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Still feeling manipulated by social media and cable TV? You are. Big Time

Written By | Jul 28, 2020
feeling manipulated, cable TV, social media

Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with Comically Incorrect. (See link at the end of this article.)*

WASHINGTON –  In excess of 95 percent of what appears on big cable TV media and social media sites is a hard left witches’ brew. It combines left-wing bias, post-colonialist theory, lies, damned lies and pure fabulation. Reasonable people have less and less ways of uncovering real, unbiased facts that enable them to make their own informed decisions. The Stalinist / Maoist left now does that for them, thank you very much. Feeling manipulated much?

If you’re an under-40, college indoctrinated pretend socialist whose knowledge of politics and history dates from the dark days of the hateful Reagan Administration. Then ranges thru the Bushitler Regime and passes through the fundamentally transformative Obama Nirvana before finally running aground during the illegitimate regime of the legitimately elected Orange Man Bad and his totalitarian Nazi cohorts.

(The following is an update to a lengthy and, I hope, a highly useful article I published here just under a year ago. It offers helpful advice from an unusual source — advice that might help at least some readers navigate the treacherous, upcoming US elections this November.)

The essential dishonesty of social media and cable TV news

Today’s social media and cable TV “news” is truly pure entertainment, a kind of CGI mythology for our epically under-informed rising generations. It’s all part and parcel of the end product of a movement that started in the late 1960s. This movement gradually eliminated real, objective reporting. Instead, it chose to favor personality based entertainment shows masquerading as news. They failed to tell listeners that their “reporting” twisted the facts to disguise their real intent: the gradual dissemination of Marxist propaganda. Today, this barely disguised propaganda and political correctness underscores nearly 100 percent of what we encounter on cable TV and the Internet.

How do we cut through this childish gibberish, chatter and blatant propaganda?  Oddly enough, I stumbled upon some extensive and pretty good guidelines from a self-professed “progressive” who’s also fed up with today’s media propagandists, though her notions are rather different than mine.

Here’s my Readers Digest version of Caitlin Johnstone’s article here, along with some of my own commentary, duly referenced. Johnstone rather generously puts her work in the public domain, something I’ve rarely seen these days and something I intend to respect. So I’ll set this piece in such a way that you know what’s by Johnstone and what’s by me.

Escaping the social media and cable TV news disinformation trap

If you want a link to Johnstone’s original article, go ahead. It’s entitled “Thirty-Two Tips For Navigating A Society That Is Full Of Propaganda And Manipulation.” Just click here for the real deal. I’ll provide the link once again at the end of this rather long post. If you are feeling manipulated, by all means read on.

No matter what your political persuasion, Johnstone’s ideas, which I discovered via ZeroHedge, are well worth taking to heart, particularly with Election 2020 fast incoming. No doubt Johnstone and I will negate each other’s votes next November. But following her tips in your own way could help eliminate buyer’s remorse the morning after Election Day. Assuming, of course, that we don’t find the Nation in open, armed rebellion, which I’m very much afraid we will. (But only if Orange Man wins.)

32 Tips for Avoiding Propaganda Hell
1 — Understand the fact that humans are storytelling animals, and that whoever controls the stories controls the humans.

Mental narrative dominates human consciousness; thought is essentially one continuous, churning monologue about the self and what it reckons is going on in its world, and that monologue is composed entirely of mental stories. These stories can and will be manipulated, on an individual scale by people we encounter and on a mass scale by skillful propagandists.

Comment: In other words, it’s all about the dominant “narrative,” generally as expressed on CNN and MSNBC and promoted via Facebook, Twitter, and slightly more subtly, via Google Search and YouTube. The “social networks” and the world’s dominant search engine mold the narrative further. Their ubiquitous censorship board make sure that conservative /  libertarian points-of-view quickly become unavailable to the public. The preferred left-wing, world-government narrative offered by the long-ago co-opted major networks remains. But opposing viewpoints magically vanish, even if they boast viral pageviews. That’s why everyone else feels manipulated.

2 — Be humble and open enough to know that you can be fooled.

Your cognitive wiring is susceptible the same hacks as everyone else, and manipulators of all sorts are always looking to exploit those vulnerabilities. It’s not shameful to be deceived, it’s shameful to deceive people.

