What you need to know about “Astroturfing”, otherwise known as organized lying.

“Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to the totalitarian state”

~ Noam Chomsky

I’m no fan of Noam Chomsky, but he got that right.

I suspect that a good deal of what we see, hear, and read in the public domain is manipulated.  I posted on one aspect of that, the kowtowing of media companies to the wishes of advertisers and sponsors, here: When Truth Doesn’t matter. (Come back to it later?)

Now, deliberate programs of mis-direction, mis-information, obfuscation, and ridicule have a name: “Astroturfing

Here’s Sharyl Attkisson (@SharlAttkisson) on the faking of grassroots movements as campaigns of propaganda in the service of political, corporate, or other special interests.

I dislike the term, but here it’s apt; this is “must see“.

As a take-away, here’s what you need to watch out for when you’re trying to work out whether some position, opinion, or argument is truth or lying propaganda:

Charged language.

The truth usually comes calm and factual.  Liars and spinners use emotive rhetoric to cloak their lack of facts and proof.

Ad Hominem attacks.

If you can’t beat the argument, attack your opponent’s character.  Ridicule, discredit, impugn.  Straight from the Saul Alinsky playbook.

Questioning those who question authority.

Classic misdirection.  If they’re not questioning “authority”, but rather, questioning those that do, you have to wonder about their motivation.

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And because I fear that there’s serious astroturfing going on at a macro-political level, we’ll give the last word to a master of lying big:

“We have made the Reich by propaganda”

~ Joseph Goebbels

So you think you can write a professional letter?

The art of letter writing is not forgotten, at least not by Nicolas Di Tempora over at Copywriting in Action.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the emails you receive at work were written like this?  Clear, to the point, effective.

Give the people you communicate with a break – see below to learn how to write compelling, concise, objective letters and emails.

And go see Nicolas’ website if you’d like more information and courses on writing effectively.

Professional-Letter1

Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.

Enjoy.

Nobody cares what you believe.

Never wear your beliefs as a badge of honor.

Calling yourself a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or Zoroastrian does not define you.

Your words and your behavior and your deeds; they define you.

Nobody needs to know what you believe in or don’t.

All we care about is interacting with you justly.  That means courtesy, honesty, and the trading of value for value, whether spiritual or material.

If I or anyone else have nothing you want, ignore us and go about your business. Well do the same for you.

When truth doesn’t matter.

Update ~ 25Feb15

Here’s a point-in-case of news being suppressed out of deference to a large-scale advertiser:

Peter Oborne quits Daily Telegraph over HSBC tax scandal reporting

That we don’t hear more often about journalists quitting over similar issues means either that that too is kept quiet or that most mainstream reporters value their paycheck more than their integrity.

See the original post (below) for the full context.

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I was under the impression that the “mainstream media” – the big TV news channels, metropolitan daily newspapers, national magazines, and their respective online presences – were essentially mouthpieces of the government because they’re mostly owned by the same small clique of vested-interest cronies.

While that may be at least partially true, I always questioned what that meant in terms of changing administrations.  Would not the government of the day seek a different editorial slant depending on which ideological propaganda (left or right) they wish to broadcast?

Listening to Paul Craig Roberts in an interview with Stefan Molyneux, I’ve learned there is another parameter at play.

It seems the major news media are controlled by a handful of companies, run now by executives whose goal is not journalism, but rather, advertising revenue.  They are dependent on the government for their broadcasting licenses, and so are beholden not only to whichever administration is in power, but to an entrenched bureaucracy, the constituents of which, by the nature of their upbringing, their education, and their zeitgeist, are left-leaning progressive liberals with a vested interest in keeping ‘the masses” uninformed, or worse, misinformed.

So, the government wants to operate nefariously with impunity and needs certain “open secrets” to remain unknown (to most).  Mainstream media is happy to “toe the line” because as long as they have “sensation”, they’re happy.  Truth is optional when it comes to attracting readers/viewers, and thereby ratings, and thereby advertising revenue.

How else can one explain the almost complete lack of coverage of the tapped conversation (see below) between US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt, which clearly reveals that the current US administration is conspiring to steer events in the Ukraine?  Those using only legacy news media sources were titillated by the “sensational” revelation that Pyatt expressed rude disdain for the EU, while hearing nothing of the conspiratorial nature of the conversation.

It cannot be that any self-respecting journalist would not be eager to report the far more important essence of the story, so one can only assume that editorial teams were under instruction to misdirect attention to the cussing and to ignore the scheming.

Interested individuals could of course find the truth, but that doesn’t matter.  It never matters that a tiny minority knows the truth in politics, the truth in economics, the truth in philosophy.  When the entrenched politico-economic power has a megaphone blaring its propaganda 24/7, the voice of reason is not heard by enough to make a difference*.

*But that will never stop us from trying.

How To Speak So That People Want To Listen

Successful communication is an essential leadership and life skill.  Engaging well with others depends on it.

Here’s Julian Treasure with a 10-minute TedX talk on “How to speak so that people want to listen” that’s very worthwhile, with one caveat about his take on “judging” (more on that in a bit).

In summary:

If you want people to listen and take notice when you speak, you may want to audit yourself and be sure you’re not committing one or more of these “seven deadly sins” of speaking.

1.  Gossiping – speaking ill of someone who is not present.  Nobody really likes a gossip.

2.  Constantly pronouncing judgment – Julian states it simply as “Judging”, with which I cannot agree. (This is the caveat. More below.)

3.  Being negative – nobody listens to a pessimist (except maybe another pessimist);

4.  Complaining – which Julian aptly refers to as “Viral Misery”;

5.  Making excuses – not taking responsibility for one’s actions, always blaming someone else.  (MJ: No surer way exists to stymie your progress in an organization);

6.  Embroidering – aka, exaggeration, aka, lying;

7.  Being Dogmatic – You know this guy.  The one who always knows everything about everything, treating his opinions as facts and boring you with them constantly.  Blah, blah, blah.

Now, a little more on #2, Judging.

You need to judge everything and everyone, to the best of your ability, with all available evidence, constantly.

How do you deal with people unless you judge them first?  Is the new boss rational?  Is this salesman being honest?  Are my friends giving me straight feedback or telling “white” lies to make me feel better?  Judging, in this context, means doing your best to always know the truth.  Not only is there nothing wrong with making judgements, doing so is your duty to yourself.

What I hope Julian really means, and what I would advocate, is that one should not constantly pronounce or pass judgement.  First of all, not everyone needs to know everything you’re thinking all the time.  It’s called, “keeping your own council”.  Secondly, judging people and situations is, especially in the beginning, a fluid process.  You need to take care not to judge conclusively too quickly.  Often a first impression or “thin slice” will give you an accurate picture, but not always.  Snap judgements can be terribly wrong.  (Read more on this in Seth Godin’s excellent book, Blink.)

So when should you pronounce judgement?  When you’re sure, and when to not express your judgement would be an act of injustice.  Otherwise, “always be judging”, but keep it to yourself or share only with close confidants.

Now, here’s Julian Treasure:

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A little related reading (all 5 minutes or less):

How to tell if you’re being lied to and why you must never stop judging.

Judge and Be Judged

The Truth About Truth

The 2nd Rule of Communication

 

 

 

 

Who are Generation Z?

From the good people at Sparks & Honey (@sparksandhoney), comes this look at Generation Z (born 1995 to now).  Whether you’re trying to market to them or not, knowing a little about what makes them tick can’t be a bad thing.