We live in an era of fake news.

The propaganda is equally deceptive on both sides of the ideological line. More and more I hear intelligent people saying “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

On one hand it’s wonderful that people are waking up. CNN has always been neoliberal propaganda. Fox “News” and Breitbart have always been alt-right lies designed to capitalize on fear.

On the other hand the underground news sources that people have flocked to in their attempts to gain information are often just as bad as the corporate media misinformation factories that have sought to deceive the American people since Bill Clinton cast the death blow to media integrity in 1996.

It has been my goal as a political writer to ALWAYS speak the truth, but this is a perilous path. I have often sent an article out for proofreading and heard back..

“If you publish this, you will lose a lot of followers.”

 

As if the goal behind writing is to attain popularity.

I am immediately suspicious of popularity, as most of the time it is garnered by appealing to the most number of demographics through spoon-feeding garbage coated in sugar.

 

But there is something alluring to me about integrity.

I am, in many ways, still that same punk-rock kid with the Mohawk and nose-ring who screamed about social injustice and the ideals of truth back when it seemed that no one cared about such things.

One can make a lot of money pandering to people’s fears and integrity is a commodity that not far too few care about, so it saddens me deeply to see people falling for lies, regardless of where they land on the political spectrum.

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Rather it’s the Planned Parenthood shooter or the Pizzagate shooter, both men are pawns in a game played to intentionally deceive people for financial gain.

Media outlets are more concerned with getting traffic than reporting the truth and as a result sensationalist stories rule the day and allow small media outlets to gain massive exposure in a short period of time through publishing their own propaganda.

As is often the case, extremes have more in common than they do differences. This can be exemplified by the Pizzagate scandal, which was first floated by alt-right websites in an attack on Hillary Clinton. The story was quickly picked up by those on the alt-left and spread faster than the common cold.

It has all the makings of a successful fake news story. It targets someone who is universally hated, in Hillary Clinton. It is dark and scary. But perhaps most importantly, it allows the believer to see themselves as being on “the good side”. After all, we ALL agree that the wealthy elites passing around children like party favors is something that we must stand against.

The problem is that the story isn’t true.

I could lie and say that it was true and increase my readership.

I could be silent and cowardly.

After all, what is to be gained by pointing out the obvious flaws in this story?

One cannot prove a negative and those who lack the reasoning (or motivation) to figure out that this is fake news will surely use logical fallacies to defend it.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that those of us who dislike Hillary Clinton for VALID reasons are shouted down by the self-righteous misinformed who have been searching back-channel sources who understand all too well the flaws in human logic that can be exploited by those skilled in rhetoric.

Disagree with Pizzagate and you are accused of being a neoliberal shill who secretly works for Hillary Clinton.

It’s hard to argue with the mentally ill.

It’s impossible to argue with someone who has an agenda.

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The casualty of these propaganda factories is The Truth and of course this is the very thing that misinformation sites claim to be standing up for.

The challenge is that one out of several thousand conspiracy theories end up actually being true.

 

For example, I know, FOR A FACT, that the Democratic Party stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders in their attempts to further the voice of The People and further the agenda of their corporate oligarchy.

 

But before Wikileaks published the emails showing that the DNC put their collective thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton, all we had was a conspiracy theory.

What further complicates matters is that it is impossible to prove a negative and those who devour fake news have effectively turned the tables of logic and now use the strategy of making outrageous bogus claims then putting the onus on the recipient to prove its lack of validity.

If someone says that Hillary Clinton was using a body-double, even if you know that the claim is ludicrous, you simply cannot prove a negative. The person who believes this can spend several hours finding sites that will provide “proof” for their confirmation bias and they will do so with completely pure intent.

After several hours of “research” they will think of you as an idiot who is brainwashed by corporate media for not believing what has become completely obvious to them and you will likely lose faith in their reasoning abilities as well.

Thus a chasm is formed between people who believe that they know the truth and those who have the courage to admit that they don’t have any REAL evidence one way or another.

What the propaganda consumer is missing is that their arguments suffer from an extremely emotional pathogenesis. They believe with all their heart that they have discovered some great and secret truth. Then they alienate those who disagree with them in order to create a self-sustaining echo-chamber that will perpetuate their beliefs. As they add more and more “evidence” to support their belief, they become more and more removed from the reality that the rest of us try to function in.

