back to article Facebook Fake News won it for Trump? That's a Zombie theory

Facts all come with points of view Facts don't do what I want them to Talking Heads The internet is filled with things that aren’t true, the world discovered this week. Gosh. Who would have thought it? The propagation of bogus “news” through social networks is the latest "blame anyone except us" theory to account for the …

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  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

    There was a post-fact presidential candidate who changed his mind on anything and everything depending on which day it was (sometimes even which part of the speech he was) and post-fact sources supported him. Well, I guess we're going to find out.

    Meanwhile, 4-chan is flagellating itself. Not so funny now, eh, 4-chan?

    Back in Rightpondia, a week or so ago, one politician (I forget the name, forgive me) said that they were bothered because the three High Court judges that blocked the referendum result, as if it wasn't beholden to politicians to follow the law when making referendum promises or indeed have a plan which backs up a referendum promise. The judges didn't even block it, they just said that in Rightpondia, the Rightpondian Parliament must vote on matters which affect domestic law.

    The next day, the dying mainstream media filled their front pages with bile which had nothing to do with the legal argument and everything to do with monkeys flinging shit at something they don't like.

    Post-fact and post-logic never struck me as good ways to run things.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

      Dan 55,

      Your comment on the UK court decision on Brexit actually illustrates both points. Sure there was a lot of rage out there, and some pretty unpleasant comments on the judges.

      On the other hand, there's a context to that.

      Quite a few people in the media, and even a few politicians who ought to know better, had spent the preceeding months saying how the people who voted to leave the EU were too stupid to make that decision - and so Parliament should override the referendum result. So obviously a ruling (on a completely contestable constitutional point) to give power to Parliament under those circumstances got a few people over-excited. I guess this is a symptom of a breakdown of trust.

      We are in a bit of a constitutional tizzy. Most MPs supporter remain. Our constitutional position is clear that referenda are advisory, Parliament is sovereign - and no future Parliament can be bound by the decisions of a previous one. The government has the legal right to negotiate treaties, but only Parliament can legislate. So at the moment we're having lots of fun trying to work out who does what,when. All interacting with the fact that the electorate are almost split down the middle, and whatever we decide isn't entirely in our own hands anyway, as the rest of the EU get a large say on our future relationship.

      My solution is that everyone calm down, and get a sense of proportion. The elite who lost realise that a lot of this is the result of their own actions, and maybe they ought to listen a bit more, and not just talk to each other. It would also really help if they stop calling everyone who disagrees with them stupid. But on the other hand, the insurgents could also do with calming the fuck down. Stop calling everyone who opposes them traitors (or evil or whatever) and perhaps have a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake.

      Perhaps though it's just because I've just completed my post lunch cuppa and piece of cake that I'm feeling so generous. Maybe the rage will kick in again, once I've talked to a few more customers this afternoon...

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

        Absolutely agree with all of that apart from one slight niggle ... "the elite who lost" suggests that it was not an elite who won.

        1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?@JohnHWoods

          I very nearly posted the same as you but then realised that in my local pub *all* the leavers have racist opinions. Sad but true, I am at a loss to feel happy about any part of this meltdown of society :(

          1. TheFinn

            Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?@JohnHWoods

            I concur. It may seem a glib explanation, but it doesn't make it any less true that xenophobia was a large factor in how people voted - look how many St George's have gone up on honest-to-god flagpoles at the end of people's gardens. Racism reimagined as politics.

            If you aren't happy with your lot, or that of your children, there's one way to change it, and it's the same one as it's always been - EDUCATION. Educate yourself better.

            Denigrating foreigners is easier, though, and is more compatible with getting pissed, innit?

            1. mythicalduck
              Unhappy

              @TheFinn Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

              I concur. It may seem a glib explanation, but it doesn't make it any less true that xenophobia was a large factor in how people voted - look how many St George's have gone up on honest-to-god flagpoles at the end of people's gardens. Racism reimagined as politics

              I saw an article about a jersey being sold on Amazon saying "Were #1" referring to britain, and how it can't spell "We're" (Ironically, the article also missed an apostrophe in one of their words), and whilst the article was painting it out to be some "xenophobic" statment, I found it a little sad that we, as Brits, don't seem to be allowed any sort of national pride without being condemed as racist.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              look how many St George's have gone up on honest-to-god flagpoles at the end of people's gardens

              Surely St George's cross flags are celebrating foreigners? Well celebrating one foreigner, at least.

          2. WatAWorld

            *all* the leavers have racist opinions ?

