What Fake News and the government have in common
In the dystopian classic 1984, George Orwell introduced the ideas of doublethink and newspeak, and out those ideas was born a new propaganda word: doublespeak. Simple put; saying one thing and meaning another.
It leverages how the human brain makes connections and understands language to manipulate how people react emotionally to different ideas. This is most commonly seen in politics when bills and laws are named in a way to appeal to the opposition. Classic examples include the Healthy Forests Initiative and the Affordable Healthcare Act.
In 2003 George W. Bush presented a bill that would enable more logging of forest and include previous areas that unavailable for logging. In order to dissuade environmentalists from looking too deeply at the detail, the bill was titled: The Healthy Forest Initiative. The propaganda campaigns for it included pictures of thick, lush forests.
Similarly, in 2010, the Obama administration crafted a bill to restructure much to U.S. healthcare system titled: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Recognizing the tactic the GOP quickly worked hard in the media to nickname the bill Obamacare so that it would be seen as the Democratic bill for health care reform, and people would not react to the name of the bill alone.
In 2016 the term fake-news started to used to refer to yellow-journalism. The term caught on as a wake of fake stories dominated the headlines on social media sites. In response, Facebook and others released information and coaching on recognizing these kinds of stories. Among them were not making assumptions based on headlines or images, reading the actual articles and checking the sources.
The strangest part is that these guidelines for recognizing truth are exactly what the government hopes its people won’t do when it comes to the laws they are writing.
Why you should be Afraid of Deer, Not Sharks.
I saw a college lecture where the professor reenacted a classic study. He asked, “what’s more likely to kill people: homicide or suicide, floods or tuberculosis, tornadoes or asthma, sharks or deer?” Almost every student got it wrong. And they did so because vivid stories stick in the mind better. When those stories are remembered, they seem more likely to happen. The Propagandist tires to create compelling, detailed, vivid stories that will stick in the target’s memory, so that statistics and scientific truth will not be remembered, only the propagandist story. Thus, creating a prison of ideas so dense the target can no longer see truth. The truth is you are 300 times more likely to be killed by a deer than a shark, but how many people you know are afraid deer the same way they are afraid of the sharks? Those two very different levels of fear are the product of effective propaganda, not truth.
The video reading of the chapter heading:
They Don’t Want You to See This:
Unreleased Chapter Heading:
In the 1600 philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke started writing about the social contract. The idea ran directly counter to the divine right of kings. It put the power of both religion and monarchy in jeopardy. Fearing that these ideas would spread, books containing writings on the social contract were first banned and later burned. Soon other ideas were labeled as dangerous and added to ever growing list.
However the public reaction to this was not as expected. Books added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum experience a boost in sales, library check outs, and came up in articles and conversations more often. In short the act of banning books made them more popular. As most recently experienced by the Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code. Being banned in Lebanon and the Vatican drove its sales to international bestseller levels.
Where the world saw irony, propagandist saw opportunity and a new technique was developed. As psychologists state it: ‘the lure of the forbidden’ appeals to many. Now, peddlers of influence have a new in road to a new demographic. As a common manipulative phrase goes: “They don’t want you to see this,” it’s companion phrase, “No one is talking about this.”
Chapter 5: The Glass Bridge
Donny poked his finger through a hole in the floor of the automobile. “There’s hole in our car.”
“It’s from the rust.” Silas pulled to stop outside the house. It appeared abandoned except for the orange glow of candle light inside. The wood slates on the sides were falling off and the front screen hung crooked. Once inside he was guided to the basement by a negro boy. The room was large and mostly vacant. Only a table in the center with several men gathered around it. They too were in disguise. A close inspection of their clothes revealed art quality charcoal and stage makeup instead of dirt marked them. Silas tipped his hat and took a seat.
At the head of the group sat the chairman. His skin was aged and saggy around the arms, but his chiseled jaw remained unaffected. The bones large and square gave him the appearance of strength even as his body withered with age. He eyed his watch and examined each member then knocked on the wooden table twice and cleared his throat. “I believe we are ready to begin.” He gestured to Silas. “I would like you to meet our newest member. He has been an enforcer for us in many of the worker strikes we’ve been dealing with recently.”
The man in the south raised his hand. “Is that wise? Such men tend to deal in criminal activity. We wouldn’t want anyone to associate us with such things. That’s what started this whole God damn McGuire problem isn’t it. People like associating with criminals.”
Silas cleared his throat, “No. You are in this situation because someone didn’t burn the documents. I’m here tonight to help get you out. The root problem was a sloppy attention to detail. Allow me a demonstration.” He stood began to unbutton his shirt. A slow moving wave of confusion spread through the room. It froze the conversation until Cooper finished removing his shirt and tossed it on the table. “You see the holes in the sleeves of that shirt. Examine them closely. The fabric gets thinner around edges.” He grabbed the arm of the man next to him and held up the elbow. “Now, look at this. The fabric doesn’t thin, it was clearly cut by scissors.” He released the man. “Sloppy attention to detail. I don’t make such mistakes. It’s why a man like me is in a room with men such as yourselves.”