Comment: Great advice. Consider all sources to be liars until you can prove otherwise. Pro-left propaganda and the selling of ads is the primary business here. Not the truth. Another reason why you’re feeling manipulated by social media and cable TV.

3 — Watch people’s behavior and ignore the stories they tell about their behavior.

This applies to people in your life, to politicians, and to governments. Narratives can be easily manipulated and distorted in many different ways, while behavior itself, when examined with as much objectivity as possible, cannot be. Pay attention to behavior in this way and eventually you’ll start noticing a large gap between what some people’s actions say and what their words say. Those people are the manipulators. Distrust them.

Comment: By their uncensored tweets ye shall know them.

4 — Be suspicious of people who keep telling you what they are and how they are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about them.

Be doubly suspicious of people who keep telling you what you are and how you are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about you.

Comment: And because we’re all “racists.” Because social media and cable TV say so.

5 — Learn to see how trust and sympathy are used by manipulators to trick people into subscribing to their narratives about what’s going on.

Every manipulator uses trust and/or sympathy as a primer for their manipulations, because if you don’t have trust or sympathy for them, you’re not going to mentally subscribe to their stories. Once you’ve spotted a manipulator, your task is to kill off all of your sympathy for them and your trust in them….”

No comment.

6 — Be suspicious of anyone who refuses to articulate themselves clearly.

Word salading is a tactic notoriously used by abusive narcissists, because it keeps the victim confused and unable to figure out what’s going on. If they can’t get a clear handle on what the manipulative abuser is saying, they can’t form their own solid position in relation to it, and the abuser knows this. Insist on lucid communication, and if it’s refused to you, remove trust and sympathy.

Comment: What Johnstone calls “word salading,” I call “Washingtonspeak.” In either case, the aim is to never, ever answer your question by baffling you with bullshit.

7 — Familiarize yourself with cognitive biases, the glitches in human cognition which cause us to perceive things in a way that is not rational.

Pay special attention to confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and the illusory truth effect. Humans have an annoying tendency to seek out cognitive ease in their information-gathering and avoid cognitive dissonance, rather than seeking out what’s true…

Comment: Pay particular attention to “confirmation bias.” We all do it, given that we have a tendency to believe stuff put out by companies or individuals we know to be on our “side” of the political equation. Since I’m essentially a conservative-to-libertarian animal, I’ll tend to believe Fox News any day. (Most of the time.) I suspect that Johnstone would tilt toward CNN.

That said, I think both of us would check our own gullibility quotient and try to find at least one or two other sources to confirm a given story, just to make sure our own favorites aren’t gilding the lily. In other words, nearly everyone in the media is a liar today at least some of the time, so we need to make sure we’re getting close to the truth before we totally believe our favorites.

8 — Trust your own understanding above anyone else’s.

It might not be perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than letting your understanding be controlled by narrative managers and dopey partisan groupthink, or by literally anyone else in a narrative landscape that is saturated with propaganda and manipulation. You won’t get everything right, but betting on your own understanding is the very safest bet on the table.

Comment: What Johnstone said.

9 — Understand that propaganda is the single most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of our society.

Everyone’s constantly talking about what’s wrong with the world, but hardly any of those discussions are centered around the fact that the public been manipulated into supporting the creation and continuation of those problems by mass media propaganda. …powerful people are constantly manipulating the way we think, act and vote …

Comment: … so ignore the bastards.

10 — Respect the fact that the science of modern propaganda has been in research and development for over a century.

Think of all the military advancements that have been made in the last century to get an idea of how sophisticated this science must now be. They are far, far ahead of us in terms of research and understanding of the methods of manipulating the human psyche toward ends, which benefit the powerful. Don’t underestimate them.

Comment: Read that last sentence again. And look up recent stories about how Google is going all in to subtly manipulate the vote in Election 2020 to absolutely ensure that the results of Election 2016 – i.e., President Trump – never happen again.

11 — Understand that western mass media propaganda rarely consists of full, outright lies. 

At most, such outlets will credulously publish the things that are told to them by government agencies, which lie all the time. More often, the deception comes in the form of distortions, half-truths, and omissions. Pay more attention to … what they’re not saying.