What they fail to realize is that their confirmation bias must be engaged in order for them to fall victim to the propaganda.

For example, if someone says to you that Hillary Clinton actually died in September, but employed a body double and that this body double is part of the DNC oligarchy in their attempts to form a one world corporate government, you will probably dismiss this claim if your feelings about Clinton are either positive or neutral.

But if you have tremendous hatred for Clinton, then this theory fulfills several of your emotionally charged preconceived notions about the entity that you hate and therefore provides the motivation one needs to dive deeper and find the information that confirms this ludicrous belief.

Thankfully not everyone steps into these logical potholes on the back-roads of reasoning.

Many people are excellent critical thinkers.

So how do we know what truth is?

You’re not going to like the answer.

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The truth of the matter is that often you simply will not be able to find the truth without a master’s degree in sleuthing and even then you will find that often the information is not available and you will have to say the one thing that no ego wants to hear…

“I don’t know”

No one wants to admit that they don’t have the answers and The Internet provides a steady stream of opinions issued as facts for those who are seeking a quick resolution from the anxiety of not knowing.

Why read THIS article that is asking you to use reason, logic and skepticism when there are thousands of websites that will offer instant ego gratification to fulfill your confirmation bias.

Most people will agree that Julian Assange publishing emails that showed how the DNC conspired with corporate media in order to assure that Hillary Clinton attained the nomination for their corrupt party was the catalyst that helped Trump attain the Presidency.

And most people will agree that it appears that Trump and Putin seem to have some sort of preexisting relationship that the American public is not privy to.

But just try to discuss Assange’s motivation behind releasing these emails and leftists who have become mired in identity politics will blindly support the assertion that Assange had no motivation to help the Russians.

What is the basis for this belief?

Because Assange said so.

This is the epitome of identity politics and identify politics is the most prevalent and destructive form of confirmation bias in all of politics.

It is the lie we tell ourselves to gather information to fulfill our own confirmation bias for people whom we believe are on our side.

Am I saying that I believe the six American intelligence agencies that all report that Russia hacked the DNC?

Of course I’m not saying that, because to say such a thing would make me a “sheeple who has been brainwashed by corporate media and is nothing more than a sheepherder for the Oligarchy.”

And herein lies the most insidious part of thinking that your news is better than someone else’s news. The end result is the complete invalidation of the person who disagrees with you.

Bringing it back to the subject, if you were to ask me personally what I think of Assange’s alleged links to the Russians, I would say…

“It’s tough to say. All six intelligence agencies agree, but then again these agencies have lied in the past. They lied about the WMDs in Iraq. The CIA was more than likely involved in the assassination of John Kennedy. Furthermore we know that the United States intelligence agencies have many times decided to keep pertinent information from the people (Pearl Harbor for example). So there is definitely reason to mistrust these agencies. They are not spotless. Having said that, being locked down in an Ecuadorian embassy, counting down the days until US forces storm the building, take you to a blacksite and torture you to death can’t be fun and one could not blame Assange for striking a deal with Putin. Also, these incidents of the intelligence agencies lying are memorable, because they are infrequent. A review of their track records shows that most of the time they seem to be telling the truth. I am left to wonder why Assange did not publish Trump’s tax returns as he once hinted that he would. I am also left to wonder why Wikileaks did not publish hacks of the RNC database. Am I to believe that they could not hack the RNC? Because that is simply too far-fetched to believe as almost any skilled hacker could have infiltrated either party’s system. Then there is the matter of the traces of Russian information in the code itself. Some would say that this is enough to implicate Assange. I would counter that this could be intentionally left behind as a way to throw the intelligence agencies off the scent. So in the end I will have to say the only reasonable thing that one could say in this situation. That I will wait for further information and not make a fool of myself proclaiming to know Truth that is actually just my emotionally charged opinion disguised as Truth.”

But who wants to hear all that?

It’s much easier to just side with the people we like and passionately sing their praises in a celebration of the limitations of identity politics.

In effect, this is a human problem.

