Thursday, May 25, 2017

Through The Looking Glass: PsyWar Dispatches

A recent NY Times front page article, "The Right Builds an Alternative Narrative About the Crises Around Trump," is an example of a perspective that we need to make a regular feature, to support our defense in the war on truth.

It has been widely recognized that the shocking surprise of the Trump election - and that it happened at all - is partly because reasonable people who live in the world of truth were also living in a filter bubble. This reasonable majority did not realize how many people were living (at least in part) in an Alice and Wonderland world of alt-truth that had been building for years - and that that was enough to sway the election.

Perhaps the simplest countermeasure is to know thine enemy. There is plenty of evidence they will not be converted by frontal attack with facts (that produces a defensive reaction that simply deepens their polarization), but all of us can help, by peeling away the layers - if we know who and what we are dealing with. We are now beginning to realize just how vicious a cycle this is.

PsyWar Dispatches

The Times article illustrates, by example, the need for regular dispatches from PsyWar correspondents. Some of us may try to occasionally watch Fox News (and perhaps sometimes the more extreme outlets) - but that can be psychologically painful and time-consuming. Just as we have always relied on war correspondents to face challenges of danger and horror that few of us would voluntarily endure, we need PsyWar correspondents to do the equivalent, so they can provide dispatches to us.

Armed with better understanding of where the darkness is in our midst, all of us can help shine our lights on it (person to person, in our communities), and can better manage the harm it does.

What I suggest is to publish a regular feature, much like that article, whether daily (for now) or a few times per week, or less, as activity and issues warrant. It could include a regularly running real-time commentary (like that article), plus occasional analysis pieces.

Doing good - a business opportunity?

This might be done by the Times or the Washington Post (or even as a joint effort), or by other existing publications - or as a new startup.

This might be the basis for a nice entrepreneurial news venture - one that might very quickly be profitable! It would not cost much and might attract significant subscription revenue. (Of course it could be done as a non-profit service - one that might quickly become self-sustaining..)

Keep it simple

The primary function of this report would be not to fact-check or debunk or convince - but merely to enable all us to understand what is being thought and said by those in our midst who have been blinded. It is the most basic layer of truth and sunlight - not to argue, but merely to expose. Argument and countermeasures can then grow organically from a multitude of places and in a multitude of forms. But first, every one of us must be reminded of how pervasive and insidious the threat is - and be informed of just where it is.

Of course those on the other side of any given issue will do likewise. So what? If the report is simply a faithful report of what is being said (without the ad hominem attacks, whether on "deplorables" or on "tinfoil hat conspiracy liberal hysteria"), there is nothing to debunk.

If we all know what lies are spreading (however you define that), the real truth will out.


I have previously written on this problem of polarization in filter bubbles / echo chambers, suggesting some more sophisticated ways to finesse it with technology: Filtering for Serendipity -- Extremism, "Filter Bubbles" and "Surprising Validators".