            Pretty much every human on the planet has racist opinions of some kind or another.

            The thing is we overlook racist opinions we agree with on the basis of 'facts' and 'statistics'.

            Like that today. Like that in the 1930s. Like that during the crusades. Like that in the iron age. Probably like that in the stone age too. People overlook their own racist bigotry because they see it as factually and statistically valid.

            The question is what actions they take based on them? Most regular people aren't involved in hiring or selecting who goes to which school. Racism is more dangerous when educated people and people with power engage in it. And so many people with BAs (and in the UK, PPEs) are treated as if they are educated in knowledge.

            Education in promulgating establishment and counter establishment dogma and myth is not education in knowledge.

            I'm using the international English definition of race, not the Merriam-Webster definition of skin color. Taking skin color as race has been widely and totally discredited by science, since skin color varies randomly too much.

        2. HAL-9000

          Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

          ' Have to agree with that, same's true on the other side of the pond. Finally the only winners will be fat cats fuelled by fat tax cuts.

      2. WatAWorld

        And you've got a panel of supposed 'disinterested and impartial' judges who maybe

        And you've got a panel of supposed 'disinterested and impartial' judges who maybe aren't.

        It is pretty hard to be disinterested on an issue where you think the value of your investments and landholdings will be greatly affected by the decision, let alone the investments and landholdings of all your family members and friends.

        The number of junior UK judges who'd be impoverished enough to meet the disinterested and impartial bar on the issue would be zero, let alone UK Supreme Court judges who have a lifetime of possessions and friendships.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And you've got a panel of supposed 'disinterested and impartial' judges who maybe

          "And you've got a panel of supposed 'disinterested and impartial' judges who maybe aren't." There is no evidence at all that they were not as impartial and disinterested as anyone can be.

          The most basic principle of British constituitional law is the sovereignty of parliment. when entering the EU was the result of acts of parliment and when the act enabling referendum passed by parliment explicitly said that the referendum was advisory it is very hard to see how any other legal outcome was possible. The governments appeal is for political reasons, perhaps delay, rather than any expectation the result will be different. The only decision which would have merited criticism was one that undermined democracy and the rule of law by saying parliment did not need to be involved even then it should not have been in the terms that were used.

          Criticism of judges as traitors for making judgements thare are disliked and groundless accusations of judicial bias undermine the rule of law. If they become commonplace it is dangerous.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Does democracy work if people based their vote on lies^Wpost-facts?

      I humbly submit perhaps the problem is that anyone that gets their news exclusively from Facebook shouldn't have the franchise in the first place as Heinlein would say. Its just too bad it would take some pretty severe government interference in Facebook and other companies businesses to get said information. Not that the US government isn't doing so already but it would tip their hand.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'The answer, apparently, is that to stop people clicking on crazy stuff, you take the crazy stuff away from people. You force Facebook to stop carrying anything crazy in a section labelled "News"... people carry on sharing the crazy stuff anyway"'

    Maybe it's the people who are crazy. After all the "stuff" doesn't originate itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Maybe it's the people who are crazy"

      Some are. But 61 million?

      Or maybe Hillary was a crap candidate, and both parties are massively out of touch.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        "Maybe it's the people who are crazy"

        Some are. But 61 million?

        You never heard about Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds? Still worth a read...

        1. asdf Silver badge

          tl;dr version

          >Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds?

          What a pompous way to say none of us are as dumb as all of us.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: tl;dr version

            What a pompous way to say none of us are as dumb as all of us.

            To find the IQ of a crowd, work out the lowest IQ present and divide it by the number of people in the crowd.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You never heard about

          and you forgot to mention The Mass Psychology of Fascism, possibly more relevant, yes?

          AC for fear of provoking DV's from AO trolls

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: You never heard about

            AC for fear of provoking DV's from AO trolls
            Devota Virgines from Adults Only? The mind boggles...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >Or maybe Hillary was a crap candidate,

        Trump is a giant sick joke loudly formally announcing the decline of US influence to the world but have to admit Hillary did remind me of the bad woman governor in the movie Black Sheep. Especially in the movie when she replies to a very uncomfortable question about her ethics by saying but look my opponent's brother is a big dumb idiot (or simply Chris Farley).

      3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        > "Maybe it's the people who are crazy"

        Yes, that's true, it's just that normally there are slightly more sane people voting than crazy people. This year they stayed home.

      4. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Or maybe Hillary was a crap candidate both candidates were crap, and both parties are massively out of touch.

