Home / News / The Problem With Fake News Is That ‘People Want to Consume Information That Makes Them Feel Good, Because It Reaffirms Their Worldview’

The Problem With Fake News Is That ‘People Want to Consume Information That Makes Them Feel Good, Because It Reaffirms Their Worldview’

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A year out from Donald Trump’s startling and disturbing presidential win, it’s turn transparent that the comprehensive sea of disinformation — much of which was Russia-funded and many of which was disseminated by the internet — was vicious in assisting pull a know-nothing reality TV star–turned-wannabe-dictator into power. With the 2018 elections reduction than a year away, the dire doubt now is: How we stop this from happening again?

Unfortunately, on a Tuesday press call orderly by the Factual Democracy Project, an anti-propaganda domestic movement group, the experts did not have the sorcery bullet. While those on the call were confident that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter can do some-more to delayed the assault of disinformation — mostly fueled by supporters of authoritarianism, both in and outward of the U.S. — ultimately, it was tough to equivocate final that the reason that disinformation works is since there’s an assembly for it.

“We see communication in this delivery model,” Claire Wardle, a investigate associate at the Harvard Shorenstein Center, argued. We wish to believe, she pronounced that “more peculiarity information” is the solution. 


“What we’re blank is that people’s attribute to information is wholly emotional,” Wardle added. “People wish to devour information that creates them feel good, since it reaffirms their worldview”; moreover, “disinformation agencies” know that psychology.               

Part of the problem is that during the campaign and beyond, the sources of worried disinformation have been diffuse. Some of it comes from Russian-backed sources, absolutely. But a lot comes from cheap worried operators stateside. Many of these folks aren’t even getting paid, but are partial of a proffer army of “alt-right” propagandists.

“People are pity psychological, educational research” about how people rise fake beliefs in “alt-right” forums, Wardle said. Much of this research was conducted with an eye towards improving people’s vicious meditative skills, but self-appointed Trump defenders are using it for the conflicting intent. By reckoning out since people trust fake things, they wish to pretence some-more people into desiring some-more fake things. 

Once a fake thought “gets into the water, it’s tough to get it out,” explained Tom Jensen, the executive of Public Policy Polling, a polling firm. As an example, he cited the “Bowling Green massacre,” a nonexistent terrorist attack that was concocted by Kellyanne Conway in sequence to clear support for Trump’s Muslim transport ban. Even yet it never happened, the word stuck around to the border that Public Policy Polling found that half of Americans who upheld the transport anathema believed that this electrocute — which again, never happened — fit the ban. 

The biggest disseminator of disinformation in the country now is Trump himself, a man who is totally easy by dignified annoy with blatant fibbing in sequence to get his way. For instance, Trump has been using around shamelessly claiming that the Republican taxation check will lift taxes on abounding people like himself, when in fact it’s the conflicting — the devise is to cut taxes for the rich and compensate for it by hiking taxes on lower- and middle-income people. There’s no tech solution, no Facebook algorithm to get around a boss who simply says what he thinks sounds good and doesn’t give a singular crap if it’s a blatant lie.

Trump gets divided with this since he’s figured out that his supporters don’t mind desiring lies, generally if those lies are graceful or tell a constrained story they really wish were true.

In Adam Serwer’s underline piece at The Atlantic this week, in which he creates the constrained and still required evidence that it was racism that won Trump the election, Serwer recounts the role that misconceptions about immigrants were executive to Trump supporters justifying their votes for the demagogue:

Some Trump electorate we spoke with were convinced, for example, that undocumented immigrants had entrance to a inexhaustible gratification state that was denied to everybody else. “You demeanour at all these illegal immigrants coming in who are getting services that many Americans aren’t getting as distant as insurance, welfare, Medicaid, all that jazz,” Richard Jenkins, a landscaper in North Carolina, told me. Steve, a Trump believer who runs a floor-covering business in Virginia’s Tidewater area, told me that it “seems like people coming to this country, either it’s illegally or by a authorised complement of immigration, are being treated better than American veterans.” If you trust that other people are getting the assistance you deserve, you are likely to conflict that assistance. But first you have to trust this.

The internet positively helped widespread rumors that there were secret sovereign assistance programs only accessible to non-white people and immigrants. But the fact of the matter is, those stories have been around for decades, widespread by word of mouth. Russians may have pumped some income into elevating that propaganda, but it found an assembly since so many people were peaceful to believe. And they wish to trust since they are extremist and wish to justify their racism.


As the experts on the Factual Democracy Project call forked out, Russian propagandists blitzed French electorate before the new election as well, but they didn’t have scarcely as much success as they did in the United States. Some of that was due to structural reasons, but mostly it’s since a aloft commission of French electorate were doubtful of worried propaganda, quite if they suspected it was coming from Russian agencies.


At this point, it’s tenable that many Trump supporters don’t caring and will blatantly repudiate immoderate Russian propaganda, so prolonged as it is revelation them what they wish to hear. As a Trump believer told CNN recently during a voter panel, “If Jesus Christ gets down off the cranky and told me Trump is with Russia, we would tell him, ‘Hold on a second. we need to check with the President if it’s true.’”

If liberals wish to negate the impact of propaganda, it’s clearly not adequate to keep disagreeing about facts. The only way people build an shield to worried promotion is if they stop wanting to believe. It’s time to start changeable the review over to values, and convincing people magnanimous values are better.


Amanda Marcotte is a politics author for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

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