If anyone had wondered if the Russian political warfare was continuing – it is, as the following articles reveal.
The good news is that Deb is continuing her series, providing some excellent practical advice on how to deal with it:
Deb Galentine series / Part 3:
The conclusion of the last post queried, “How are we to know who to believe, who to trust, where to get the correct information, and how to avoid or stop the propaganda?” I could write a door-stop worthy book on those questions alone, but I’ll attempt to condense some suggestions here. If readers have other suggestions, please share so we can all learn from each other.
The most useful tool for avoiding propaganda is to not access it from propaganda venues. The largest purveyor of propaganda, the Internet, naturally contains the largest targeted groups— social media users. Social media outlets with the largest user bases, listed in order from the most to fewer users, are as follows: Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, QQ, QZone, Doujin/Tik Tok, Sina Weibo, Twitter, Reddit, Baidu Tienba, Skype, LinkedIn, Viber, Snapchat, LINE, Pinterest, and Telegram. Currently approximately 2.5 billion people use some form (or forms) of social media, every platform being a propaganda target.
Pew Research claims that 62% of adults in the USA read news on social media, most often via Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.
Some social media sites carry more propaganda than others and up until Congress held oversight hearings, social media sites showed little concern for vetting the content they published. After buyers paid up (whether it be in US dollars or rubles masquerading as American money from Russian PayPal accounts), they could post most anything they wanted so long as they didn’t violate the TOS agreements of each platform. Lying is not a TOS violation on any social media platform.
Common sense might tell us that social media is not the best place for acquiring our news, but if we insist on doing so then we must learn to check the sources of that news. Credible news sites require professional journalistic integrity; the reporting must be accurate, fair, and thorough. It must show respect for the subjects and people included in reports. The journalist and the publishing unit must be as independent as possible, free from conflicts of interest. Journalists must be transparent and accountable; they must be able to admit their mistakes and correct them.
Every credible news source publishes site information about who they are including their physical addresses, contact numbers and email addresses, information about their journalists and editors, if there’s a parent company and who it is. In other words, the more information a new site carries about itself, the better. Look for an “About” page. If you read, “This site is for entertainment purposes,” you’re on the wrong site for credible news. News consumers need to know who is feeding their brains.
Check out your local newspapers. These are the journalists who watch and report on the news that is most likely to directly impact you, personally. If you find that their biases (either left or right) hold too much sway over their work, try a different hometown newspaper in a nearby city or even across the country. Many have noteworthy national reputations for quality reporting.
Look for award-winning newspapers. Every year since 1971, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDN) has honored “outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards.” Their Code of Ethics stands as their determining criteria for issuing awards of excellence. Browse their site to find the best of the best:
Most local newspapers and award-winning newspapers have digital websites where readers can access at least some of the news for free. If you like what you’re reading, subscribe. To attain a well-rounded base of news, subscribe to two or three different sources. It’s important to support quality news reporting.
Read NPR— National Public Radio. A small amount of your tax dollars (and hundreds of marathon pledge drives, corporate underwriters, educational institutions, etc.) pay for it and these people are some of the most dedicated and self-sacrificing journalists in the business. If you find stories that you’d like to discuss with your social media friends, post them on Facebook or Twitter. It’s often better to bring credible news to the platforms than it is trying to find credible news on the platforms. And if you enjoy NPR, send them a regular donation, please.
This article lists some of the best credible news sites on the Internet today:
It’s not necessary to completely abandon social media platforms in pursuit of excellence in news reporting. Keep in mind that most of all these outlets have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages as well. If you want to fact check information you don’t trust, go to these sites:
The more honest and truthful news people read, the less swayed they become by propaganda. Propaganda not only shreds the truth, it makes people lose trust and doubt themselves. As we learn more solid facts and see the world as it is, the more inclined we are to share that information.
However, when we see propaganda shared by others, we must all muster the courage to point it out. Most of us have been guilty at one time or another of posting something to social media that isn’t quite right or is simply a raging piece of propaganda. At those times it’s desirable to have good friends (or family) around to point it out or to put it in context. The best way to avoid the embarrassment of posting fake stuff is to fact-check it first.
Memes are often the most offending vector of false quotes. Toss those quotes into a Google search and almost instantaneously, you’ll find out if it’s correct. If it’s true and you like it— go ahead and post it. But if you amplify a message that is untrue, you become an unwitting propagandist and you help make the Internet a more treacherous place for all of us to try to navigate.
Avoiding propaganda may take a bit of effort at first, but the more it’s done, the easier it becomes. (If you stick with AP or Reuters you’ll rarely go wrong; these are the wire services that other reporters use.) Amplifying factual news articles helps drown out propaganda.
Keep in mind that propaganda can be a lot more fun, in some strange ways, than honest journalism, especially for those who embrace drama. Propaganda touches us emotionally. It can make us furious, happy, depressed, sad, joyful, and angry. That is by design— propaganda appeals to the emotions. When you become emotional, you can’t think as clearly. Emotional involvement allows propaganda to seep into our minds easier.
Honest, credible journalism appeals to the intellect, so we all must know how to think. And that leads me to education. The most important gift of any democracy is educating its people. Without education, democracy dies. Uneducated people with no understanding of how to think are the perfect subjects for propaganda and dictatorships.
When my children were young, I bought them a record featuring Steve Allen. It was titled “How To Think,” and it turned out to be one of the best items I ever bought— for them as well as for myself. Originally recorded in 1962, it’s now quite dated. It’s a little cheesy and sexist. But the information it imparts is just as timely now as it was then.
In 1962, our country faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. Luckily, we had leaders who knew how to think so that we got through that tense standoff without blowing the world apart. Would we be so lucky now? Do we have leaders who know how to think? In response to those questions, I think we might not and we don’t.
One of the myriad good qualities of the Internet is the ability to save and categorize important items so that search tools can find them. Someone who knows how to think uploaded Steve Allen’s “How To Think” recording to YouTube and in so doing, a gift from the past can today remind us and teach our children important lessons that we can use to save our democracy.
(Unfortunately, time can take a toll on vinyl so there some skipping that occurs in these recordings from time to time. This album can be found on eBay sometimes, if you’d like your own copy.)
Here are the 9 Rules of “How to Think.” I added the 10th.
- Calm your emotions.
- Understand the difference between fact and opinion.
- Look for the evidence before making up your mind. (Scientific)
- Don’t kid yourself. Tell the truth to yourself, as well as to others.
- Understand the difference between the Concrete and the Abstract.
- Use words carefully. Be tolerant. Don’t jump to conclusions.
- Remember that no two things are ever the same. Within each group resides individuals.
- Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Be open to new information.
- Much truth is relative.
- Grow a sense of humor.
As the saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” We can fight social media propaganda, if we all work together.