Political Bias: Exploring fake news

Written by Martin Lucas

Political bias is rampant in the world, so our goal this week is to unpick the truth from the fiction when it comes to Russia, Trump and Clinton.

Let’s explore the players in this tragic comedy.

Hillary creates perception

The problem with politics is that it’s a game of who lies the best. In March 2016, I wrote about the UK Sugar Tax and also included this about Clinton:

Hillary Clinton is going to get her butt kicked during the US election for her relationship with Monsanto. She’s helped them with GM food and helped suppress the truth of food labelling.

You can read the full article here.

She is far from innocent; like most politicians, she plays the game and is in the pocket of big corporations. Currently she is out selling her book - about why she failed - and planting seeds like this via CNN:

NPR's Terry Gross asked Clinton directly during the interview whether she would "completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now?"

"No. I would not," Clinton said.

Gross asked: "You're not going to rule it out?"

"No," Clinton said. "I wouldn't rule it out."

In the book, Clinton casts Trump as a toxic but hapless leader who won the White House by preying on the nation's fears. Nowhere in the book, however, does she directly question his legitimacy, although she certainly comes close in the 500-page memoir.

The problem here is, who on this planet trusts a word spoken from this lady’s mouth? That was a key issue way before she was running against Trump. If you don’t trust someone and your opponent’s approach is based on stoking fear, uncertainty and doubt, then you are simply fanning their flames. The truth is, Clinton got played legally and - debatably - illegally. Here’s how:

Trump is playing the Fake News card over and over and over

He knows how he got elected; his camp played a masterful strategy (under the herd mentality that I analysed on the data side previously here). As mentioned in that article, they played social media in the same way Obama did to beat Clinton previously; the Clinton camp was just a generational thinking step behind on how to win. It was a weak strategy which, for the second time in a four-year period, did not adapt to the tools at hand.

Trump is a master at corporate politics. He knows fear plus a perception of fake news helped get him elected, so he’s repeating the same approach to create doubt and of course more fear of the truth. What is the truth?

Russian adverts

Look at the Herd article, this was a key point about social:

If you can zero in on the frustrations people feel and you identify collective perceptions, then all you have to do is light the fuse. Trump’s campaign did this using a company called Cambridge Analytica who analysed people on social media (every platform is 100% open to software bots; it’s not currently privacy invasion) and then captured their details (mainly email or address) through a variety of rewards and incentives (like when you complete a survey, your data is then fair game for the provider). They then created letters and emails which had variable content based on what each person was bothered by – Migration – Health – Jobs – Future – Security – Terrorism. Basically they told people what they wanted to hear based on fear and thus made them believe that Trump had their backs. I don’t need to sell his strategy, you all saw Trump’s Wall strategy and the fear he capitalised on under the promise of Make America Great Again.

You know what? That’s what Russia bankrolled as well; the question is, what did they say? Was it the truth?

Was what Clinton said ever the truth?

Was what Trump said ever the truth?

I am not advocating Russia lying IF they did indeed lie, I am saying that it is highly likely that Russia just helped the Trump campaign and - depending on the message - it will be legal or illegal. If it was just free speech opinion, then we are simply in the ‘grey face of humanity’ zone, it’s neither legal or illegal, it’s just frowned upon.

Trump is no fool(ish); he won’t have his fingerprints on any of this. We will see who on his team does, but at the end of the day it’s all about social media and leveraging bias.

An unregulated cluster bomb

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg dropped what I personally felt was a right-wing style manifesto in a left-wing disguise. Here is an extract from a book I am publishing shortly regarding this matter:

In case you doubt social media as being addictive, as harming our mental health as a society, as contributing to suicide, then listen to Simon Sinek break down what I call social media in “Dealers of Dopamine to the Masses.”

I could write about this subject endlessly. And I greatly admire Sinek because he has taken Marketing Theory and used it to observe and assess how human behaviours affect how we are marketed to, sold to and manipulated… all without having a clue it is happening to us.

Since I began writing this book, Zuckerberg has also released his latest mission statement for Facebook:

“Going forward, we will measure Facebook's progress with groups based on meaningful groups, not groups overall. This will require not only helping people connect with existing meaningful groups, but also enabling community leaders to create more meaningful groups for people to connect with.”

Imagine you are Zuckerberg and all you are surrounded by is people telling you how amazing you are, how wonderful your thinking is, how you are making such a difference in the world—and the billions in the bank will not make this lavish praise lessen any, either. Of course you would believe in your own awesomeness. Your ego would keep you charging forward on your path. But I am not here to flambé Facebook. You can see plenty of their challenges called out here by The Ringer Team.

Read the whole 6,000 word Facebook mission statement and you will see lots more like the excerpt above; it’s liberal minds going full fascist. I have noticed this emerging for a long time now. Zuckerberg does not like fake news, Zuckerberg does not like “groups overall,” Zuckerberg’s company has been criticised for minimising the news of groups they dislike, like Republicans. What right does he have to do that? What right does Facebook have to dictate (and I mean 100% dictate) what you do and do not see on your feed?

If we rewind the clock to the original Internet search engines, they were a mess. Google fixed search; they absolutely nailed it—and, Google uses their expertise in search engines to sell ads. And yes, Google manipulates SEO in a business context to sell more ads. Google doesn’t hide the fact that they advertise, but they also don’t control what you and I can look for the way Facebook does. It’s a free will situation.

Did anyone sign up with Facebook expecting news to be manipulated so they only see what Facebook wants them to see? No.

Facebook is not a search engine, BUT they are manipulating what you see and selling ads.

Facebook is not your voice, BUT they use what you “like” to show your friends you “like” it. You are the advert by association.

In other words, Facebook is dictating whose content matters and whose doesn’t. How is that Facebook’s privilege? Surely it would be better to educate people about bullying or to put their voices to work? It’s a sheer oxymoron that Facebook claims it wants to help, but it doesn’t actually help. It is a lie under a lens of bias; if they really wanted to help the world, why not offer to ban anyone who bullies?

But, Facebook is a business. And you are just a number to them; you are never consulted by Facebook but you are always having your life manipulated.

Bias exists in all of our brains, and social media - not just Facebook - is enabling this. Our world is built on fear. Those with money and knowledge of how to do it can put information in front of the noses of people who unconsciously want this kind of affirmation everywhere.

The question becomes - who is regulating the quality of content going out to the world, and are we aware of the bias in the algorithms controlling what we do and don’t see?

Fake news is exactly what the Philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard predicted:

Computer technology has changed knowledge into information, this information will be…

…owned by the corporation

…stored in vast databases

Information will be sold and knowledge will be left alone as people will treat information as knowledge. This will create a situation where everyone has all the information you could ever need but we will not access and learn it like we do with knowledge.

This information is judged by its commercial value not by its truth.

Lyotard’s vision of what a computer-connected world would become were predicted by him in 1979. Like all celebrated philosophers, he was predicting the future change of behaviours of humanity.

What we have to do is judge whether what we are seeing is information or knowledge. There must be more trustworthiness from our sources of knowledge. Whether it is political bias or social algorithms, we all have a choice to be more conscious and not rush and accept all that we see.