I came across an article on Facebook today with a headline that stated Russian officials admit they were in contact with the Trump campaign before the election. It’s a headline that immediately creates an emotional response.
That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Media companies spend enormous sums of money testing headlines and content to determine how to get maximum value and viewers. It’s business.
Remember, anyone can make a claim. It’s not illegal to lie. It’s not illegal to mislead. Just because a Russian official makes a claim, that DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE. Russia stands to benefit a great deal by instigating unrest and discord in America. We should take nothing they say at face value, because they benefit from our confusion.
Instead of an emotional response, what if we react with skepticism and reason? Ask questions. Is the information true? What is the corroborating evidence? What are the indisputable facts? What is the source? Is the source intentionally biased? Who stands to benefit if we believe the statement at face value? What is its purpose? Is it intended to inform or to sway opinion? Is it investigative reporting, analysis, or propaganda? Think! Don’t just read a headline and get pissed off. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s too easy to click that Like button and move on. Thinking requires discipline and calm.
This particular article was posted by an admittedly left-leaning publication. That doesn’t mean it’s not credible. There are plenty of highly credible sources on both sides of the political spectrum. But it does indicate a likely bias. And bias can skew the interpretation of events in misleading ways, so keep that in mind.
Whatever the truth may be, the point to remember is this: don’t believe everything you see on Facebook, and take a moment to reflect on whatever it is you do read. There are plenty of think tanks flooding Facebook with highly suggestive but not entirely true “news” stories, because they understand how the algorithms will lock you into their message.
We are being constantly manipulated, by brands, by governments, by politicians, by religious institutions, by our own friends and family. It happens. It’s nothing new. The art of propaganda is alive and well. And it won’t stop any time soon. All I’m suggesting is that you think about what you see.
We’re allowed to be biased. We’re each allowed to have opinions. But we do ourselves a disservice when we base our opinions on misinformation, a dismissal of fact, or even a lack of consideration for the viewpoints of those who disagree with us. We must validate and support our opinions with reliable information and reasonable counterarguments if we expect anyone to give our opinions any consideration.
That goes for all of us.
Also published on Medium.