Twogaa Sunday Post – 1.26.2020(Who is your Enemy?)

Submitted by Diana Roberts on January 26, 2020

There is no democracy without journalism.


What is journalism?

It is writing that is independent of influence and based on verifiable facts. A writer or a reader for that matter, who does not investigate his or her sources is most likely a fake news composer. Those who read the fake news aggregate and recycle the stories without checking the facts.

Why? Is it to shock? Is it to enhance their self-importance in the eyes of others? Is this pure ego? Is it to seek popularity or acceptance in a group? Is it to compel outrage in order to compel clicks on advertising algorithms?

The dividing line between true journalism and junk is that there is a code of ethics both for investigation and writing on what was found in the investigation for Journalism versus profiteering and excitement stimulation with no code for truth in junk production. For example, the Society of Professional Journalists (SFPJ) is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Junk news carries none of these principles. Junk news is undermining our very Democracy, as Russia has discovered. The greater the decision, the more widespread the false belief, the less reliance on true journalism; the greater the polarization of the people the greater the likelihood of a weakened democracy. The 2016 presidential campaign was the first in history in which citizens were awash in false stories masquerading as news. Much of this was a disinformation campaign by domestic political partisans and Russia. For the last three years and now going into the 2020 election period, our serial exaggeration president continues with his junk tweets, but also, Russia has not let up with its sophisticated psychological ploys of junk news.

The weapons targeting democracy were fashioned from an internet idiosyncrasy, that is that stories that provoke outrage are less likely to be true, but more likely to be clicked. Algorithms at Facebook, Google and others prioritize content based on the number of likes, shares and comments. Therefore, the algorithms themselves are unconsciously biased in favor of outrage. Today we live in an unprecedented age in which falsehoods fly at the speed of light whether it is junk science, junk politics or any other junk, unsubstantiated news. We just love to be shocked and vent our outrage. All of this multiplies exponentially to fill devices we carry 24/7.

In his book, Truth Worth Telling, famous journalist Scott Pelley tells the story of how he tested the process for distribution of misinformation and junk news:

“With Vidmar’s help, we purchased five thousand bots from a vendor in Russia. Most anyone can do this. Our five thousand bots cost only a few hundred bucks. The bots were programmed to automatically create false user profiles for themselves. Ours stole head shot photos, randomly, from the internet and automatically wrote little biographies for themselves. Because of the way our bots were programmed, most of them went to soccer moms. All of this took half an hour or so. Now we had five thousand Twitter accounts masquerading as real people. On my actual Twitter account, I tweeted, “What happens when 60 Minutes investigates fake news?” Normally, I would expect a few dozen retweets from real people over a period of hours.  But Vidmar set our bots loose with instructions to retweet anything I tweeted. He punched the Return key.  ‘There you go,’ he said. ‘Now you’ve got 3,200 retweets right there. Now it’s 4,400.” The numbers raced higher and within one minute, the reach of my tweet was 9,000 percent higher than normal.”

Take this into consideration. With this process, you can spread falsehood at a geometric rate and influence the prejudice and motivation of the reading public in any direction you want. It is lightning fast. On the other hand, true journalism has much in common with the scientific method. In true journalism, you don’t care what the results are as long as they are true. There is no ulterior motive. Independent news sources that subscribe to SPJ and like professional associations are the most likely to tell it how it really is. Unfortunately, most readers go-to sources that follow their prejudice and motivated thinking to enforce what they want the news to say, and they think this is being independent-minded. I suppose it is, independent-minded on false premise coming junk and fake news. Ultimately, this will be the downfall of democracy, relying on false premises by the majority.


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