        FTFY as I saw pure, unadulterated BS coming forth as news from both sides.

      5. TheDillinquent

        Bernie would have trounced Trump but sadly the Democrats were too busy pushing the Clinton agenda.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      "you take the crazy stuff away from people."

      That logically means closing Facebook, Twitter, most of Murdoch controlled news, Buzzfeed etc ...

      Maybe even state censorship Russia / NK / China style. Careful what you wish for.

    3. BillG Silver badge
      Pint

      Some people would rather visit a dentist without anaesthetic, than be seen to be agree on a point made by somebody that they would usually disagree with.

      Excellent point.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      This has been going on a lot longer than the recent election. Prior elections we got our fake news from "mailing lists" by random people thinking we 'gave a crap" about some made up BS. Then Twitter came along and these people migrated there and the media started picking up on some of this. One of the first that recall making the major news was "Obama is changing the oath given by the military to swear "allegiance to the President" instead of "defending the Constitution". Things have gone downhill from there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Selected reading from outside of the echo chamber

        5 instances where fake news caused real tragedies

        http://www.infowars.com/times-when-the-mainstream-media-created-fake-news-and-people-died-as-a-result/

        The professor who generated the "hit list" of fake news sites.

        http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-18/meet-leftist-professor-who-wrote-hit-list-fake-news-sites

        Facebook, Twitter and Google are highly concerned by these new media wars. "Fake news sources" correctly predicted the US election results and the mood of the country. It was completely unfair since they weren't burdened with an agenda.

        Their secret? Instead of using flawed polling methods and fabricating support for a pre-selected candidate, they reported objective facts:

        Tens of thousands or people attending Trump rallies on a daily basis.

        That the full broadcasts of Trump speeches (instead of the inflammatory sound bites) were actually quite inspiring.

        Almost no one was attending HRC's sporadic rallies.

        Well founded concerns about HRC's health and dubious financing practices.

        The never-ending questions about her trustworthiness as a candidate and politician

        Documented video evidence of DNC-paid troublemakers attacking Trump supporters and disrupting his rallies.

        The scandals surrounding top-level DNC operators, how they do business and what they thought of their support base. All of which resulted in "real" resignations and dismissals.

        The electorate then gradually turned off the evening news, discussed politics with their friends, and continued to read more "fake news" and real wikileaks.

        To anyone with a working brain the outcome was obvious. People went out and voted for Trump.

        All the while thinking:

        Why is the MSM lying to us?

        Why do they hate us so much?

        Do they think we are stupid?

        Now these same viewers are watching paid trouble-makers protest the election results by rioting in the streets.

        Many skeptics (like me) insisted on cross-checking these "fake news sites" against MSM sources.

        After clearing away the obviously barmy stuff, it soon became clear just how extensive, concerted, biased and distorted MSM election reporting actually was. The fake news sites also reported such anomalies. Thereby creating a self-perpetuating truth to reality loop.

        As Oscar Wilde once said: "The truth is never pure and rarely simple".

        AND TO MAKE IT EVEN WORSE, the "fake" news sites are now stealing the advertising clicks bought and paid for by these discredited MSM sites' advertisers. Oh, the irony........

        All to the benefit of the fake news sites that permitted millions of people to see the actual Trump instead of the bogeyman caricature fabricated by the Democratic propaganda machine.

        As Brexit and the Trump election victory now prove, both the educated and less-educated sheeple are waking up. Some are even becoming annoyed and vocal.

        But most are quietly waiting for January 21st.

        And yet, the scorned establishment continues to tell people what they should and shouldn't read.

        Meanwhile, in the UK, they will soon be recording everything you read online (thanks to the newly passed Snoopers charter 2). I guess that way if the UK electorate strays too far off the reservation, it can be gently coaxed back by "proper" journalism (or water cannons).

        Good luck with that.

        As an objective observer, I think the dumbing-down process has failed completely or only worked on certain political elites and their mind-controlled followers.

        IMHO, I don't see this ending well for the mainstream media outlets until they join the fringe and begin reporting real facts and news again.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Post-truth

    In the past, lies were more subtle - Propaganda was a version of the truth, spun by politicians to influence and coerce a population.

    Now politics is just bare-faced lies even in the overwhelming evidence of facts.

