Goodbye Fake News, Hello Selective News

The Media Can Filter Your Perception

Publishers decided what news the public got to read since the manual typeset presses created single page newspapers. There were always more stories than printed space available. But today, the selection process is changing based on technology and demographics.

Social_MediaBack in the 1980’s magazines released regional versions of their articles that were slanted toward its recipients to build more customers. People in the large cities received more liberal editions than the folks living in the Bible Belt. Advertisers could be more specific about who their audience was and create relevant messages.

Our printless society took selective publishing to another level. Millions of niche publications suddenly had a voice and was capable of attracting a very specific demographic. Advertising soon followed with a selection process that allowed you to determine who saw your ads.

Targeted Ads

I placed an ad recently for an automotive shop that was very specific. Since women make 80% of all car decisions, I targeted only women. Due to the average nationwide cost of keeping a car well maintained and what percentage the average person budgets, I selected a specific income window for each given household. My demographic profile then narrowed the focus of the ad campaign more precisely.

The end result was only women that fit the parameters saw the ad pop up on their computer screen or mobile device, while they searched or used a social media. There were 7,913 women that saw the ad, 23 that clicked on the ad, and 3 that responded to the ad—The selection process meant that it only cost the company about $23 to get three new ideal customers who spent $200-$600.

Can you imagine a world where you only get the specific ads you care about?

Now fast forward into the brains behind the largest social media firms. It suddenly dawns on them that they can save the country from a devastating blow to our national unity. They already own a solution that can bring peace across all social media platforms, reducing the controversies that divide families, communities and political parties.

What if the platform team filters who gets what?

Selective News

An article popped up this week about one company showing heavy support to the LGBT community on pro-LGBT pages, but not on pages that hold a more conservative perspective. Individuals known for supporting LGBT all saw the information, while conservatives never knew the company promoted the LGBT agenda publicly.

This technology has been used for years to focus advertising and is now positioned to focus “news.” Companies that support the left can now say it boldly to liberals and then turn around and support the right’s ideals to conservatives, convincing both sides that the company fully supports their ideologies. And, with the massive support people of faith bring to conservative organizations, liberal companies can now seek their support by angling their messages accordingly.

Consider the political candidate who can speak generally and moderately in public, but in detail to his or her liberal crowd, followed by speaking affirming words to his or her conservative crowd seconds later. The candidate will appear perfect to all voters and capture the election, while the non-savvy candidate won’t know what happened.

Then consider news companies only giving you the news that can specifically alter your perceptions and control your decisions, or how about presenting the stories that always make you comfortable and passive.

Can someone rise to power using social media that you believe, while pulling the wool over your eyes? In today’s technology focused profiling atmosphere, the answer is simply, “yes.”

A Simple Solution

The only way to avoid such a controlling society is to use face-to-face communications and gather together people where everyone wants to learn the real truth. Also important is creating an atmosphere where the sharing of ideas is more important than winning someone over to your perspective. Our survival from falling into the latest propaganda trap is merely to communicate truth, while exhibiting an open mind with our neighbors, friends and families.

How do you know that what you are reading and hearing from your favorite source is the real truth and not the one produced to keep you from taking some form of action against those in power?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Fake News and Faith-Based “Gavin Stone”—Review

gavinstoneThe Resurrection of Gavin Stone was released this past weekend with a great deal of grassroots fanfare. I was bombarded by people telling me that the film was “HILARIOUS” and that I needed to support it because the “Christian film genre needs help.” I was skeptical about the film being that funny, but I trusted my sources and watched it.

When the theater lights came up after the end credits, I realized that all the social media entries about the “HILARIOUS” film were all fake news. My friends were duped, or they’ve learned how to lie for the sake of a good cause. Nah, they were duped.

It seems that the more a person watches campy films to support a cause, the more the bar of their artistic scale lowers. They loose track of what is great cinema and what should’ve been relegated to a TV Movie of the Week (MOW) on a small cable network.

But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll suppose they hadn’t watched La La Land or Hidden Figures yet, which would have shifted their skewed perspective back to a healthy norm. And, they probably hadn’t recently watched videos of The Blind Side, Gravity or Les Misérables.

Then again, maybe they’re stuck on squishy Hallmark movies, where in the first three minutes of the film you know exactly where the plot is headed—comfortably taking away any unwanted surprises. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone did that very thing, lifting its tired plots directly from Hallmark Christmas and Winterfest movies.

I don’t slight director Dallas Jenkins for using a Hallmark format for a campy story in the least, but I do find it interesting that he was quoted as saying his desire was that the movie “drives people to church on Sunday morning,” when the film was clearly made for the proverbial choir.