Comment: Read that last sentence above one more time. I created it by slightly editing Johnstone’s original text. The Catholic Church notably divides sin into two categories: sins of COmission and sins of Omission. It’s what politicians and media blow-dries DON’T say that’s often more important than what they do say. Classic example: The editing of Trump’s sensible comments on the Charlottesville tragedy that make him appear to endorse KKK types. That’s a lie. But it now firmly resides in the NEXIS database as the “truth.” If you repeat a lie long enough and loudly enough, it somehow becomes the truth. Always remember this. It’s a particularly effective tool of the leftist propaganda mills.

12 — Put effort into developing a good news-sense, a sense for what’s newsworthy and what’s not.

This takes time and practice, but it lets you see which newsworthy stories are going unreported by the mass media and which non-stories are being overblown to shape an establishment-friendly narrative.

Comment: Yep.

13 — Be patient and compassionate with yourself when it comes to developing your narrative navigating skills.

Like literally any skill set, you’ll suck at it for a while. If you learn you’ve been wrong about something, just take in the new information, adjust appropriately, and keep plugging away.

Comment: Johnstone’s best advice may be hiding here. I’d rephrase this whole thing. I’d tell you to always be an iconoclast. Always be skeptical and always assume there’s a healthy measure of bullshit in everything you watch and read. Because there is.

14 — Find reliable news reporters who have a good sense for navigating the narrative matrix, and keep track of them to orient yourself and stay on top of what’s going on.

Use individual reporters, not outlets; no outlet is 100 percent solid, but some reporters are pretty close on some specific subjects. Click this hyperlink for an article on one way to do build a customized and reliable news stream.

Comment: Johnstone goes on to endorse newsies she chooses to follow via Twitter. That’s a lot of what you’ll find if you click the hyperlink above. Problem is, this is perfectly good advice for progressives. It sucks for conservatives and libertarians. Because Twitter, in particular (also Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) carefully shadow ban, demonetize or outright eliminate non-left material, comments and so forth, curating what the average user sees to favor prog and Marxist stuff only. Conservatives and libertarians will have to work a lot harder and should never rely on popular social media. Or even the badly slipping Matt Drudge lately. For starters, check out Instapundit and Whatfinger at least twice a day. Via these two sites, you can build your own, customized, non-progressive news reference list.

15 — Don’t let paranoia be your primary or only tool for navigating the narrative matrix.

Some people’s only means of understanding the world is to become intensely suspicious of everything and everyone, which is about as useful as a compass, which tells you that every direction is north… Rejecting everything as false leaves you with nothing as true.

Comment: In other words, be an iconoclast and a skeptic. But don’t go over the edge. Paranoia begets conspiracy theories. If you consistently believe the likes of MSNBC, your ability to perceive objective reality vanishes down the drain forever.

16 — Hold your worldview loosely enough that you can change it at any time in the light of new information, but not so loosely that it can be slapped out of your head by someone telling you what to think in a confident, authoritative tone.

As Carl Sagan once said, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

17 — Speaking of confident, authoritative tones, be suspicious of confident, authoritative tones.

It’s amazing how much traction people can get with a narrative just by posturing as though they know that what they’re saying is true, whether they’re an MSNBC pundit or a popular conspiracy Youtuber.

Comment: Yeah, what Johnstone said. Unfortunately, most of the real bloviating comes from the left. Being Marxists at least in spirit, “their truth” is whatever the institutional left tells them that it is. Never believe these supremely self-confident clowns.

18 — Be aware that sociopaths exist. 

Comment: I prefer to use the term shrinkologists currently hate to use: Psychopaths. They do exist, and, hat tip to an old psychology prof, I define them as “loveless, guiltless individuals.” We frequently see them on cable TV and in Hollywood, and they make a lot of money.

19 — Be aware of projection, and be aware of the fact that it cuts both ways.

Unhealthy people tend to project their wickedness onto others, while healthy people tend to project their goodness. Don’t let your goodness trick you into thinking there aren’t monsters who will deceive and manipulate you…

Comment: A lot of what all of us see today is projection.

20 — Be suspicious of those who excessively advocate civility, rules and politeness.

Manipulators thrive on rules and civility, because they know how to manipulate them.

Comment: Ponick’s Corollary: Never, ever allow a leftist crusader to set the premises of an argument. That’s why those on the right often lose. They never see this obvious point. If you allow your opponent to set the terms of the argument, you lose. Always. Most GOPers are horrible in this arena. Which is why they always seem to be losers.