We must overcome our own psychological limitations in order to actually find truth and no one wants to accept the ultimate Truth that many times we simply cannot know.

Our “reward” for using reason is ambiguity.

While the rest of the children are off playing with their “facts”, overflowing social media with their poorly argued logic, you have to sit on the sidelines with your “I don’t know.”

Why accept our human limitations when there are thousands of propaganda machines willing to produce something that hacks into these psychological blind spots and deliver something that looks like truth and smells like truth, but is actually one big lie served up to those desperate to know what the actual f+ck is going on?

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Not everyone who engages in misinformation has been duped so blatantly.

Some have motivations that cause them to abandon logic and reason.

Many use the specter of imagined corruption to justify their slactivism.

It is so much more alluring to know some secret truth about the boogeyman, George Soros and his shadow involvement in the grassroots organization that you have decided isn’t worth your time.

These “keyboard warriors” will jump down any rabbit-hole that allows them to justify their complete lack of real activism. This allows them to hide behind the safety of their keyboards without ever doing any actual work.

These Social Justice Warriors are lured by the idea of knowing some dark secret that the peasants haven’t discovered. Facts are not important to them, identity is.

Tell them that you are going to an Our Revolution meeting and they will tell you that it is secretly ran by billionaires (based on how Jeff Weaver filed the corporation for tax purposes).

Tell them that Justice Democrats is doing so great work and they will tell you that Cenk Uyguy actually works for Hillary Clinton Super-Pac Correct the Record.

Facts and research are not important to these trolls.

Their goal is to shoot holes in the activism of others.

They engage in character assassination and anyone who disagrees with them is a “tool for the oligarchy”.

Even Bernie Sanders himself is not pure enough for these people, who will ONLY accept that which is universally rejected.

These people are contrarians in the same vein as that kid you knew in high-school who hated every band that you liked and only listened to the bands that no one had ever heard of and rejected those same artists when they achieved social acceptance.

For these people it is about being superior, not about being factual.

They are easy to identify as they will use ad hominem attacks to deflect from the fact that on some level they know that they are operating with fabricated data.

Never mind that they have literally NOTHING to back up their claim.

They now want to devalue you as a person and then expect you to prove a negative, while simultaneously dismissing every one of your thoughts as propaganda.

Truth is the ultimate casualty of fake news.

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Michael E Sparks is an independent writer and hosts of the show Resist/Revolt. If you believe in his voice you can donate $1 by clicking HERE. All money goes towards supporting Progressive activism.

 

 

I love words.

Did you ever pause to think about what an incredible miracle it is that our species developed the ability to use language, that we could come up with these complex series of symbols, that when conveyed to another in our species, can literally alter the neural pathways in the other person’s brain?

The pen truly is mightier than the sword, which is why I find it so sad that so many limit themselves with their communication, even so much as to do harm to the causes that they are so passionate about.

This morning, while perusing the headlines, I made a post on social media that I knew would get people talking.

What I posted would be a distraction from our discussion here, but I made a point to phrase it in a way that was open ended and did not divulge my own view on the subject, while at the same time, pushing my readers buttons enough to know that they would want to chime in.

I promised myself that I would play the devil’s advocate and do my best to argue anyone who attacked my stance in an aggressive manner.

Why?

Well for one, it’s a great way to learn.

When two people are at odds with each other, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn.

“I think the sky is blue”

“Oh yeah! Well I think it’s black!”

“Tell me why you think it’s black.”

“Because I’m looking out my window right now and I can see it plainly, you f+cking moron!!”

“Where are you at?”

“Australia.”

“Oh. I’m in Indiana. It’s blue here.”

“Well I’m blocking you anyway!! I hate people who disagree with me!!”

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The above facetious conversation actually went better than many political discussions I have these days.

Often people just tell me that they are blocking me and insult my intelligence.

It doesn’t exactly hurt my feelings, but it does make me sad.

It saddens me that another human being, so blessed with this amazing ability to communicate and change my mind would rather alienate me and disregard me as a human being.

Seems like an awful waste of an amazing gift.

But learning other people’s point of view was not my only reason for making the controversial post.

I also wanted to see what kind of people I have following me, before we launch our new show, Resist/Revolt.

