#FakeNews- The Weaponization of Information

For many years, pundits and public relations interests have attempted to sway or influence public opinion to help or hurt a particular cause. This is nothing new to governments, the people they serve, or to advertising interests in the private sector. The fact that a catch-phrase has now suddenly entered the lexicon has people outraged on both sides of the political spectrum. Journalists and the press have come under fire in a new war on public opinion.

 

During wartime, the use (or misuse) of images and ideals have shaped public opinion by the use of propaganda. To this day, we see this process played out in print, advertising, and governmental policy in countries of all political persuasions around the world. Until recently, propaganda and disinformation campaigns have been kept in the shadows and not openly discussed by Western governments or journalists, except in passing. Propaganda has long been a tool, the success of which depends almost entirely upon control of the media.

Disinformation has long been a part of advertising. Everything from product labeling and ingredients to health claims or product benefits have been manipulated and paid for multiple times over in this country. For decades consumers were at the mercy of a common law standard known as Carpe Diem or “let the buyer beware”. Issues such as fraud, unsafe products or packaging, truth in advertising, and other questionable business practices were finally addressed in the United states with the creation of the Federal Trade Commission in 1914.

 

Other agencies of government have been formed and empowered over the years with one common goal. The protection of the populace and the assurance that our government is ultimately looking out for our best interests, regardless of politics. Where once it was assumed that the federal government was the last bastion of TRUTH and the defender of the PEOPLE, that assumption now has been permanently torn asunder.

 

 

We don’t write about politics at BTR. We write about injustice and we write about our society and issues that threaten us all. When politics threaten us, as citizens, we are compelled to respond and to speak out. We cannot be worried by partisan issues or whether we might offend someone in the process due to their political leanings. Simply stated: any assault on truth affects us all.

 

When truth comes under attack, it’s not just journalists that suffer. Our entire process of information dissemination takes a hit. Cognitive dissonance is an extremely valuable tool, utilized by those that would look to confuse and dissuade. Truth be told there are a multitude of fringe “journalists” and factions that will always lurk around the periphery of the campfire. “The truth is what you make of it” has never been more alive. Or more open to manipulation.

The business of disinformation is nothing new. Journalists and watchdog organizations have battled to expose public relations campaigns for decades. In 2016, we saw a seismic shift to the landscape. A new term was born in “weaponized information” or the “information weaponization”. The issue in modern day information gathering/ dissemination is not simply related to a slant or possible personal bias being injected into the process. The issue we now face is which “news” outlet do we trust, and why?

 

People have been sensitive to editorializing and philosophical leanings of news outlets for a number of years. The fight for the hearts and souls of middle class America, once fought over the airwaves, took another step with cable outlets, only to culminate in social media wars now being waged in real time. Where once we had caricatures and talking heads, these people have been replaced with radicalized subversives, often based off-shore and paid pennies per post or tweet. The existence of concerted social media “attacks” has only recently entered the mainstream consciousness.

Global Fake News and Defamation Symposium

To this point we are looking at this issue from the perspective of open-minded, relatively educated information or “news” consumers. Imagine, if you will, less educated or less engaged newspaper, cable news, or social media types. Let’s be honest, a vast majority of society now passively absorbs news or information of any type. If something is not job related, we tend to categorize or prioritize our needs and attention span. People looking to take advantage of this phenomena are everywhere. From your local grocer tracking your buying habits to your state DMV selling your private information to the highest bidder.

This passive absorption of information is the new battleground and people need to be aware. While it has been demonstrated that our opinions, buying habits, and votes are available for sale, shouldn’t we, as consumers, be able to make informed decisions? This brings us back to #FakeNews and who or whom is making such an accusation. If your government openly lies to you, without repercussion, how do we, as news consumers react? Polls continue to say that many are not aware of the phenomenon and readily accept whatever they see on CNN, Fox News, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

Once passive news organizations are now reacting with renewed vitriol and determination. People that have dedicated their lives to investigative efforts or searching out news have at once been seemingly dismissed by those that carelessly claim “fake news”. Journalists on the front lines deal with issues, they place their lives on the line, they vet sources, and go through an editorial process. Writers and editors make mistakes all the time. Some may even be biased. The whole world is biased to some degree. Hello reality. The problem comes when political figures attack the First Amendment and attempt to destabilize or otherwise undermine a free press.

How did we get here and how do we, as a society fight back? We at BTR are going to be taking a look at this topic in the weeks to come. We applaud free speech and will do our part to remain impartial. We urge everyone to look at/ search out impartial news outlets. The truth will always win.

 

The truth has taken a huge hit from many sides in 2017. Here’s to a fresh start or even, can you imagine, a New Year’s resolution. Many have reported being “gutted” by these attacks on the truth. Here’s to raising awareness and shining the light on TRUTH for 2018 and beyond.

 

Global Fake News and Defamation Symposium

 

 

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