How good is your bullshit meter? Find out with this quiz.
“The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit”, said Steve Bannon. Flood the zone. Stink up the joint. “This is not about persuasion: This is about disorientation.” - CNN
It helps to know what kind of bullsh*t you're dealing with as the GOP and FOX continue to flood the zone. It's time to brush up on your skills as it is getting very deep.
Learn to recognize Political Bullshit
When criticized: say that someone else is worse. It's a simple way to shrug off criticism or even responsibility for any wrongdoings.
Any grade-schooler can master the "yeah-well-you-suck-too-so-there" defense. - NPR “Not only does it help to deflect your original argument but it also throws you off balance. You’re expecting to be in a civilized argument that doesn’t use cheap tricks like that. You are playing chess and your opponent — while making a lousy move — he just punches you on the nose.” - Washington Post
Example: When asked that Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” Trump replied: “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too.” - Foreign Policy Magazine
The Strawman argument is used to attribute to your opponent something they haven’t argued, and then knock down the fake argument you just made up. - Washington Post
When someone makes a strong argument that’s hard to refute, simply pretend they made a different argument, that’s easier to knock down. Oversimplify what they said, misrepresent the point of their argument, or just put words in their mouth. Spot a 'strawman' being used when there is a mismatch between someone’s stance and the stance that their opponent is attacking. - Fallacious Trump
Example: The Keep Families Together Act prohibit federal agents and officers from separating a child from a parent. Trump falsely claimed it was an 'open borders bill' - something he made up, and argued against it - PolitiFact
A false flag is a trick of blaming an opponent for something you've done. - BBC
The term was first used to describe how pirates flew the flag of a friendly nation to deceive merchant ships into allowing them to draw near. Nations have often done this by staging a real or simulated attack on their own side and saying the enemy did it, as a pretext for going to war.
Example: Alex Jones claimed that the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary was a “false flag” intended to generate support for gun control, and that the families mourning their children were “crisis actors” in on the “giant hoax.” Jones has now been punished for the harm those lies caused: A Texas jury ordered him to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the young victims for compounding their pain and suffering. - Washington Post
While whataboutism comes with an element of diversion—look at what the guy over there did—bothsidesing tries to minimize what would often be deemed objectionable by heightening actions of other groups so that they will be deemed comparably objectionable.
Example: Trump’s responded to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that there were “very fine people on both sides” at the rally, language that was viewed by many as a deliberate attempt to avoid singling out white supremacist activity. - Merriam Webster
I was just kidding
Deny responsibility for your statement by saying you were 'just kidding' and then accuse others of being “too sensitive,” and mocking them. - Psych Central
The reality is, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim to be a serious person engaging in the serious world of politics and ideas, spread toxic poison with a megaphone that reaches millions, and then cry “just kidding” when your attempts to actually overthrow an election fail. - The Daily Beast
Example: Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 Clinton emails”? When asked about it by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump’s lawyers wrote the comment was made “in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.” - CNN
First, the facts
Federal agents removed top secret documents when they searched former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence on Monday as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant made public on Friday. F.B.I. agents seized 11 sets of documents in all, including some marked as “classified/TS/SCI” — shorthand for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” according to an inventory of the materials seized in the search. Information categorized in that fashion is meant to be viewed only in a secure government facility.
It was the latest stunning revelation from the series of investigations swirling around his efforts to retain power after his election loss, his business practices and, in this case, his handling of government material that he took with him when he left the White House. The results of the search showed that material designated as closely guarded national secrets was being held at an unsecured resort club, Mar-a-Lago, owned and occupied by a former president who has long shown a disdain for careful handling of classified information." - NY Times
Next, the BS
In response to the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida on Monday, Trump and his allies in Congress and right-wing media have returned to his preferred strategy for communicating in a crisis: say a whole bunch of nonsense in rapid succession. (CNN). See if you can spot the manipulation trick used in each claim. (Answers below).