I want an army of activists, because an army of activists all communicating can change the world and to be honest, knee-jerk reactionaries actually do more harm than good to our cause.

When someone who supposedly represents our value system attacks someone else, it makes it that much harder for anyone else to ever reach them.

The greatest hindrance to Progressives isn’t right wing opposition, it’s those self-proclaimed Progressives that lash out at others and make the rest of us look bad.

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Why do I even care?

Isn’t popularity all that matters?

After all, isn’t it just better to have more viewers than to alienate some potential viewers by having an unpopular opinion?

I wholeheartedly reject this notion.

I seek to revolutionize thinking by turning this concept completely upside down.

In fact, I believe that this idea that popularity is king, has completely turned America into a sideshow, where buffoons who know how to walk the line and appeal to the largest demographic are rewarded, while the most brilliant members of our culture are marginalized.

America has become an intellectual wasteland where being “right” means having the most number of people agree with you and THAT is a recipe for fabulous disaster.

When we live in a world of fake news, authenticity becomes a rare commodity.

In fact, while attempting to play devil’s advocate and argue with a few hundred people simultaneously this morning, someone said…

“Why don’t you give up? Can’t you see everyone disagrees with you?”

What a scary thought, that a few hundred people could all be in agreement on something, even if they were misinformed and somehow, as if by magic, a new fact is created out of thin air.

That’s the world we currently live in.

If you want to have lasting change, you must first change the culture.

In order to change the culture, we must first change ourselves.

But be warned. Making actual change is challenging. It’s actually a lot harder than just telling everyone who disagrees with you that they are stupid.

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“But wait, Michael, didn’t you just say that you trolled your own readers to illicit a reaction?! Where’s the authenticity in that?!”

First off, trolling, in a limited and friendly context is an effective tool to start a conversation.

I might jokingly say to my Republican friend something like…

“I have a an idea. Why don’t we just have all the GOP members of Congress wear white hoods so they will be easier to identify?”

My friend might look at me sideways and say something like..

“Do you really believe that all Republicans are racist?”

Now we have the makings of a good conversation and as long as there is mutual respect, we can both learn from each other and about each other.

But that’s where it all falls apart, right?

Because when these opportunities present themselves, most people don’t respond like my rhetorical friend did. Most of the time people just attack, which is counterproductive and let’s be clear about something very important…

Right now America is engaged in a cultural war and there is only one way to win it.

YOU have to get out of your comfort zone and actually engage those people who think differently than you do.

Ours is a battle for hearts and minds.

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Somehow we ended up with a buffoon in the White House even though only 1 in 5 Americans voted for him.

While there are a million articles written about how this happened, I am more concerned with the story that the “news” isn’t telling.

I don’t want to talk about Clinton’s crappy campaigning or how Wikileaks exposed the corruption in the “Democratic” Party.

Those points have been talked to death.

I am concerned about the deeper why.

I am talking about the elitist attitude that allows someone to think that they are superior to others and the anonymity of The Internet that allows them to freely tell anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint to f+ck right off.

This type of behavior is the death rattle of civilization and I request that you rise above it, before it is too late.

To put it simply, I am asking you to become the type of person who can actually affect real change in the minds of others.

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How do we go about doing that?

The first step is easy.

Remember when your mom told you that you had two eyes and two ears but only one mouth and that this was Mother Nature’s way of trying to tell you something?

The first step in “winning” an argument is to let go of the idea of winning.

To call upon another platitude, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

When you are actively listening to someone, you are passively teaching them about yourself.

People are already bracing themselves to be attacked as they are stating their point of view. In fact, they are probably so used to defending their opinion that they will be caught completely off balance by the simple act of listening.

I am not telling you to pretend to listen. I’m asking for you to genuinely listen.

If you are in a battle and you know where all the enemies troops are stationed then you have a huge advantage right?

If you know their exact plan of attack then you are almost guaranteed to come up with a successful counter.

When you find someone whom you disagree with, have the courage to listen.

Become so intimate with their point of view that you can recite it back to them and then actually recite it back to them and don’t add your own input until two things have been accomplished.

  1. You intimately understand their position.
  2. You find a point of agreement.

Here’s an imaginary example.

