Reality Bending Through Media Manipulation

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.

Friday Fantasy Cabinet Draft

It’s Friday, and time for a bit of fun, so let’s play a round of Fantasy Cabinet. Who will serve as President Trump’s “best people,” his team of advisers? Let’s gaze into the MiD crystal ball and find out.

First, the Cabinet is only loosely created in the Constitution. Article 2, Section 2, contains the following words that create a team of advisers for the President.

[The President] may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.

Who those executive officers are makes up the President’s Cabinet. Here are my suggestions for President Trump’s chief team to advise him on all matters foreign and domestic.

Chief of Staff: Peter Thiel

Secretary of Labor: Mike Rowe

Secretary of Transportation: Jesse James

Secretary of the Interior: Bear Grylls

Secretary of Agriculture: One of the dudes from Amish Mafia

Secretary of Education: Scott Adams

Secretary of Energy: Elon Musk

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ludacris

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Dr. Drew Plinsky

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: R. Lee Ermey

Secretary of Commerce: Dana White

Secretary of Defense: Conor McGregor

Secretary of Homeland Security: Willie Robertson

Secretary of State: Edward Snowden

UN Ambassador: Gad Saad

Attorney General: Fault Lines’ Andrew King

Secretary of the Treasury: Kristian Nairn (Hodor from Game of Thrones)

And the all important position:

Press Secretary: Milo Yiannopolous (come on, not like he hasn’t practically earned this)

There’s the cabinet picks for a President Trump administration. Feel free to leave your own choices. Personally I think this a YUGE move towards a greater America.

A Letter To The Protesters

You over there, protesting the “rigged” system electing President-Elect Trump?

To quote my pal SHG, “Sit down. I have something to tell you, and it’s going to make you sad.”

Your “protests,” what you insisted were expressions of your voice being heard, are nothing but temper tantrums at this point. That feeling you’ve got in your stomach, the bile raising in your throat as you chant “Brick by brick, wall by wall, racism has got to fall” means nothing. Tossing a brick through shopkeepers’ windows in an attempt to have your “marginalized” voice heard only pisses off the shopkeepers and proves those who’ve said you were whiny little babies right.

No, stay put. I’m not done yet.

You had your chance to elect the deeply flawed candidate of your choosing and you blew it. Wanna know how I know this? It’s because most of you never voted. You had the chance to register and get to the polling places at every opportunity. You had Beyonce, Jay-Z, even Bruce Springsteen telling you to get out there and vote. Social media sites kept reminding you when to put out an early vote. Every single chance you had existed for you to register, to make it to a place where your voice could be heard, and you stayed home.

Was it too much to step out in the real world and wait in a line other than for your venti mocha frappe latte? Did the thought of having to show your driver license to someone and a card that says you voted traumatize you because institutional racism? Would it have been better if you could  just text “Hillary” to 6666666 or “like” your candidate on Facebook? How much hand holding do you require to actually participate in the election process?

Learn to do things instead of expecting others to do them for you. No one, save yourself, is going to “save” democracy. Your apathy allowed a man never previously elected to serve office become President. Your “zero fucks to give” attitude brought us President Donald J. Trump flying in to D.C. on “Trump Force One” instead of being #WithHer and Pantsuit Nation showing up in force, or even potentially getting a third voice on the stage next year.

No, we’re not finished. The tissues are over there.

The person you elected President for two straight terms told you the morning after there would be a “peaceful transition of power” and asked you to set aside your differences with others so this nation could heal. So did Meemaw Pantsuit in one of the classiest moments of her life. The other side gloating is kind of  ridiculous, as it reeks of the smug attitude you threw in the faces of those with whom you disagreed for so long, but the “protests” and riots show you have no respect for the President, the former Secretary of State, or democracy as a whole. You don’t give a damn about this nation and your disrespect for the principles you claim dear to your heart are on full display.

And all this bullshit about getting rid of the electoral college because “she” got the popular vote? That’s your “rigged” system? Far smarter folk than I put the electoral college into play because simply counting the poplar vote marginalizes people you claim need a voice so dear. We have checks and balances on those we elect to office, and that system is one of them. It sucks when it doesn’t work in your favor, but life sucks. Get a fucking helmet.

Nope, still not finished.

