sites that are a hundred percent fake news and to see how they're sharing. Are they just being shared among small groups of people who all sort of think the same way and realize that that probably isn't a story that should spread further. So I'm not a huge proponent of blacklists but I think that analyzing the content and knowing what it is and knowing how it's being shared is really important.

The other unsexy thing finally, I think, is that we need to put this in our education system. There are a lot of people being fooled by fake news. There are a lot of people who don't know how to kind of check out the story they're reading online and that's understandable. It's not a matter of intelligence. We're consuming media in very different ways. We're having a whole menu of links and things from all different kinds of sources fed to us every day by Facebook. And that's very different from opening up a newspaper and knowing where everything was coming from. So I think we do in our schools need to start thinking about how we integrate more media literacy and critical thinking education so that people can make better judgments for themselves.

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Response to Garrett78 (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 07:27 AM

5. CNN and MSNBC would feed into it as well

 

I remember an interview with some protesters on one or the other of those stations where they were asked if they had been paid to protest.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 12:47 PM

7. The line between fake news and mainstream news certainly does get blurred.

The mainstream media is doing all it can to normalize Trump.

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Response to Garrett78 (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 03:14 PM

10. Indeed

 

It may be gone altogether.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 22, 2016, 04:19 AM

18. Democrats needs to start citing these facts on a regular basis.

Public education and media responsibility are 2 issues that have been trending in the wrong direction for quite some time. The former has been under attack by those who want to privatize everything, and the latter suffers from media saturation (leading to ratings-focused obsession with spectacle, regardless of its veracity). Republicans have been pounding the "liberal media" drum for so long that I think some stations are deathly afraid of being hit with that label.

Whenever Dems are on the air, they should point out that such and such percentage of the population believes {insert absurd belief}. Maybe it'll at least cause some to experience cognitive dissonance, force some media personalities to recognize the role they play in spreading (or at least not contradicting) nonsense and educate the young before falsehoods become too ingrained.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 01:36 AM

2. A president-elect

who perfectly represents the people who support him.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 04:43 AM

3. More like an alternate nightmare

What can they be thinking?

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Response to democratisphere (Reply #3)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 12:45 PM

6. Not for those who exist in that space. For them, it's reality.

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Response to Garrett78 (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 03:28 PM

12. Interestingly 33 percent of Jill Stein voters do not think CA votes should be included

 

in the popular vote total. That's a higher percentage than Trump.

Although 1/3rd of Stein voters think millions of people voted for Hillary Clinton illegally.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 04:51 AM

4. propaganda of fox lies works well, especially when it ramps up to 90% fake news spammed to emails.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 12:57 PM

8. Couple that with the online bubble-filtering that's been amplifying the alternate reality.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 03:11 PM

9. That could be said for billions of people.

 

IMO.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 03:25 PM

11. 14% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run

 

run out of a Washington DC pizzeria.

Another 32% aren't sure one way or another, much as the North Carolinian who went to Washington to check it out last weekend said was the case for him. Only 54% of Trump voters expressly say they don't think #Pizzagate is real.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #11)

Mon Dec 19, 2016, 01:06 AM

14. Words fail me.

Do you have a link?

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Response to Garrett78 (Reply #14)

Mon Dec 19, 2016, 01:08 AM

15. Here is a link

 

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2016/12/trump-remains-unpopular-voters-prefer-obama-on-scotus-pick.html

About halfway down:

-14% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run out of a Washington DC pizzeria. Another 32% aren't sure one way or another, much as the North Carolinian who went to Washington to check it out last weekend said was the case for him. Only 54% of Trump voters expressly say they don't think #Pizzagate is real.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #15)

Mon Dec 19, 2016, 01:11 AM

16. A massive percentage of the American public is clinically insane.

It's just that most haven't been diagnosed as such. That's all I can figure.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Sun Dec 18, 2016, 08:00 PM

13. Lee Atwater to the Nth power. nt.

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Response to Garrett78 (Original post)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 03:30 PM

17. Kick

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