Trump Supporter: Donald Trump is the greatest President this country has ever had.

You: Oh yeah? You feel like he’s proven that in just one month?

TS: He kept his campaign promises, unlike Obama (don’t get sidetracked here).

You: I agree with you completely that keeping your campaign promises is incredibly important. What else do you like about him?

TS: He’s going to keep out the damned illegals!! They are taking all the American jobs!! (don’t get sidetracked here either)

You: We are in agreement again! I am glad that Trump opposed TPP. I am completely against these disastrous trade agreements that continue to outsource America’s factory jobs to China and Mexico. What else do you like about Trump? (learn their position. Without it you are powerless. Arguing without knowing what you are arguing against is counterproductive).

TS: Well he’s going to stop Isis by keeping the damned Muslims out.

You: You and I seem to agree on a lot. Isis is a big problem. Neither of us want to see another 9/11. What else makes you feel that Trump is so amazing?

TS: What else do you need? (most people feel like they have more answers than they actually do and will run out fairly quickly when pressed).

You: I just want to make sure I understand your position. You think Trump is the “best President ever” because he is going to keep his campaign promises, keep jobs in America, instead of outsourcing them and stop Isis? Did I understand you correctly?

TS: That about sums it up. Are you going to try some libtard psychology on me now? Don’t bother. I’ve seen it all.

Before we continue on, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you remember that your goal can NEVER be to change someone’s mind. That’s simply not how this works. Your secondary goal is to OPEN someone’s mind. Do you remember your primary goal? It’s to understand the other person’s position, which they will willingly give to you if you take a few minutes to actively listen. Now that you have it, you can counter it, all the while remembering that the more the person respects you, the more they are willing to listen.

You: While I agree with you that keeping your campaign promises is important and I also agree that keeping jobs in America is important, I am skeptical that someone who has filed bankruptcy repeatedly at the expense of the hardworking American tax payer really cares about working class folks like us (inclusion – common ground). Trump inherited 3.2 billion dollars from his father. He’s never gotten his hands dirty like you and I do on a daily basis. He attended private schools that you and I couldn’t even begin to send our children to. He also exports jobs to China from his own businesses. Don’t you think that is hypocritical?

I’m not going to have an entire imaginary conversation, but you get the idea.

Once you understand the other person’s position, you can use facts to gradually chip away at the areas in which they are misinformed.

Don’t get caught up trying to “win”. You win by keeping your cool and by caring about another human being. It is particularly difficult to care for those whom we passionately disagree with, but it is the path to enlightenment for both you and your new friend.

This approach is infinitely more productive than name-calling and character assassination.

You probably won’t “win the argument”, but you may shed some light into a previously dark area of the person’s mind.

Even if all they learn is that “not all libs are idiots.” then you have already accomplished something amazing.

Many will not take this high-road, because it requires them to be patient and learned.

Many are so caught up in the gratification of their own egos that they use The Internet to fill in some deep desire that they have to feel superior to others.

Don’t be like that and don’t encourage those that are this way.

When you see someone doing this, simply say…

“I’m sorry that (person’s name) is having a hard time using their words today. Not all of us are like that. So you believe that…” and sum up the person’s position and make sure you understand them.

When someone who confesses to represent the values that you represent is blasting people who think differently, they are alienating that person from new information and hurting your cause.

Don’t be afraid to step in and bring some compassion and intelligence to the conversation.

Your goal should be to make friends with those who think differently than you and break down the walls of your echo-chamber.

If you are trying to build an environment where you surround yourself with those who see everything the way that you do, then you are being weak and cowardly.

If you are engaging in this type of asinine and elitist behavior then please don’t call yourself a revolutionary or an activist, because what you are doing is making it harder for the rest of us who seek to bridge the gap with those who see things differently than we do.

The real battle is with the 1% wealthy elite who control every aspect of our lives.

It is NOT with our neighbors.

Break your lazy embarrassing habits.

Change your strategy.

Change your goals.

Change your country.

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Michael E Sparks is an Independent writer and hosts the show Resist/Revolt. If you believe in his message and want to buy him a cup of coffee, you can donate $1 by clicking HERE