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Fake news
#1
Quote:Donald Trump has said that Barack Obama founded ISIS. He said that Texas Senator Ted Cruz's father was involved in the plot to assassinate JFK. He claimed he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrate on 9/11. He said that he won the popular vote. There isn't a shred of evidence to support any of this

We also know that some of those claims might've come from fake news stories that spread conspiracy theories across the internet.  None of this would matter if lying weren't a game of two. For a lie to work, the liar must also be believed.

For example, it wouldn't matter that there's a conspiracy theory that says Hillary and Bill Clinton run a child sex ring out of a D.C. pizza shop if people didn't believe it. But some people do. One of those people was a North Carolina man with a semi-automatic rifle willing to drive to Washington and "self-investigate" the situation himself. He managed to fire one or two shots before being arrested. It sounds like madness because it is, so why do some people keep participating? Why do people believe lies? Research tells us it's actually quite simple: It's because humans are desperate to be in control.
Why people believe fake news and conspiracy theories - Business Insider

Very interesting observations here on how on earth there are people willing to go armed to a pizzeria because they read stories about Hillary running a pedophile ring from it...
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#2
And these fake news stories can be quite powerful..

Quote:According to BuzzFeed, the top-performing fake election news stories in the final three months of the presidential campaign generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. In at least one case, the danger of fake news turned very real and almost deadly. Overall, an Ipsos Public Affairs study showed fake headlines fool American adults 75% of the time. Since the election, fake news has become the talking point of the moment — but were you paying attention all year? Let’s find out..
Can you pick out the fake news stories that duped millions of people this year? - MarketWatch
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#3
From the BBC:

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge? Georgina Kenyon finds there is a term which defines this phenomenon.
  • By Georgina Kenyon
  • 6 January 2016
  • This story is featured in BBC Future’s “Best of 2016” collection. Discover more of our picks.
In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power… and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.

“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.”

The 1969 memo and the tactics used by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology, Proctor says. “Ignorance is not just the not-yet-known, it’s also a political ploy, a deliberate creation by powerful agents who want you ‘not to know’.”

To help him in his search, Proctor enlisted the help of UC Berkeley linguist Iain Boal, and together they came up with the term – the neologism was coined in 1995, although much of Proctor’s analysis of the phenomenon had occurred in the previous decades.

Balancing act

Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every storythat ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

We live in a world of radical ignorance – Robert Proctor

For example, says Proctor, many of the studies linking carcinogens in tobacco were conducted in mice initially, and the tobacco industry responded by saying that studies into mice did not mean that people were at risk, despite adverse health outcomes in many smokers.

A new era of ignorance

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.

Making up our own minds

Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance – it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so – David Dunning

"While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning.

Dunning and Proctor also warn that the wilful spread of ignorance is rampant throughout the US presidential primaries on both sides of the political spectrum.

“Donald Trump is the obvious current example in the US, suggesting easy solutions to followers that are either unworkable or unconstitutional,” says Dunning.

So while agnotology may have had its origins in the heyday of the tobacco industry, today the need for both a word and the study of human ignorance is as strong as ever.
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#4
Terrifying, from the Washington Post

Americans — especially but not exclusively Trump voters — believe crazy, wrong things

By Catherine Rampell December 28 at 4:08 PM
Many Americans believe a lot of dumb, crazy, destructive, provably wrong stuff. Lately this is especially (though not exclusively) true of Donald Trump voters, according to a new survey.

The survey, from the Economist/YouGov, was conducted in mid-December, and it finds that willingness to believe a given conspiracy theory is (surprise!) strongly related to whether that conspiracy theory supports one’s political preferences.

Remember Pizzagate? That’s the bizarre theory that Hillary Clinton was helping run a child sex slave ring out of a D.C. pizza joint, as allegedly proven by code words in hacked Democratic emails.

Lest you think this theory was espoused by only a handful of Internet nutjobs, observe that nearly half of Trump voters believe it’s true. This result is based on a poll conducted after a North Carolina man burst into the restaurant with an assault-style rifle, leaving only when he was satisfied that no child sex-slaves were harbored there.
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-2.31.59-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

About half of Trump voters also believe that President Obama was born in Kenya, even though their once-birther candidate has since disavowed this conspiracy theory:
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-2.32.14-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

Another conspiracy theory still held by the president-elect is that millions of illegal votes were cast in the recent election. About 6 in 10 of his own voters agree with him. Surprisingly, about a quarter of Clinton voters agree, too.
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-2.33.12-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

Trump voters are unlikely to buy the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked Democratic emails in order to help elect Trump, a view widely held by Clinton voters:
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-2.32.43-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

But on the other hand, about half of Clinton voters also believe that Russia tampered with vote tallies to help elect Trump, a theory that the Obama administration has repeatedly said there’s no evidence to support. This poll result is yet more proof that waning trust in the integrity of the democratic process is bipartisan, and that liberals should maybe keep any smug comments about paranoid, evidence-ignoring Trumpkins in check.
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-2.35.02-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
 Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

Alarming shares of both Trump and Clinton voters also believe that vaccines cause autism, despite the medical community’s reviews finding no connection (and the many outbreaks resulting from refusals to vaccinate children).
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-3.06.48-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
 Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

Conspiracy theories are hardly the only arena in which Americans have proven themselves ill-informed. The same survey also found that, astonishingly, about a third of respondents believe the share of Americans without health insurance has risen in the last five years. Even a sizable chunk of Clinton voters (21 percent) believes this.
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-3.10.00-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
 Source: The Economist/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,376 U.S. adults between Dec. 17-20. Numbers may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

In fact, the uninsured rate has fallen precipitously, and now stands at an all-time low. (This is true even when you look at only the non-elderly population.)
[Image: Screen-Shot-2016-12-28-at-3.17.29-PM-e14...png&w=1484]
 Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 1997–June 2016, Family Core component.

Some of these misperceptions and false beliefs may seem laughable. To me, they’re terrifying. They result in misused resources, violence and harassment, health risks, bad policy, and, ultimately, the deterioration of democracy. Good governance becomes more challenging when Americans live in parallel universes of facts.
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#5
Fake news could very well have swayed the election, according to researchers:

Quote:A team of researchers at Ohio State University conclude in a new study that “fake news” stories had a significant impact on voters in the 2016 presidential election that may have impacted the final result. The study, first reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday, sought to measure the degree to which false news stories dissuaded voters who cast ballots for President Obama in 2012 from voting for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

While the researchers emphasized that they could not definitively say that fake news “caused” Obama voters to defect from Clinton in 2016, they nevertheless concluded that these stories had a “substantial impact” on voters that may have been sufficient enough to swing the election to Donald Trump. “Our analysis leads us to the conclusion that fake news most likely did have a substantial impact on the voting decisions of a strategically important set of voters—those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012,” the researchers wrote.

Indeed, given the very narrow margins of victory by Donald Trump in key battleground states, this impact may have been sufficient to deprive Hillary Clinton of a victory in the Electoral College.”
Researchers say fake news had 'substantial impact' on 2016 election | TheHill
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