Sunday, September 5, 2010

Successful Conservative Disinformation

If you say something over and over again, a lot of people will think it is true. This is being used incredibly successfully by conservative media. A couple of examples:

Recent polls show that over 20% of Americans incorrectly believe President Obama is a Musliim. This is up substantially since he took office! President Obama has attended church for decades, and has been filmed leaving church with his family in DC. During the primary campaign, video clips of controversial statements by his pastor (pastors are Christian, imams are Muslim) nearly cost him the election -- yet over 20% of Americans believe he is Muslim. Incredible, but very helpful for Republicans in an election year.

The community organization Acorn was destroyed by a video, played endlessly on Fox News, seeming to show two conservative activists dressed like 1970s-exploitation-film pimp and hooker being assisted by Acorn staff in prostitution and human trafficking activities. When the California DA subpoenaed the full film, a different story emerged. First, you never see the outlandish costumes and Acorn workers in the same clip, because they were never in the same room. The outlandish costumes were used to generate footage then removed before interacting with Acorn personnel. There was one slip on the hidden camera where the 'pimp' showed his sleeve -- of a pin striped dress shirt. Footage of Acorn employees 'helping' in human trafficking turned out to be a fraud as well. In one case the Acorn employee pumped the activists for as much information as possible then maneuvered them into using Tijuana for their transmit point. As soon as the activists left the office he called his friend on the Tijuana human trafficking squad who contacted his counterpart in San Diego. Had this been a real pimp he would have gone to jail. The actual result, the Acorn employee doing exactly the right thing lost his job.

The final example has a happy ending, sort of, and points the way towards combating these lies. Again, Fox News played a heavily edited video endlessly, but this time got caught. The video was of a black government employee giving a speech to the NAACP talking about not helping a white farmer. The employee was fired that day. The next day the whole tape came out and it became clear that she was actually setting the scene for an object lesson in inter-racial harmony. In fact, she did help the white farmer and they became friends as well.

There are two lessons:

  • Never fire anyone because of a video you see on Fox News.
  • When you hear lies, counter them quickly. Otherwise they fester and we bleed.