The film was loaded with Christian jargon that wasn’t understood by the general public, making it impossible to create any desire in a non-believer to attend church. The “inside jokes” also made it difficult for the audience to feel compelled to join the click, rather than being repulsed by it. That’s not to say Jenkins didn’t have the right to make a film for the choir, but to say he hopes it reaches unbelievers sounds like the perfect set up for fake news.

When a film’s language is campy Christian, gritty secular crowds won’t get it. Most won’t even buy the ticket. In fact, the moment Christians hear that the film is yet another faith-based campy story that belongs on a small cable network, box office sales will dry up. But, it won’t really matter, as Jenkins got his two weeks in theaters to increase video sales.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the film was a flop at the box office. Opening weekend saw less than $2,500 per screen average; a number that once a normal film drops to is clearly on its way out.

But the film isn’t all bad. The good news is that the choir will laugh hardily when watching this comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, the choir might finally be able to poke fun at themselves after watching this film that takes the starch out of the up-tight ministry leader. Jenkins did a great job at getting the proverbial choir to look at themselves from an outsider’s viewpoint.

There were even several great moments of acting aside from the purposeful cheeky scenes filled with self-deprecating choir humor and campy fun. Had the title been better suited toward comedy and the film shot as a television special, I’m convinced it would’ve had much higher viewership.

The timing of the film might have added to the film’s death, since many in the choir are still trying to see award winning films like La La Land and Hidden Figures – Both are must sees in my book.

So let me be clear … stating that the film is “HILARIOUS” is fake news. Saying that the film will “delight members of the choir and their friends” is truth. Saying that the film is “original” is fake news. Saying that the film is heartwarming is truth. Are you getting the picture?

My recommendation, go see La La Land and Hidden Figures first.

Copyright 2017 by CJ Powers

Re-Messaging Counts—Even Fake News

rosieA few months prior to our last presidential election, a group of performers made strong statements that if Trump won they’d leave the United States. Since Trump did win, none of the performers left the country. Instead they found yet another way to get their message out to the people ad nauseam.

Barbara Streisand made sure people knew she had a mental breakdown because of Trump. Miley Cyrus shared her profound need to die. And Rosie O’Donnell spoke of her great fear of seeing America go back to the Stone Age. George Clooney, Amy Schumer, and numerous other Hollywood performers chimed in with their ideas to have the entire motion picture industry go on strike until Trump resigns.

“We’re calling for a general strike that would include every single person involved in making motion pictures in Hollywood, starting with the actors and celebrities themselves and encompassing companies in charge of making props, movie memorabilia and even souvenir shops,” a spokesperson for the group told The New York Times. “It’s about time people understood that we’re the ones with the power and that the president is there to serve us, not the other way around.”

Asked to elaborate on why the group is targeting Hollywood out of all the industries in the country as their bargaining chip, the spokesperson argued that Hollywood “is, simply put, the base of the entire modern American culture.”

The Rightists, who bills itself as a “hybrid” site that publishes articles containing a mixture of fact and fiction, wrote this FAKE NEWS article. The article was then rewritten and republished so many times that the satirical sense of the story was lost. The majority of those re-messaging the fake news story were conservatives.

While I’m not sure if the conservatives were re-messaging to show the foolishness to justify their own votes, or if they were ignorant to the satire because they take life way too seriously, or, well, there are several other possibilities that can be discussed, but I want to focus on a different line of thought.

Re-messaging counts!

Anytime we re-message an article, phrase, snapshot or string of 148 characters, we are attaching our approval to the message. We are saying that we stand by what we are forwarding.

Some hope to disagree, especially if they’re forwarding satire. In other words, their goal was to forward the humor of the satire, not the message, which may or may not be picked up on by the receiver. After all, once the satirical piece left the context of the site known for its satire, many interpreted the article as truth, not humor. This suggests we need to attach a short message in front of the forwarded article that says something like, “Hey, this satire made me laugh.”

I’ve received many forwarded warning messages that were proven wrong by Snopes.com and other fact and truth policing organizations. After reading the facts, I wondered why the person who I respected sent numerous others and me the fake news. Most of the time I reply with the facts so the person doesn’t lose face from subsequent forms of re-messaging, but many times its too late.

The rule of thumb that I use when it comes to re-messaging for myself is to consider if I’d compose the message in the same way. If the answer were yes, then I’d send it as is. But, if the answer was no, then I’d want to rewrite the information before passing it along to my friends and family.

The beauty of rewording the message to meet my true viewpoint, since it will be perceived as my view after re-messaging it, is that I can quickly see if the topic is worth the effort of rewriting it. If its not worth my time and energy, then its not worth filling the Internet with more noise. But, if it is of value, then I need to consider what other important factors may have been left out of the article that I can salt into my version of the message.

While this may or may not keep you safe from falling for fake news, it will at least put your spin on the information. Then when people assume you stand behind what you forward, they will actually know your view.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers