Have We Learned to Live with Lies?

We are facing a terrifying fact, lying has become an industry.

And it as been proven that information manipulation can, and does. create reality. We have to ask ourselves; are we, in fact, learning to live with lies?

The recent Facebook scandal has shown that gathering information about people and then using that information to create an alternate truth is a marketable, and profitable, business.

The Cambridge Analytica Mess

Cambridge Analytica consumed Facebook’s universe of personal information and harnessed it to create a truth. A truth that affected the outcome of a presidential election and change the course of history.

Cambridge Analytica has deep ties to American conservative groups and candidates. The company has been employed by the campaigns of Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and former Cambridge employees are currently working in the Trump administration.

Nix, his colleagues, nor his company seem to care about the truth. They seem to relish in their roles as a highly paid creators of lies. Nix was recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”

According to the Daily Beast Nix claimed “There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing,” as he reassured the reporters that his company’s dirty tricks for his clients would never be detected. Nix and Cambridge Analytica used the information collected from Facebook to create an alternate reality for voters. They used their techniques to fuel outright lies, non-sense conspiracies and pry open political, racial and cultural divides all in order to get Donald Trump elected. It worked.

Nix claimed Cambridge Analytica had overseen much of the Trump presidential campaign, we “ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” he went to boast that he had met Trump “many times.”

More than a billion people have taken to social media for one reason or another and so have professional liars and information manipulators. Going back to 2015 the National Republican Congressional Committee launched a group of websites to intended to attack Democratic candidates that look and feel like local news websites. With names like “Central Valley Update” and “Augusta Update,” the reader had to look closely for the box at the bottom of the page that indicates the website is paid for by the NRCC.

A Politicians Paradise

According to a report from Politico, Rep. Devin Nunes and his campaign were behind The California Republican, a website that labeled itself a “media/news company” in its Facebook description. The website claimed to have “the best of U.S., California and Central Valley news, sports and analysis.”

But Politico discovered the website was registered by Alex Tavlian of Sultana Media, which was paid $7,773 by the Nunes campaign for “advertising and digital advertising management.” Since the Politico report has been taken offline, a cached version by Google contained the following disclaimer; “Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee · FEC ID #C00370056.” No such disclaimer was posted on the websites Facebook page.

“The Free Telegraph,” was quietly launched last July and was deceptive in the fact that it looks very much like a news website. But nowhere on the page was there a notice that the website was created, funded and launched by the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Disclaimer of the websites owners and partisan funding and content source was posted only after the Associated Press made an official inquiry.

We need to ask what damage fake and misleading information is having on the voting public? According to a recent survey by  Gallup-Knight Foundation survey,  four in 10 or 42% of Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.” The corresponding figure for Democrats is only 17%, but because of news with suspect or partisan sources, Americans are more confused, angry and vulnerable when it comes to what to believe.

Fake news is rampant on the Internet and created by almost anyone with a computer. An NPR investigation of a fake news story revealed that much of the fake news was designed and targeted for the right wing conspiracy fans that had real world implications. For example, one fake news site based on Colorado published a story that said people were buying marijuana with food stamps.

It was a lie. But the result was a Colorado politician introducing legislation outlawing buying marijuana with food stamps. Which indicates that politicians are falling for fake news.