    The US and UK have created a population that is:

    - kept busy by being overworked, underpaid and overtaxed

    - kept scared with horror stories of terrorists and immigration

    - poorly educated, taught by rote instead of being taught critical thinking

    - fed on a constant diet of digital distractions

    - encouraging confirmation bias for their ill-informed opinions

    Then current population are now easy to manage with lies.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Post-truth -> Browser Extension 'Fake News' filter

      Possible partial solution...

      Using the same design concepts as browser extension Ad Blockers, it would seem to be very straightforward to implement a scheme where information originating from Fake News sources would either be blocked, or highlighted and the links redirected to a debunking page.

      Inevitably, any crowd sourced vote scheme to categorize 'fake' news would be hijacked by bots. So it'll need reliable human oversight (Wiki style).

      ...Thus it'll fragment into Left and Right echo chambers.

      Bah, forget it. It's hopeless...

      Move to Canada instead. More moderate politics and 'free' health care.

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Post-truth -> Browser Extension 'Fake News' filter

        The issue isn't blocking stories from domains like theonion.com. The issue is advertisements.

        For example, if I log into Farcebook, the right edge of my browser shows two ads both with misleading verbiage, one that implies that Clint Eastwood is dead, and another that implies a football player "needs prayers". Both are fake news clickbait generated by Farcebook itself.

        But Andrew is right - the pageview data does not support the idea that appreciable numbers of people ever see this crap.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Post-truth -> Browser Extension 'Fake News' filter

        >Move to Canada instead.

        3800 hours of sunshine a year where I am at (plus no need for a winter jacket). Not going to find anywhere close to that in Canada.

        1. find users who cut cat tail

          Re: Post-truth -> Browser Extension 'Fake News' filter

          > 3800 hours of sunshine a year where I am at

          That would probably kill me in less than a year. I would even opt for 3800 hours of rain and snow rather than that. The so-called bad weather can be dealt with using reasonably protective functional clothing and then it can be quite enjoyable. Sunshine and heat on the other hand, are a terrible pervasive things you cannot really hide from.

      4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Post-truth -> Browser Extension 'Fake News' filter

        DING DING DING...

        BBC Fake news detector plug-in developed:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38181158

        Took only "an hour" to create. LOL...

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Post-truth

      I agree with everything but the 'overtaxed'. I am a top-rate UK tax payer and I think the level is fair. As my family has had to draw heavily on State services recently (health care), I figure I have paid the right level so that I and those less fortunate than I can be sure loved ones get the medical care they need when they need it.

      I would, though, like the Govt to stop wasting billions on failed IT projects. That does hurt.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Post-truth

        I agree with everything but the 'overtaxed'. I am a top-rate UK tax payer

        It's not you that's overtaxed. It's those that have to pay the same council tax, food, fuel and energy bills as you but earn half your take-home pay.

        If you're a top-rate tax payer, unless you only just fit into that tax bracket, you're more likely to be undertaxed...

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Post-truth

      That description of the population hasn't really changed in centuries, though. OK, maybe tax wasn't something that bothered ordinary folks until the "temporary" introduction of income tax to pay for the Napoleonic wars, but the rest aren't new.

      Every government is accused of screwing up the education system, yet 200 years ago fewer people were literate and numerate. Confirmation bias has always been around, but in the past it just meant that all your mates in the village pub agreed with you that the landowner was a bastard.

      Terorism wasn't a thing, but scare stories about immigration have been around forever, it's just that the "immigrants" were the clan from the next village who ate babies and would steal your daughters.

      If anything, the big difference today is that we all have a bigger view. News from outside our town or village no longer travels at the speed of a horse, we're swamped by it every minute of the day, and we're made to feel that it's important. The apparent scope of the "problems" has expanded.

      Politics today is just as much lies as it ever was, I don't really think things were more subtle in the past. There was nothing subtle about hellfire preachers forecasting eternal damnation for anyone who criticised the church or the King.

      If anything, past control of ordinary folks was based more on fear; transportation or hanging for petty theft, maiming for poaching, etc. No need for subtlety or lies when you could just whack a peasant's hand off for scratching his arse in front of you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Post-truth

      “So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern...Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.” - George Orwell, 1984

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Post-truth

        And we all know how 1984 ends, don't we? Well, those of us who've read it in its entirety, which I'm not convinced is a large fraction of those who quote it.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Post-truth

      @Post-truth

      Yeah what a wonderful world the Boomers have left for us. Now their King Lizard is going to bring the pain. I would rather obey the hypnotoad at this point.

    6. veti Silver badge

      Re: Post-truth

      So let's have a look at your facts, shall we? The US and UK populations are:

      "- kept busy by being overworked, underpaid and overtaxed".

