As a student of persuasion, NLP, and hypnosis, I’ve spotted a new form of “reality bending” in recent months. Media hoaxes are the latest form of manipulating people’s attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions. If you want to manipulate a layperson’s belief in a given area, all you need to do is talk to the right people and reality changes right before your eyes.
Most journalists are lazy in their work. Look at former American Apparel CEO Ryan Holliday’s stunt with the service HARO, an acronym for “Help A Reporter Out.” In a short time the Observer’s Editor at Large managed to pose as an “expert” on everything from repairing antique ships to vinyl preservation. The “journalists” who didn’t want to actually check their source took his word as gospel on their given subject and went to press, unaware they’d been lied to and were feeding the public lies.
You may have seen this story of a Muslim father who allegedly killed his son for being gay. This AP-reported story was picked up by more outlets than CNN. Most every news source “covering” the story contained the exact same AP-reported language. Only after guys like Mike Cernovich dug deeper into the story were these same news outlets forced to change their tone.
It’s not entirely the press’s fault. Some times the hoax begins on social media, like the story of a spike in trans suicides following the 2016 Presidential election. Anecdotal evidence on social media that fits a chosen narrative makes its way into the mainstream press until someone with actual credibility like Elizabeth Nolan Brown does some fact checking. Then the chosen narrative, like a world where LGBTQ individuals must live in fear of a Trump administration, falls apart.
“The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to use it.”–Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1904.
As an experiment, I took an article from the New York Times this week exposing some of the “Day 1: Trump’s America” hate crimes and shared it on Facebook. The results were astounding. Many of my liberal and conservative friends nodded their heads and acknowledged the Paper of Record’s credibility on the issue, when they’d previously turned a blind eye to the Carlos Slim owned media outlet’s acknowledged bias against conservatives. Others screamed “Just because a couple of incidents were false doesn’t mean there’s hate crimes spreading everywhere.”
I’d be willing to predict these are the same folks that said “Okay, so that whole Rolling Stone article about a UVA range rape was false, but it’s important to have a discussion about rape culture on college campuses.”
It’s gotten to the point where if you watched the final days of the 2016 Presidential election, you’d think you were seeing two realities, as Scott Adams said.
Why do these people continue to fabricate stories? Why is the press so complicit in lies? It’s a simple question to answer. If you had the power to control the public’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, wouldn’t you be tempted to use that power to reach whatever goal you chose? Be honest as you ask yourself that question. It’s why the press decided to abuse it relentlessly.
For the individuals who fake the issues the press reports, it’s usually a matter of attention-seeking. That doesn’t matter in a world where bloggers control the main press, and the story is “traded up the chain” as Holliday put it in his best-selling book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. It’s how you get a pastor to fake a story about a Whole Foods cake to hit mainstream press.
It’s time the world wakes up. The press doesn’t give you the truth. They’ve been feeding you a narrative for years, one you bought into because it comfortably fit your vision of the world. The lies they spread are ones you want to hear, because it’s comforting to see your worldview as right. Cognitive dissonance is quite the bitch when it hits you, and the press won’t stop hoaxing you until someone makes them.
Those people will be the mad, the passionate, the ones who give a damn about the truth. Those people will be the ever-vigilant fact checkers who call the lazy out on their shit. They will be, to borrow from Warren Ellis, the New Scum. And they’re already watching.