You want to know what “privilege” is? Privilege is the ability to call those you don’t agree with racist, sexist, transohomophobic and bigoted, then claim outrage and OFFEND and destroy lives, relationships, and families. You’ve done that for over a decade now, worshipping fervently at the feet of ideological politics and social justice pandering. That continued condescension and valuing weaponized concepts is what brought you President Trump.

Sure, there were all those true “deplorables” out there trying to MAGA like crazy. There were deplorables on your side too. The fact that you’re out there today calling the people who were a part of this process those same names instead of owning up to your mistakes calls up an old saying about the definition of insanity. You’re living that, ableist slur or otherwise. Understand those who weren’t all those labels got tired of them and “white lashed” out. That’s why you got a President Trump.

Get over yourself and get on with this nation. The grown ups are. The rational, reasoned people are trying to make sure our President Elect has a successful term that bridges the divide you created. Continuing the “cry-ins” and asking for canceled exams because you “can’t even” smacks of your inability to grasp the real world.

Now you may go.

A Civics Lesson In Civility

It’s Election Night 2016 in America. By the end of this evening we will know whether our country stood #WithHer, wanted to #MAGA, or did something crazy and sent this race to the House. While others offer you their insight on the close of this campaign, I offer you the following civics lesson on civility.

The spiral into the hole that currently surrounds our divisive political climate began approximately twenty years ago.  It’s a sickness that permeates our current political climate in the form of words like “diversity,” “inclusivism,” “tolerance,” and “equality.”  The great joke to all is that none of these ideals are attainable goals, nor should we expect them to be.

Each successive measure of change is always influenced by one of the above words.  They’re powerful methods of persuasion for those who don’t want to be on “the wrong side of history.” There’s another strong phrase most won’t give credit, as no one wants to be on “the wrong side of history.”  Those who are get labeled as “behind the times,” “archaic,” or worse still, one of the big terms: “racist,” “sexist,” “bigot,” or otherwise.  So every successive step towards normalizing deviant behaviors becomes something a little more “inclusive” or a push towards “equality.”

Those who understand the realities of the world understand “equality” is a delusion as we know it and see it.  “Equality” is a feel good term, an ideal that can never be achieved.  Men and women will never be “equal.”  That doesn’t constitute a negative.  It’s a moment of life to be celebrated.

I will never know what it’s like to bring a living, breathing human being into this world through a complex biological process designed to create human life.  I won’t know what it’s like to carry a child for nine straight months inside my body.  That doesn’t make my self-worth less than a woman’s.  It’s just an area where we are genetically unequal.

Most people won’t know what it’s like to try a case before a judge or jury.  Most people won’t know what it’s like to stay up late hours the night before trial, sweating the details.  Most people won’t know the pangs of unease that come when a judge proclaims a client “guilty,” or the adrenaline rush that comes when you win one and get the “NG” your clients want to hear.  That doesn’t make most people any less deserving of self-worth than me.  It’s just a difference.

This holds true for so many different areas of life.  Our experiences during our lives shape us into unique, different individuals.  We are never meant to be equal, and we shouldn’t strive for equality.  Rather, celebrate the differences that make us all interesting and worthy of merit on our own terms.  Equality is just a vanilla word designed to make everyone the same, and sameness is boring.  When we are all the same, no one strives for greatness.

But we want to be equal, and no one wants to be seen as intolerant.  Those who wish to push a certain agenda, regardless of its merit, simply needed to use the terms “diversity,” “inclusion,” or “equality” to make their point.  If someone disagreed, or tried to push a more nuanced view of the situation, then they just needed to throw out the big labels no one wants to be called.  That was the easiest way for a person or group to get their way: advance a point and say “if you disagree with me you’re [insert nasty name of choice].”

Civility was considered a value during the early days of the downward spiral for our discourse, so the other side would quietly capitulate and give the offended party that which he or she desired.  Capitulation didn’t always come with the greatest set of rewards.  Those who weren’t able to articulate their own position felt as though they were being silenced.  They didn’t get the chance to present their own views or even have them examined as valid.  That form of discrediting a person’s ideas inevitably leads to one scary spot, and that’s called anger.