“You ignorant upstart. You’re a guest here.” The man rubbed his arm as though he’d been injured.
The chairman slapped the table and sound reverberated through wood creating a long silence that only ended when the chairman decided to speak, “Let’s not let our emotions get in the way. We brought in Mr. Cooper for this exact reason: to deal with uncomfortable issues, and to ensure the details are not missed.”
Silas collected his shirt and started to dress again. The show was over, and the basement was cold.
The chairman continued, “Our primary concern is a recent wave of strikes that have started. While most of the world had its battle with labor unions in the late 1800s we were able to control and prevent them through the propaganda surrounding the Molly McGurie incident. But recent events have relvead the truth and I don’t think there will be any going back now.”
Silas nodded his head. He been filled in on the details concerning the incident. In 1876 a mining company experienced a strike headed by a man called Molly McGuire, thus the group gained its name. In response to the strike, the owners of the mine hired Pinkerton detectives to infiltrate the group. Once the Pinkertons were accepted as members they commit a series of crimes under the banner of the Molly McGuires. They assaulted and even murder miners who refused to join the strike. When the case went to court the prosecutors went after the strike leadership instead of the actual members who committed the crimes. The story was broadcast all across America. It presented labor unions as dens of criminal activity an iniquity. Soon after every school child in America was taught about the evils of unions and moral dangers of strikes. The great labor union movement that was sweeping wester civilization came to a standstill in America. Even Hollywood in all it’s stories, and moving pictures always presented labor unions a place for criminals and smugglers ever perpetuating the propaganda. It was the moment when communist became a dirty work in America. That is until a few months ago when the documents contracting the Pinkertons and bribing the judge were found. Now, the great lie was unrevealing, unions were forming, and factories were left empty while their workers marched in protest.
The room continued to offer ideas about the how to deal with this new issue. They discussed ideas about producing talking pictures with more strike leaders as villains, running a newspaper stories in major publications. They discussed everything they were already doing.
Silas raised his hand and waited for his turn, “The problem with all your ideas is that we are already doing them, and they aren’t working.”
“We’ll, Mr. Cooper, what grand plan do you have to solve this problem?” The man in the west, the one Silas had grabbed, crinkled his nose in disgust.
Silas took a deep breath. “But what if we could prove it wasn’t a lie?”
The man to east raised his hand. “I don’t see how that’s possible unless of course you can turn back time.”
Cooper tilted his head to indicate he’d heard the concern. “What I want to introduce to you is a new way of looking at truth. You see most people think of truth as a logical conclusion supported by facts, but new research by a man named William Stephenson, you’ve heard of him?”
“Yes,” the chairman said. “We are familiar with much his work.”
“After the Great War he studied the minds of soldiers injured in combat and came across a certain type of injury that prevented them from feeling emotions. This is where things get unusual. You see most people think of emotions and logic as at odds with each other, but Stephenson’s work illustrates that they actually work hand in hand. That without emotion these men were unable to prioritize any type of information as more important than another.”
The chair of the man in the south creaked as he leaned back and raised his hand. “Can you give us something more specific.”
“Of course,” Cooper picked up his hat and held it in his hand. “Let’s say they each had a morning routine. They would wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast brush their teeth and go to work. Now if for some reason they needed more time in the morning, say they over slept, or needed to attend an early meeting. Certain parts of the routine can be skipped, others can’t. These men were unable to effectively decided which parts were skippable. Some of them didn’t dress, other skipped showing. You see without emotion to make priorities, they made logical decisions on what to skip. That was based on how long certain activities took. Entirely logical. If showering takes twelve minutes and you need twelve minutes you skip the shower. If your four minutes behind and getting dressed takes four minutes. Skip it. Why because that’s the most logical choice.” Silas smiled. “Completely dysfunctional.”
“I still don’t understand what this has to do with Molly McGuire problem.” South rolled his chair forward again.
“After this initial discovery Stephenson presented a new theory. What if our understanding of truth is similarly governed more by our emotions and less by our logic than we think. When two competing pieces of information are given we must decided which is true. What if logic doesn’t govern that choice, after all it’s about priorities. What piece of information feels more true.”
The chairman nodded in a slow rhythm as Silas spoke. “I see where you’re going with this. I knew an architect once. He was asked to design a bridge between two building and he had this incredible idea to make it out of glass, so you could see through it. It was brilliant. He worked with all kinds of people and preformed all types of tests to make sure they could make the glass thick enough and strong enough to hold up while people walked across it. They built the bridge and at the ribbon cutting ceremony they offered him a chance to be the first to cross it. Now, it was all just ceremonial of course the workers had been walking back and forth across the thing cleaning it in preparation for this moment. So, he knew it was safe. He’d done the math, designed the plans, seen people walk across it. But in that moment when he tried to walk across his own bridge, he saw the deep drop below and crumbled to floor and scrambled away from the edge as though he was in mortal danger. I asked him. ‘don’t you believe it’s safe?’ and he answered, ‘I know it is, but that doesn’t change how I feel.’” The chairman took a deep breath. “I never really understood what happened that day, but listening to you now, it makes more sense to me. At some point emotion can be so strong that evidence and facts are irrelevant. It didn’t matter that he knew the bridge was safe. When he stood on it and looked down it didn’t feel safe.”