      Overworked? In both countries, the total hours worked are trending down.

      Underpaid? There's a lot to be said about this, but one interesting factoid is that since approximately 2009 (i.e. the end of the global financial crash, and coincidentally the beginning of the Obama presidency), the decline of the middle class in both countries has pretty much stopped.

      Overtaxed? In 1950, the UK's basic rate of income tax was 45%. Now it's 20%, and the trend has been pretty steadily down all that time. In the US the picture is slightly different, but again tax rates have trended downward for most.

      "- kept scared with horror stories of terrorists and immigration" - I'm guessing you don't remember the 1970s, on both fronts.

      "- poorly educated, taught by rote instead of being taught critical thinking" - again, there's an awful lot to be said about this (and an awful lot has been said about it, pretty much every year since the 1970s), but here I'd like to make a meta-point: your entire comment boils down to "we need better people". If we had better people, we wouldn't be having this debate.

      Your last two points I might be prepared to concede, but only if you post some links to back them up so that I know what, specifically, I'm conceding.

      "Then current population are now easy to manage with lies" - umm, syntax aside, what specifically are you claiming is different now as opposed to 40 years ago?

      Your post is itself an excellent example of post-truth politics: it panders to existing prejudices and bias, without being specific about its own meaning, hints at a problem that is inherently unsolvable, and therefore - what? "There are no facts, trust nothing"?

      Wrong.

    7. salamamba too

      Re: Post-truth

      I was taught critical thinking, but then again I went to a grammar school. Is this why so many politicians hate grammar schools?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Post-truth

        If you learnt critical thinking in grammar school, great. But as only about 25% of students went top grammar schools in the 1960s, that leaves 75% of students who probably weren't thought 'worthy' of teaching critical thinking to.

        I'll support grammar schools wholeheartedly the day it's enshrined in law that they only receive say 75% of the funding per capita as schools teaching children with greater need.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amen to that... The MSM is Facebook / Twitter / Google's bitch:

    ....."Social responsibility doesn’t come easily to the internet platforms like Facebook, who ensure they take as little as possible. Like Google News, Facebook wants the benefits that accrue from being a publisher... but none of the costly and tedious drawbacks, like fact-checking, liabilities, or exercising editorial judgement over the placement of material. Sometimes just being honest seems to be excruciatingly painful for The Social Network.

    ....."Professional media outlets stand much to gain from disengaging with social networks completely, and starting their own distribution networks. More than ever, a clickbait world (that is itself riddled with ad fraud), they need new economic models, so their reliance on Facebook falls to zero."

    1. td97402

      Re: Amen to that... The MSM is Facebook / Twitter / Google's bitch:

      AC writes:

      "Like Google News, Facebook wants the benefits that accrue from being a publisher... but none of the costly and tedious drawbacks, like fact-checking, liabilities, or exercising editorial judgement over the placement of material."

      I'll add to that by saying, they also don't want to simply pay the salaries of human beings who might keep a lid on things. All these "disruptive" tech companies are basically just cheap bastards.

  5. Teddy the Bear
    Alert

    Utterly floored that American journalists take a vow of objectivity! I've seen Fox news, and that stuff is a loooooooooooooong way from Objective!

    Or is it only print journalists that take this vow?

    1. cybersaur
      Stop

      This is fake news

      American journalists do NOT take a vow of objectivity. Most of them have no idea what that even means.

    2. Nunyabiznes

      Objectivity

      Did you not see the cheerleading from NYT, et al? If you are going to paint Fox as biased (and it is) then be honest and get a big sprayer and paint all of them.

      The anointing of Hillary by the MSM (- Fox obviously) over Bernie in the primaries and then Trump in the election directly led to a revolt by the plebes against them. It is at least partially the fault of the MSM and the echo chamber thinking of the other "liberal elites" that put Trump over the top.

      FB and other social media "fake news" is a direct, albeit amplified, reflection of traditional news and their failure to remain objective. Some of the stuff printed about Trump in the traditional media was so overblown as to be complete fabrication. Very little was not spun into the worst possible light, and at no time did they give credit where it was due in his charitable contributions and past political stances.

      1. Maty

        Re: Objectivity

        As a matter of interest, during the US election the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made its preference so obvious that it was widely referred to as the 'Clinton Broadcasting corporation'.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Objectivity

          They do take a vow of objectivity i swear - They vow to uphold the objectives of whichever media organisation is paying them!

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