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Author Topic: Fossil Fuel Propaganda Modus Operandi  (Read 14890 times)

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Re: Fossil Fuel Propaganda Modus Operandi
« Reply #180 on: December 19, 2017, 05:24:18 pm »

December 19, 2017

How Did We Wind Up in a Post-Truth World? And What Can Be Done About It?

From coal’s astroturfing online to an artificial intelligence’s both-sides equivocation, when we talked about denial in the age of AI last week, things didn’t look promising. Fortunately, the December issue of the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition is here! It’s a special edition, focused on a lengthy article and featuring nine responses, all offering some help navigating misinformation in the post-truth age, with an eye towards technology.

Given the importance of the matter and depth of the research, and that all but the initial paper are behind a paywall, this will be the first in a rare three-part roundup. We felt it fitting to end this post-truth year with a rumination on our post-truth past.

Our journey through the truthiness landscape starts with a target article by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K.H.Ecker and John Cook, summarizing the state of scholarship regarding how the public deals with misinformation and offering some suggestions about how to address the problem. The authors argue that key to surviving in this new “post-truth” landscape is “technocognition,” or the combination of psychological principles and technological solutions.

For those who want a crash course in the tenets Lewandowsky, Ecker and Cook’s piece is based on, see The Debunking Handbook. But the three authors move past the summary to a much more interesting analysis:  they argue that American society must look at the socio-political context of fake news to fully understand its impacts and solutions, expanding the current focus from online interactions to the full IRL experience.

“The post-truth problem is not a blemish on the mirror,” they write. Instead, “the problem is that the mirror is a window into an alternative reality.” In this reality, elites and their evidence, like the multiple independent lines of research proving climate change is caused by human activities, are cast aside in favor of socially shared alt-news. The election of Donald Trump shows just how these misinformation ecosystems have moved from the fringe corners of the internet into the mainstream.

But the creation of these new realities is not a bipartisan problem: rather, it’s a curiously conservative phenomenon. Whether it’s a NASA-run child slave colony on Mars or the decades-old conspiracy around the UN’s plans for a global government or climate change being a Chinese hoax, the authors advise on the need to consider misinformation through “the lens of political drivers that have created an alternative epistemology that does not conform to conventional standards of evidentiary support.”

This is a fancy way of saying that sometimes conservative leaders just make bullshit up and people believe them. While this reckoning may seem new, the authors demonstrate that it’s been a long time coming (Karl Rove’s admission that the Bush administration actors “create[d] our own reality” is a particularly poignant example). The authors’ reference that Republicans “have moved towards the right in a manner unprecedented since the 1880s” follows with the fact that the right appears to be more susceptible to the pseudo-profound bullshit philosophical nonsense we’ve talked about before.

One important effect of creating alternate realities on social media, the authors explain,  is the invention of intense, imaginary conflict. Did scientists really discuss manipulating data in hacked emails? Of course not, but arguing about it makes for good TV! Fanning the hot flames of these conflicts, in turn, pushes politicians towards extremism. While nominees have traditionally hewed to the center for the largest possible share of votes, modern politicians now focus on their echo chamber to rile up the base. In this new post-truth world, “lying is not only accepted, it is rewarded,” Lewandowsky, Ecker and Cook write. “Falsifying reality is no longer about changing people's beliefs, it is about asserting power.”

These concepts make it crystal clear that climate denial is not an attempt to build a base of knowledge contrary to the consensus. Rather, the authors write, climate denial is “a political operation aimed at generating uncertainty in the public's mind in order to preserve the status quo and to delay climate-change mitigation.”

So how do we get people (conservatives) to care about truth and reality again? Technocognition might just have some answers. 

But, uh… what is that? Mind melds with a Mac? Uploading our consciousness into the Matrix? Studying climate change while listening to the latest techno jams? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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