21 — Meditation, mindfulness, self-inquiry and other practices are powerful tools which can help you understand your own inner processes, which in turn helps you understand how manipulators can manipulate you, and how they manipulate others.

Just be sure that you are using them for this purpose, not for escapism as most “spiritual” types do.

Comment: My esteemed spouse is into this stuff, but I’m not. Stay rational and don’t spend too much time in the noumenal realm. It goes over everyone’s head.

22 — Be relentlessly honest with yourself about your own inner narratives and the various ways you engage in manipulation.

Comment: Honestly, I am constantly aware of my own biases, but I don’t let them influence my objectivity. To do so is to avoid reason and logic. This I never do since I rarely believe anything I can’t prove logically.

23 — Understand that truth doesn’t generally move in a way that is pleasing to the ego, i.e. in a way Hollywood scripts are written to appeal to.

Any narrative that points to a Hollywood ending where the bad guy gets karate kicked into lava and the hero gets the girl is manufactured. Russiagate and QAnon are both perfect examples of an egoically pleasing narrative with the promise of a Hollywood ending…

Comment: Self-explanatory and true. Russiagate came into existence as a blatant, elaborate lie promulgated by partisan assholes. QAnon might actually exist as a disinformation system put out by one of our own intelligence agencies, no one can prove it. Both of Johnstone’s cited examples, however, show how propagandists fabricate complicated political narratives to encourage true believers. Like magic, the narrative works more quickly than the brain. Experts, perhaps experts in psy-ops, fabricate such crowd-pleasing narratives. Their posh lifestyles require it.

24 — Try to view the world with fresh eyes rather than with your tired old grown-up eyes, which have taught you to see all this as normal.

Comment: Johnstone’s remarks go off the objective reservation here by endorsing the favorite “causes” of progressives, which are naturally anti-capitalist. I’d advise readers to just keep their eyes open and be open to the possibility of paradigm chance whether good or bad. For example, I sure never thought we’d live in an era where everything America ever did was hateful and “racist.” But here we are.

25 — Know that the truth has no political party, and neither do the social engineers. 

All political parties are used to manipulate the masses in various ways, and nuggets of truth can and do emerge from any of them. Thinking along partisan lines is guaranteed to give you a distorted view. Ignore the imaginary lines between the parties. You may be certain that your rulers do.

Comment: Johnstone possibly doesn’t realize the extent to which this is true. In reality, a large part of the 24/7 hysteria over Donald Trump’s 2016 election was and is the fact that he’s our first genuinely wild-card president. He’s essentially a life-long Democrat who finally couldn’t stand where that party was going and so joined in with what he thought was the Republican Party.

He – and we – should now see that American voters blindly elected and re-elected for two decades a Uniparty to run Congress. Some wits call this Uniparty the “Republicrats.” That quiet fact became the raison d’être for #NeverTrump assholes like Bill Kristol, Mitt Romney et. al. to exist. Since Trump didn’t come up “from the ranks,” he didn’t play the game. They would not recognize him as a true conservative. Worse, he didn’t ask for their blessing. So they and the soyboy members of the GOP now work to drive Trump out of office and block everything he attempts to accomplish. Which makes them not much different from the Socialist party they claim to oppose as well. But plan to vote for this fall.

Trump provides the hapless GOP, aka “The Stupid Party” with a clear path to Congressional victory in 2020. But instead, veteran Republicans are leaving Congress or joining with corrupt Democrats rather than run under Trump’s mantle.

26 — Remain always aware of this simple dynamic: the people who become billionaires are generally the ones who are sociopathic enough to do whatever it takes to get ahead.

This class has been able to buy up near-total narrative control via media ownership/influence, corporate lobbying, think tank funding, and campaign finance, and are thus able to manipulate the public into consenting to agendas which benefit nobody but plutocrats and their lackeys. This explains pretty much every major problem that we are facing right now.

Comment: Well, yeah, it does. Think George Soros, Media Matters, the EU, the destruction of national borders via the importation of hostile individuals who will never assimilate, and you can see the end game here.

27 — Understand that nations are pure narrative constructs; they only exist to the extent that people agree to pretend that they do.

The narrative managers know this, and they exploit the fact that most of us don’t. Take Julian Assange, perfect example: he was pried out of the embassy and imprisoned by an extremely obvious collaboration between the US, UK, Sweden, Ecuador, and Australia, yet they each pretended that they were acting as separate, sovereign nations completely independently of one another.