Those who won the day with their ideas didn’t choose to say “thank you” and move on, or even acknowledge the other side’s graciousness in defeat.  Rather, the temptation to laugh at the defeated became too much for some to bear.  This horrendous attitude developed into an unbearable smugness many of the defeated couldn’t tolerate.  The smug, self-righteous attitudes developed by the “elites” were seen as unbearable by those whose values weren’t seen as worthy, or their ideas considered meritorious.  It was always “stupid,” “uneducated,” or people “on the wrong side of history.”

Meanwhile, people were silenced. And the anger intensified.

The silencing, shouting down of ideas with which others disagreed, and continued ignorance of areas without a Macy’s or H&M coalesced into a group larger than most thought. These would later be called “deplorables” by someone with a preference for pantsuits and no concern for the welfare of others beyond herself, and lumped in with white supremacists, real racists, bigots, and people who were truly unwilling to listen to the other side’s ideas. They just needed a voice, and a reality TV star businessman turned out to be that voice.

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States, many laughed it off as a publicity stunt. I remember listening that night to the winner of the first “Apprentice” season on the Herman Cain Show discussing the move. Cain asked if it was a publicity stunt.  Bill Rancic said “I don’t think people realize just how serious he is about this.” At that point, I knew this was no joke. Trump was in this, and was ready for the battle that comes with Presidential elections.

No one save a select few, like Mike Cernovich or Scott Adams, could predict Trump’s ability to manipulate outrage culture into free press. Few thought he’d win the primary and become the Republican nominee. Yet these predictions proved true, and now those who were “deplorable,” “poorly educated,” and silenced had their voice in a New York businessman who pulled no punches, attacked, never apologized, and kept energizing those who felt disaffected from the elites who abandoned them.

This scared the hell out of those with the power to shout others down. They worked hard to push Donald Trump into categories no one would ever accept or even condone. They called him a misogynist first. That didn’t work, even after the Billy Bush audio leaked. Then they tried to make him a racist. That didn’t work either. When Peter Thiel cast his lot with Trump, the homophobic card dropped, so the last resort was to paint the Donald as Hitler.

Not even that worked. People saw the bullshit for what it was, and cast it aside.

If the Donald reaches the presidency, does that mean our discourse returns to civility? I argue yes. I say that identity politics implode. I say we see a cultural push back of epic proportions if he wins. If the nation goes #WithHer, it’s more of the same, and we lose our ability to actually speak honestly about any issue.

When we look back at this nationally historic event, we will know whether we favored the ability to say and do as we please, or whether we want to continue policing our language and seeing the world silenced.

But it all started with the opposition discarding civility.

Wil Wheaton Makes People Dumber On The Internet

Wil Wheaton has an audience and a platform far beyond the little niche corner of the internet reserved for unmentionable types like me. He’s got Star Trek cred, Big Bang Theory fans, and even his own show for board games. When he writes, he usually does so on Medium, the Twitter owned “platisher.” Usually I can forgive his navel gazing, but with a recent post called “FBI Agents Are Attempting to Sway a Presidential Election. That’s Horrifying,” I’ve no recourse but to call him out.

I will begin by saying Wil Wheaton is a smart guy. He’s articulate enough to get to speak at MENSA. He knows a lot about several different subjects, and passionate enough to pass as a “geek” for those who care for labels. One thing he is not, however, is a law “geek.” Wheaton isn’t a lawyer, nor does he have a law degree. He does have an audience passionate enough to take his words seriously, and with a post on a platform called “Bullshitlist,” Wheaton commits the sin of making people dumber on the Internet.

Citing to a Spencer Ackerman story listing “unnamed sources” within the FBI who were either unwilling or uncleared to speak on the record, Wheaton paints a picture of the FBI as “Trumpland,” an organization where “deep antipathy” exists for the Democratic Presidential Candidate. Proceeding on to discuss how the FBI is to serve “all Americans,” Wheaton whips up a climate of fear by asking what the average American can expect if this can happen to Hillary Clinton.

None of this would surprise me. Wheaton has no obligation to his readers to cite credible sources, dig deeper, ask questions, or do anything actual journalists do. He just gets to bullshit on a site called Bullshitlist, and spread, well, bullshit. The moment he starts talking law is when his bullshit becomes absolutely intolerable, and people like me call him out on it.

