Are we that easily manipulated?

August 9, 2019

A story on the evening news recently documented how Russian agents operating through Facebook and other social media outlets have been trying (with surprising success) to manipulate the American public by fomenting unrest and divisions within the devilpopulation. They tactics used by those agents aimed at increasing racial tensions and heightening fears about the impact of immigration. They were successful to the extent that Facebook and other sites have had to take specific actions to limit their access to accounts and monitor their attempts to plant fake news or to slant the coverage of real news.

The sad part of all of this is unfortunately the answer to the headline question. Are we as a people really that easily manipulated? The answer is apparently – yes. At least there is a large portion of the population that seems to believe what they see and read on social media sites without taking the time to evaluate the message or the sender. Perhaps that comes part and parcel with the shortened attention span that has couple-looking-at-phonesevolved in modern times. We have become an audience accustomed to sound-bites, tweets and YouTube posts. There seems to be no time to stop and evaluate the content, so we just accept it and sometimes act upon it. We re-tweet or re-post or take to the streets with signs because we read about a threat on social media. Never mind that the national news outlets or the big newspapers may be debunked the false reports or posts. Anyway, We are told that they are purveyors of “Fake News”; so, let’s believe a Facebook post from someone that we don’t know, instead.

What fun it must be in Russia and North Korea and Iran and in ISIS and Al Qaeda camps around the world to work at manipulating such a gullible population. They never have to question whether many Americans will believe some outrageous story or claim; rather they just have to figure out the best social media places to post it. I’m reminded of the old cereal commercial where the older kids who were leery about the taste of cereal said, “Let’s give it to Mikey, he eats everything.” Perhaps that’s the bad actors view of the American public – “Let’s feed them this false report, they believe anything.”

Still, I believe that there is a “silent majority” of Americans who have not joined the extremists who are manning the barricades of hate, prejudice and ignorance that thesedeviil-and-angel bad actors thrive upon exploiting. There is still a strong sense of right and wrong within the hearts of most Americans and a desire to do what is right, rather than acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We may be frustrated that we cannot seem to resolve some of the big issues that are facing us as a society, but that does not mean that we will drift off to the edges of reason and join the bigots or zealots that define the extremes in today’s political and social environment.

Are we that easily manipulated? I tend to think not; however, we are not happy with the status quo. Every few years we get the chance to do something about that and 2020 is one of those years. Let’s not let the Russians or anyone else manipulate us and our system of government. Make up your own mind and get out and vote for the people that you believe will make the changes that are needed. I don’t think that you will find them out on the fringes and you shouldn’t look to Facebook or Twitter to tell you who they are. listenJust listen closely for the voices of reason and compassion and concern amongst all of the shouting and accusing and finger-pointing of modern politics. Centrists exist in both political parties and they deserve your attention and support.

We need not become an isolated, bully nation nor a socialist state to resolve the current issues that face our country; we just need to return to the rule of civility, reason and compromise and reject the hate, prejudices and fears that foreignflag agents are trying to use to manipulate us. We are a better people than that. We can make up our own minds – thank you very much. Let’s get ready to vote in 2020.

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Can there be fake truth?

July 31, 2018

We certainly see and hear a lot about so-called Fake News these days. So extend that thought to include the concept of Fake Truths. It was, to a certain extent, Fake News that claimed to the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore an invasion of the country to prevent their use against other countries in the area was justified. That news turned out not to be true; it was based upon faulty intelligence andfact erroneous assumptions and conclusions by the intelligence community – essentially fake truths. The real truth later came out that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. So, was that fake news? Not really. It was news fabricated out of false or bad information (fake truth) that was provided by normally reliable sources and embellished a bit by politicians eager to justify a decision that likely had already been made. The news media, always hungry for a good story, took it and ran with it.

In today’s post to his blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed uses this quote from Buddha – “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Unlike opinions or assumptions or prejudices, the truth stands the test of time and inspection and is always trying to find a way to get out. William Shakespeare said “the truth will out” in the Merchant of Venice. 

It is interesting that the definition of the word truth leaves some leeway for doubt or later correction. Look it up on-line an you will get these three definitions –

the quality or state of being true.

“he had to accept the truth of her accusation”

that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

“tell me the truth”

a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

” I believe that is true”

It is that third definition that applied to the Iraq weapons of mass destruction item of fake news that the Bush administration at the time used to justify its action to invade the country. We will probably never know how much the intelligence was fudged or faked to get to that conclusion; but, for a while we all believed that it was the truth.

These days, our attention has been re-directed to the news of Russian interference in the last presidential election. There are almost certainly nuggets of truth within the surprised emojiintelligence reports and more of them are bound to come out as the truth struggles to the surface. It is not hard to imagine a bunch of Russian hackers (be they military, the intelligence community or civilians) deciding to see what they could do to influence the election or undermine our concept of democracy. It is also not hard to imagine that a contact within the political apparatus of any of the candidates would find a receptive ear to anything that might give them an advantage. After all, politics is not practiced to the highest of moral standards. However, it might prove to be as false as the weapons of mass destruction news to jump all the way to conclusions about collusion or conspiracy. Stupidity, yes. Poor judgement, most certainly. Self-serving, of course.

However; leaping to accusations of collusion, or worse, before the truth is fully out, serves only the third definition of truth. I think we need to work our way through theFacingFactsWordCloud first two definitions before we form our beliefs about what the truth really was. The good news is that Buddha and William Shakespeare were both right and we will eventually see the truth come out. Let’s all hope that Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie A Few Good Men. Let’s hope that we can handle the truth.  The truth will out and there will be time enough then for a reckoning.