Comment: I’ve trimmed most of Johnstone’s tangent here, and I’ve never really been sure where Assange stands. Except that, if you look at them, nearly all of Wikileaks’ “breaking news” leaks have involved stolen US intelligence. This was actually quite helpful to our side in Election 2016. But Assange’s most damaging revelations tended to surface when Republicans controlled the White House and / or Congress.

But Johnstone’s notion of “pure narrative constructs” is essentially true. Which is why America’s hard-leftists are trying to tear down our icons (and statues) and redefine our national foundation as inherently evil. That is demonstrably not the case. This is pure, Gramscian, Long March political narrative reconstruction, and it’s almost too late to stop it.

28 — Understand that war is the glue which holds the US-centralized empire together. 

… Without the ability to propagandize the public effectively, our rulers cannot rule.

Comment: What I’ve left here of the original text is true in my opinion. But Johnstone’s diatribe against the military-industrial complex is same old, same old. Yes, there are warmongers in each administration. But it’s only the leftist governments that routinely distract the public from their kleptocracies but blaming it on damn furriners. Diversionary tactics at best. For the average American, however, it’s not the “glue” that holds us together. Careful here. And with the following …

29 — Remember that when it comes to foreign policy, the neocons are always wrong. 

They’ve been so remarkably consistent in this for so long that whenever there’s a question about any narrative involving hostilities between the US-centralized power alliance and any other nation, you can just look at what Bill Kristol, Max Boot and John Bolton are saying about it and believe the exact opposite.

Comment: Kristol, Boot, yeah, they’re turncoats and assholes. That said, however, this is typical left-wing mythology. We always need a political scapegoat. But the progressive left wants to assume that mantle, although they deserve it. I’d ignore 28 and 29 here for the most part. I’d also observe that the way things stand today, the “neocons” were never really conservative. They just pretended they were. And now we know what they really are. Old-line Democrats playing hide-and-seek.

30 — Notice how the manipulators like to split the population in two and then get them arguing over how they should serve the establishment.

….The longer they can keep us arguing over the best way to lick the imperial boot, the longer they keep us from talking about whether we want to lick it at all.

Comment: I have left the essence of Johnstone’s reasoning here. But the Gramscian and Alinskyite left has busily done most of the dividing for the last 75 years. Meanwhile, a bovine GOP establishment plays with its own collective putz as warped, hard-core Antifa and BLM agitators eviscerate what remains of our Republic.

Note also the terminological nonsense on the left. Today, it seems that mentally disturbed and/or biologically confused “transgender” individuals matter more to the left than lesbians and gays. But lesbians and gays are still more important than blacks. And blacks are still more important than feminists…. Oh hell, you know how this ends.

31 — Watch out for appeals to emotion.

They go after your heart strings to circumvent your head.

Comment: I’ve trimmed all but Johnstone’s final sentence, which is self-explanatory. Watch any cable news show on CNN or MSNBC. Never a shred of logic, the smallest tendrils of facts. It’s all pure emotion and ad hominem attacks on anyone even slightly right of the hard left. It’s also why social media sites bury anything that’s conservative or logical. The left today is all emotion and all illogic. They can no longer argue against conservatives or libertarians. Routinely shunned and banned, these two groups learned to argue logically and persuasively. Heartstrings no longer work for them. They now see the game and where it ends.

32 — Pay attention to how much propaganda goes into maintaining the propaganda machine itself.

This is done this because propaganda is just that central to the maintenance of dominant power structures. Much effort is spent building trust in establishment narrative management outlets while sowing distrust in sources of dissent. You’ll see entire propaganda campaigns built around accomplishing solely this.

Comment: All true and why you should never even get near these propagandists to begin with.

That’s about it for this kinda, sorta co-op column. Surprisingly, Johnstone and I more or less agree on a majority of the points just raised. That’s probably because bullshit detectors work both ways.

It’s refreshing to read material like this coming from an opponent. That indicates that at least some logic and reason still exists on the left side of the aisle.

Bottom line: Johnstone’s original article, uncut and un-commented upon, is worth reading and pondering before the real crazies succeed with their now ongoing violence to eviscerate, what’s left of the greatest country that has yet existed on this increasingly strange planet.

– Headline image: Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with Comically Incorrect.


Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17