Silas nodded and waited for a moment to be sure the chairman done before he continued. “It explains much about human belief. Why people refuse to accept some truths regardless of the evidence presented. Simply because it’s not about evidence, it about how true that evidence feels. Think of it as which actress you like better. Whoever you choose you can make a logical argument, provide reasons, but at the end of it all you really picking based on how you feel. That according this is new research is exactly how truth works, when they are competing versions.”
In the dim light it was still possible to see that the man in south smile. “So, your proposing that we stop trying to discredit the documents and the men who discovered them, but rather that we make that truth feel less true, in comparison to our own version.”
“Precisely.” Cooper sat his hat back on the table. “According to Stephenson’s work what is defined as feeling most true, is simply what is most memorable.”
“I can work with that.” South straightened his clothes and folded his hands on the table.
“Good,” The chairman said. “Now, for the reason we had to meet so urgently tonight. This Orson Welles event. I think it’s clear to everyone present that there is an incredible opportunity to learn about propaganda and to make ours more effective. I can also say without a doubt there are groups all over the world just like this meeting together to figure how they can learn from this event, and make sure no one else can. How should we proceed? How do we ensure we are the winner of this competition?”
“I think the first problem,” the man in the West said, “is the science itself. We can’t have hundreds of groups of scientists running all over the country tripping over each other. They will corrupt each other’s data. It will be chaos, and no one will learn anything.”
A murmur of consent came from every part of the table.
“At the same time,” South spoke up. “It gives us a backup plan in case it starts to look like we won’t be the winners. All we have to do is launch our own study to corrupt the first.”
Cooper cleared his throat. “Gentlemen what we need is someone to regulate this whole mess. Someone that appears to be big enough to ensure it works the way it should, but can also be bought off.” He smiled. “If one of the largest, and most powerful governments in world decided to manage the situation I don’t think anyone would object.”
The chairman clapped his hands. “And we buy the votes of congress or the Senate, whoever gets to make the decision. So, now the question is who do we put in charge of the study?”
South raised his hand. “What about this Stephenson person you mentioned. He’s produced several papers on public opinion and propaganda. He seems an excellent choice.”
Cooper shook his head. “The problem is that Stephenson is independently wealthy. We couldn’t buy him, even if his moral code was corruptible.” He reached into his pocket and produced a piece of paper. “I have a list of potential candidates. If you have means to put financial strain on any of them it would make them open to offer from me. From that position I will be able to oversee the entire study, and ensure we alone ever truly know how Orson Welles did what he did.”
There was agreement to Silas’ proposal and several other items of propaganda were discussed before the meeting dissolved. As they separated to leave the Chairman approached Cooper. “There is one more thing I want you to do. This Orson Welles incident is bigger than anything we’ve ever encountered. It would be a tragedy to human advancement if the truth is not uncovered, but at the same times it is essential that no else knows how it works while we are in the dark.” He swallowed hard. “I would like you track down other propaganda committees and ensure they have no involvement.”
“You want me to get rid of them?” Silas was familiar with the insinuation, but he wasn’t sure the chairman was. Did the man want them killed?
“Any means necessary. I’ll leave the details up to you.”
“How do I find them?”
The chairman shrugged. “Again. I leave that to you.”
Silas nodded. “Have the contract details on my desk by Friday. Label it as lumber and concrete.”
Outside Donny had exit the car and was shadow boxing under a street lamp. He paused when Silas appeared and waved. The big man jogged toward his employer. “Good meeting? Do I need to hit anyone?”
Cooper approached the car with his out. “I don’t know yet. We have to do some research first.”
“The papers?” Donny asked.
Silas opened door. “The papers” that’s what Donny referred to as paper work. Sifting through files and addresses looking for people. He would need a team of private investigators to start tracking down the member of the various propaganda committees across the United States. His own group was connected to one the wealthiest men in American and he assumed it would true of the others. Messages and communication had to flow between the groups and their creators so that’s where he would start. Follow the men, follow the letters, and phone calls. Cooper glanced back the building. He wondered which the men present tonight carried the information back and forth. The natural assumption would be the chairman. They presented the agenda and directed the meeting. He decided when a discussion had gone long enough, but was possible he was more a puppet directed by subtle the body language of one of the other members. Silas of course knew his employer. He’d been hand picked, first as body guard and later other duties as his skills and moral compass manifested.
[JB1]Make it clear the tycoon and robber barons created the committee. And they want to use Orson Welles creation as a way to end strikes permanently.