Yesterday, Facebook released a few of the ‘fake news’ ads that Russian media companies put on its site. It turns out that upwards of 100,000,000 people saw them, which is great. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how ridiculous these ads are and how silly people are for thinking they’re legit, but no one is actually talking about why we should’ve known they were bullshit in the first place.
**pulls up big boy pants** Well, I guess it’ll have to be me.
First off, real, reputable organizations wouldn’t put money behind an ad that had blatant mistakes (like incomplete sentences) in them. Look at this ad below sponsored by ‘United Muslims of America.’ Notice anything weird?
“… American Muslims are as American”. As what? AS WHAT??? There is NO legitimate organization that would ever put money behind this. If they did, they’d take it down immediately and correct it. Why? So they don’t look like idiots.
Also, here’s a little freebee. Take a look at where it says the event is taking place: The Obama White House. Not ‘The White House.’ Not ‘White House.’ The Obama White House. Keep an eye out for things that are overly specific. Like most adjectives, this one is put there to make you feel something. In this case, to make you feel angry that it’s ‘Obama’s’ White House. It’s kind of like when people use the phrase ‘mainstream media.’ Are you kidding me? I hate to break it to you, but all media is mainstream. Especially Fox News.
Now onto this next ad sponsored by “LGBT Untied.” Just look at it. This is obviously something someone made in Microsoft Paint (RIP). Use your head. Think about it. Would someone actually create a coloring book of Bernie Sanders? Would someone create a coloring book that looked this crappy? Would someone draw pictures of Bernie Sanders in ‘muscle poses’? … Now that I’m actually writing it down, I think someone actually would. But still. This ad looks extremely unprofessional, ridiculous, and it also has some clear syntactical errors in it.
Now we’re getting into some more sensitive issues. One of the most interesting things about the fake ads was that they weren’t just created for one side. They were actively attempting to incite violence or anger between multiple sides of issues. They would schedule events for two competing groups at the same time and location. When it comes to events and movements, keep an eye out for what they’re actually called. Look at the ad below sponsored by ‘Black Matters.’
I could understand if you don’t see what’s wrong with this. There is a prominent organization in America right now that has two of those words in its name. It’s all over the news, and you’d expect to see ads for them on Facebook because everything is on Facebook. But look closer. What’s the actual name of the movement? Black Lives Matter. I’m not saying that there isn’t a group or chant or something else that says ‘Black Matters,’ but the group is ‘Black Lives Mater,’ not ‘Black Matters.’ It’s something small, sure, but it should definitely give it away that this isn’t the actual political movement. If you see something that looks a little fishy, take 10 seconds to look into it a little bit more. Chances are, it’s not real.
Now onto something a little closer to home: immigration. Living in Texas, I know there are a lot of people and groups out there pushing for more secure borders. They’re very passionate about this issue, and yes, they do sometimes use hate speech when referring to the groups or individuals that come into our country. Like the ad pictured below.
Notice they’re not saying ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ (refugee is another politically charged term in and of itself, but I digress) or any other term to describe people immigrating to our country. They’re calling them ‘invaders.’ One way people try to dig underneath others’ skin is by using speech that belittles or demeans them. There’s no clearer example of that in these posts than calling immigrants ‘invaders.’ Well, until we get down to the next ad.
‘Rapists, drug dealers, human traffickers, and others.’ What’s most sad about this is that these words are ones our president has used to describe immigrants in the past, and that’s exactly what they’re hinting at. This is an ad targeted directly at the individuals that agree with that kind of speech, an ad made solely for the purpose of creating more hate, anger, and fear. (And thanks to Facebook’s wonderful targeting system, they can target more directly and accurately than ever before.)
Just put your detective hat on. Anything using that intense of hate speech probably isn’t reputable. All they want to do is make you more pissed off. Also, take a look at the picture. It’s clearly photoshopped. Those horses would probably be scared shitless, Border Patrol most likely wouldn’t be out in a storm like that, and they’re using an Instagram filter.
Then go back to the old standby – the clear errors in the post itself. They make mistakes that any reputable organization would fix immediately. “… because they wait for amnesty promised.” “The wrong course had been chosen by the American government.”
Just think, people. Just stop for two seconds before you like or read or believe something and think. Does the author have an ulterior motive? Does it look ridiculous? Are there blatant errors that no legitimate organization would make? Stop and think.
For all three of the people that read this, I hope you take something away from it. I don’t care if you’re a republican, a democrat, a socialist, or a fascist. Everyone is guilty of this. Every news organization, every government, every movement, and every human being. Before you go believing something that you read on Facebook or heard from your grandma, just think about it first. If we all spend a little bit more time thinking and a little bit less time yelling at each other, maybe we can start finding common ground, working together, and getting shit done.
3 thoughts on “How to Spot Bullshit”
Critical thinking is really important when looking at any content on the web. Well done. Best, Dave
You’re absolutely right, Dave. A lot of us forget that the internet is a completely unregulated resource with no means of review whatsoever. The only thing there to keep false information from spreading is people who stop to think.
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