- Trump posted a suggestion that the FBI could have planted evidence. His legal team had already been suggesting the same thing. Alina Habba, a Trump lawyer said on Fox: “I’m concerned that they may have planted something; you know, at this point, who knows?” Rand Paul (R-KY) echoed this question, wondering on Fox how we know “they won’t put things into those boxes to entrap him.” Fox host Jesse Watters said the FBI was “probably” planting evidence. - CNN
- Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered up a different baseless conspiracy theory about federal malfeasance, saying on Fox on Tuesday that he didn’t think they were looking for documents at all but were probably using that as an “excuse” to root around Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence for “whatever they could find.” - CNN
- Fox News' Brian Kilmeade clarifies that image of judge at center of Trump search warrant was a fake. “This depiction never took place & we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest," the Fox News host tweeted. - Politico
- Lara Trump said on Fox that the searchers were “a bunch of people unannounced breaking into your home like this and taking whatever they want for themselves.” - CNN
- Trump baselessly suggested former President Obama had mishandled presidential records after leaving office by, Trump claimed, keeping more than 30 million documents, many of them classified, and taking them to Chicago. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issued a statement explaining it has “exclusive legal and physical custody” of the Obama-era records. - Letters From An American
Snow White by FOX
Snow White is is a young princess whose beauty is defined by her inherent kindness and purity. Shortly after discovering love in a charming Prince, Snow White learned that her jealous stepmother, the Evil Queen, was determined to kill her. Snow White forcibly ran away from home to escape the Queen's wrath, but found shelter in the cottage of seven dwarfs. The evil queen poisons Snow White who falls into a coma till kissed by Prince Charming and then live happily ever after. - Disney Fandom
- It wasn't really the evil witch that poisoned Snow White. Snow White poisoned herself and almost died in order to attract Prince Charming. (False flag)
- Well you think that Snow White had it bad, whatabout the witch who was being called 'evil'. How do you think she felt? Does FOX ever call Snow White an albino? (Whataboutism)
- Was the witch wrong to poison Snow White? I think it is wrong for a young princess to be living with seven dwarfs? (Strawman)
Countering False Flags
"Use humor and ridicule. George Lakoff, who studies propaganda, calls this a “truth sandwich” — a lie gets sandwiched between true statements. Research shows it effectively corrects a falsehood, because people tend to remember the beginning and end of a statement, rather than what’s in the middle.
Mr. Trump’s resistance to masks is also a target for a derisive truth sandwich: “Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But you sure wouldn’t know it from the president, who has run around in public without one and mocks people like me who wear them. Is it vanity or that he just doesn’t believe in science? I don’t know, but the science is undisputed: wearing masks saves lives.” - NYT
"Whatabouts have an air of “truthiness” and can seem convincing at face value. The way whatabouts dominate our public discourse in an endless drumbeat of fake news and propaganda means that even well-meaning people are getting thrown off base. Many of those propagating extremist right wing views might actually be parroting something they heard on Fox News.
Whataboutism muddies an argument. A discussion about the blatant financial corruption of the administration is expanded into a general statement that all politicians steal, so it doesn't matter. Point out they're not actually addressing what you said, adding “that’s an interesting point, we can discuss that later but let’s talk about just this right now.” Keep things focused on the issue at hand. Once you are through talking about specific examples of Trump’s corruption, you can then compare it to their opinion that all politicians steal, and show that even though many politicians are corrupt, in comparison Trump displays a truly unique level of corruption." - Occupy
John Roberts, Fox News anchor and co-host of the afternoon show “America Reports,” admitted on air on Monday that his show was inaccurate when it claimed on Friday that President Joe Biden is trying to require Americans to sharply reduce their consumption of red meat. Roberts made the concession after CNN and other media outlets published fact check articles explaining that Biden does not have any plan to restrict red meat consumption. Roberts acknowledged that “a graphic and the script” from his Friday show “incorrectly implied” that a 2020 academic study about meat-eating and greenhouse gas emissions is “part of Biden’s plan for dealing with climate change. That is not the case.”