James Comey has either lost control of his bureau, or he’s implicitly approving these politically motivated leaks that are likely violations of the Hatch Act. In either case, he is unfit for his position, and should resign immediately.

If there is any hope of restoring faith and confidence in the FBI, an independent investigation must happen as soon as possible. Every agent at the FBI who was involved in this effort to influence our election should be fired, and perhaps prosecuted for violations of the Hatch Act.

Wil? Allow me to introduce you to a real prosecutor. One who wasn’t afraid to call bullshit on a Senator, and damned sure isn’t afraid to call bullshit on you. His name is Andrew King, and he’s the type of person who actually prosecutes people for crimes. This is what he recently said about the “Hatch Act” nonsense being tossed about.

And just stop it with the Hatch Act nonsense—looking at you Senator Reid. When political people commit crimes, it’s going to be political. Ignoring these crimes would simply encourage more corruption and wrongdoing. Under this theory, mafia dons should get a get-out-of-jail-free card by seeking political office. The same people that worry about Russia influencing the election are often the same ones advocating the Russian way of governance. But as long as their preferred candidate wins, what difference does it make?

Which leads us to the present day. Wil has yet to step forward and laud Director Comey for his tireless work in service of our republic, since Secretary Clinton has been cleared of wrongdoing once again by the good Director. Maybe he’s busy getting ready for a new season of Tabletop. Or maybe Wil’s finally realized despite playing the really smart kid or guy on a television series doesn’t give him a single iota of credibility when it comes to speaking about the law. Hopefully, someone on his team finally told him he fucked up the First Rule Of Being A Geek, and he actually behaved more the fool than the scholar on this occasion.

Or maybe there’s another motive to it. Maybe because he went from BernieBro to “With Her,” now it’s time to just sweep the entire legal misstatement under the rug.
Wil, your gaffe is forgiven. Just leave the lawyering to those of us who do this on a regular basis. You want to find out where the best, unbiased legal analysis is on the web, I’m happy to point you in that direction. And the best part is you’ll have your mind exposed to all sorts of new, uncomfortable opinions that will make you think.

That’s what us lawyers who don’t believe in confirmation bias do. You’re welcome.

The Tale Of Election Year 2016

I’m a big fan of the Hallerin Hilton Hill show on Newstalk 98.7, the local talk radio station in town. Yesterday, Hallerin gave listeners a homework assignment for today’s show. You can talk the election, your candidate, or anything related to politics, but it must be in poetic form. As he’s slammed with calls in the afternoon, I thought I’d post my contribution here for the world to see: “The Tale of Election Year 2016.”

Listen, dear children, as today I bring

The tale of Election Year 2016

A year so divisive, ugly and raw

It resembled a pro wrestling free for all

 

Democrats had it easy. Pick one from this list

A crook in a pantsuit or Vermont’s Socialist

Some felt the Bern, their feelings were nixed

When word got out their Primary was fixed

 

Republicans lined up, seventeen in all

Our country’s future at stake, they’d answer the call

When a Bush tried to run, most thought it a dump

Few saw the rise of The Man They Called Trump

 

He took down his challengers, left and right

Verbal jabs like punches in a Mike Tyson Fight

“Low Energy,” “Little Marco,” and of course “Lying Ted”

The fallen slunk back, careers left for dead

 

Conventions arrived, as did media spin

As each party crowned their pick for the win

Cleveland was peaceful, calm and clean

News outlets dubbed it “White Rage 2016”

 

No riots, few protests, mostly just peace

That drama’s in Philly, where protestors clogged streets

An ironic twist, most absurd of all

Hillary accepts the nomination behind a large wall

 

Then we’re off to the race, with scandals and scams

Pay for Play, assault claims, email problems, Twitter bans

Their faults on display, each accepted their fate

With rampant name calling at every debate

 

Now voting’s begun, it’s the people’s choice

A four year commitment to America’s Voice

Early voting began and the crook thought she’d won

Until the FBI’s Comey said “investigation begun”

 

Who wins is uncertain as the outcome draws near

CNN is With Her, so their feelings are clear

Fox says Trump will make America Great

Neither side can manage to rise above hate

 

On the Eighth of November, a winner’s declared

One side victorious, the other sad and scared

Hug your family and friends come November 9

As no matter the outcome we’re all going to be fine.