Bubbles

They keep changing their minds, don’t they? Each time I think I’ve got it figured out, somebody reports another study that kiboshes the previous ones. I wish they’d make up their minds so I can decide whether or not I agree with them. Whether or not they still fall within my cognitive biases. https://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-echo-chamber-92544

Echo chambers, Bubbles, Coaxing -the world seems to be increasingly geared to children in a bathtub doesn’t it? But I think the problem is not so much the method, or even the message anymore, but of whom to be intolerant. I keep switching. I wonder if that’s what they want, though -keep me so confused that I just stay in the bath where I’m easier to control.

At least that’s how it sometimes seems when the black dog sprawls upon me in the quiet of the hardly-moving night: that I am a sacrificial pawn in a game whose rules I struggle to understand, and which, even if I made the effort, might be changed before I left the square. News is an ever moving target, a perspective game, and yet can it be reliably gainsaid simply by shifting the viewpoint? We each see the world through different eyes. Different backgrounds. Different agendas.

But even though the same event can have different interpretations, we must be alert to what actually happened before we attempt to append the slippery why. It is in the former that there is fodder for deception. It is in the facts about the what that we can be led astray. The what is the noun, the whys merely descriptive adjectives -opinions, if you will- that we pin to it for flavour. For colour -and often as ephemeral as the dawning sun on the morning clouds. Or the time spent lingering in a warm bath…

I, however, am now inoculated against baths. I just completed an online game designed to make me a fake news purveyor -and I passed (barely). I got my certificate… http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/this-online-game-could-be-a-psychological-vaccine-for-fake-news-1.4547138

It’s an interesting idea: understand the mechanism for producing misleading news, and how to counter allegations of lying by attacking the credibility or the reliability of the attacker -things like that. The reward is simple: followers. ‘Researchers think an online game in which the goal is to produce convincing fake news can act as a kind of psychological vaccine that teaches people how to recognize deception and misinformation.

Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory and a psychologist at Cambridge University, has worked with a group of Dutch media literacy activists, to produce an online game called the Fake News Game. In the game players pretend to distribute fake news through Twitter, blogs and online newspapers, and make choices that allow them to add to their score by building up followers and using deceptive techniques to maintain credibility. The techniques the players use in the game are modelled on those used by fake news producers in the real world.’

The problem, of course, is that maybe everybody wins the game, and gets the certificate. Maybe everybody comes away with the same sense of power I got when I supposedly manipulated a credulous public, step by insidious step, into believing outrageous and obvious lies. And, maybe it’s not only the public who is inadvertently seduced…

But I am, if the credits are to be believed, now more immune from fake news -or perhaps more aware of it, or something. It’s just that… Well, I like the process. The hoax. There is something immensely satisfying about puppet-mastership. About pulling strings from a closet, hidden from all but conscience. And yet, I suppose one could get used to the ever lessening choke of even that -after all, Fake News works both ways doesn’t it? And so does immunity; it’s called accommodation when one ceases to notice an annoying odour after being exposed to it for a while. Ceases to be bothered by it. And what if I get so good at spotting misinformation that I begin to look forward to it? There’s no harm in that, right?

Perhaps… Although if the truth be told, I’m more entertained by some news than concerned about its accuracy. In the larger scheme of things, some news just isn’t important, and much of the rest is simply disconcerting. Or titillating. And yet, in that same scheme, I have to wonder why I am so attracted to news in the first place. I have several news apps on my phone -each one from a different country, and each seemingly independent, often even claiming different sources for their information. But it’s the same news, albeit in different words, and from different perspectives. But I have to ask why I was drawn to it at all. I read each account of the same event with an eagerness bordering on schadenfreude -and that bothers me as much as the import of what I’ve absorbed. The accuracy of the information is important, obviously; but the effect it has on me, true or false, is as much of a worry.

I doubt that I am alone in my fascination with what’s going on around me, but let’s face it, the issues that get the most attention are almost always of the same sort -sexual improprieties, senseless violence, horrendous accidents, or political intrigue. Shocking things. Fake news readily cashes in on those themes because they more predictably attract our attention, although often by using unrecognized hyperbole, or thinly camouflaged untruths: Janus-faces. But why is that? Why do we seem so needful of being shocked -so willing to believe something that is counterintuitive or too terrible to be true if we stopped to analyze it further?

It strikes me that we ourselves are the raison d’être for Fake News, by being so eager to absorb it. To believe it. I wonder if it’s not so much an echo chamber that most of us inhabit, as a recording studio. A broadcasting node.  Fake news -disinformation- travels only as far as the next transmitter.

We are the willing fomites of our own deception.

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