Roberts had falsely claimed on Friday that the study – which is not connected in any way to Biden’s actual policies – found that people need to “say goodbye to your burgers if you want to sign up to the Biden climate agenda.” As Roberts spoke on Friday, Fox aired a graphic that claimed “Biden’s climate requirements” are to “cut 90% of red meat from diet, max 4 lbs per year, one burger per month.” - CNN
Use clear and definitive language to counter strawman arguments. This makes it more difficult for your opponent to distort your stance, and makes it easier for you to correct them if they attempt to do so.
- Point out the strawman. Call out your opponent on their use of the strawman, by explaining why their argument is fallacious, and how it distorts your original stance.
- Ignore the strawman. You can choose to ignore the distorted version of your argument that your opponent presents (i.e. the strawman), and continue to advocate for your original position.
- Focus on your audience rather than on persuading your opponent using strawmen in a debate.
Countering Both Side-ism
"To wiggle out of a suit over a false accusation on Tucker Carlson’s show, for instance, the network’s lawyers had to argue that the program wasn’t actually conveying sober, factual news. And now Fox News is arguing that the Trump-Powell-Giuliani lies about the election constitute a “side.” “There are two sides to every story,” reads the network’s motion. “Introducing groundless doubts about the validity of a free and fair election is among the most serious forms of demagoguery there can be in a representative democracy,” notes New York University professor Jay Rosen in an email. “Assisting in the circulation of those doubts is not what a real news organization does.” - Washington Post
- Don’t want to feel bad about being in a coalition with white nationalists who helped elect Trump? Make up a violent “alt-left.” Both sides, you see!
- Don’t want to own up to how a birther conspiracy theorist like Trump fans the flames of racism? Call Obama divisive. Both sides! Nailed it!
- Don’t want to deal with the vile racism that’s found a welcoming home in today’s Republican Party? Call civil rights activists racists, too! Both sides! Whee!
- Want to ram through healthcare legislation with no hearings? Just lie and say the Democrats did the same thing, too!
- Want to steal a Supreme Court seat from the Democrats? Just make up a “rule” that both sides have purportedly followed. Free pass!
- Want to gerrymander Congressional districts so badly that some states don’t even have competitive races? Just point out that Democrats have gerrymandered, too!
- Want to make it harder for black people to vote? Just yell about how the Democrats used to harbor racists, too. - Extra News Feed
Refuse to debate those whose views are motivated not by a concern for the truth, but intended to manipulate people. Giving such views equal consideration simply because they are contrarian is harmful. - Prindle Institute
Countering 'Just Kidding'
FOX claims it was 'just kidding' after being caught spreading disinfo. Brian Kilmeade, filling in for Tucker Carlson tonight, shared a clearly fake, photoshopped image of the judge involved in approving the Mar-a-Lago warrant. - Reddit
They are allowed to publish lies because they go under the name “Fox News Entertainment” instead of just “Fox News”. They admitted in court that they are an entertainment channel and not real news, therefore are not responsible for telling the truth. Fox News actually won a court case by 'persuasively' arguing that no 'reasonable viewer' takes Tucker Carlson seriously.
Counter the 'just kidding' defense by exposing the harm from the deception.
FOX is deep (pun intended)
“Last night while subbing for Tucker Carlson, we showed you an image of Judge Bruce Reinhart w/ Ghislaine Maxwell that was sourced on screen to a meme pulled from Twitter & wasn’t real,” the post said. “This depiction never took place & we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest.”
Republicans have been heavily critical of Reinhart for signing off on the search warrant. And a barrage of online attacks have flooded right-wing message boards and social media platforms such as 4Chan since Reinhart was identified as the judge who approved the FBI’s warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. He’s been attacked for serving as a defense attorney representing employees of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and Reinhart is also facing a deluge of antisemitic attacks and threats online. Some of this rhetoric has also been targeted at the synagogue he belongs to." - Politico
TakeAway: Learn how to spot and counter manipulation.
Answers: (1) False Flag (2) Both Side-ism / False Flag (3) Just kidding (4) Strawman (5) Whatabout-ism
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