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Virtual Lies and Illusions

Controversial Content
Added: Saturday, October 29th 2011 at 11:20pm by InsidePassage
Related Tags: internet

Topic of the Hour: Deceit in the Internet Age

   This post is primarily for the benefit of those who regularly read my posts, as they'll notice I snark about and use certain terminology that is largely, not necessarily originally (and possibly incorrectly) invented or perpetuated by myself to refer to certain behaviors online. 'Virtual Lies' exists largely to define some of that terminology. These behaviors fall primarily in the realm of politics, but are often little more than real life tactics modified for the digital world. That first bit said, I think this might offer some insight for others as well, as these tactics are be common to all sides of the spectrum, and even falling outside of politics and into other forums of debate. I believe this sheds some light on things that I've said before, and perhaps on my attitude of cynicism to politics in general.

  On to it - Okay, that's a rather vague term, "behavior" and I use it because I didn't want that to get in the way of explaining the purpose of this post. However, it's pretty obvious that I'm talking about Lies. Deceit. Dishonesty. Shenanigans. Smoke and Mirrors. All of the above, or choose your own. When it comes to the political arena, there's a tremendous amount of shamelessness. Online anonymity adds an entire extra dimension to the act of lying that makes it easier to accomplish things one simply cannot get away with as easily in real life. New tactics are developed that achieve the same garbage people pull back here in The Real World. I could go on for pages about these tactics, but I'm going to stick to listing terminology, a definition, and an example. We'll start with a basic one...

1. Sock Puppets . Not entirely my term. Any internet regular is aware of those accounts/personas that are created for the sole purpose of being a pain in the backside. They're not... real, but their effect is. In terms of political propaganda, the purpose is different... either to incite controversy, assassinate character or to grant unwarranted credibility to an issue. Example: An article is posted by a doctor stating categorically that cancer has a cure that is suppressed for the sole purpose of raking in money on cancer treatment. A moment's check on the link to the doctor's supposed place of work reveals that he doesn't exist. Meanwhile, a new urban legend is born, and cited as gospel truth. Heard of Lindsay Williams and his "BP-Oil death squads"? Difference is, he's real and can be held accountable for what he claimed.

2. Date-Stripping . Chalk this up under "Omgz, the lamestream media's ignoring ____!" This is the practice of taking a very old article, ideally with mention of a day of the week (i.e. Thursday), removing any numerical date references from it, and then presenting it as if it were a new article. Example: There was a guy who made a really impassioned speech about something to do with 9/11. Financial aid for firefighters, or something? I don't recall, but it was a great speech. Made 10 years ago. It was date-stripped and presented as an indictment of the current administration... after all, it isn't reported in today's media, that means they're suppressing it. Right....?

3. Scrubbing . This practice really isn't much different from the real life practice of white washing one's personal history. It basically means removing certain controversial information from one's website so that it doesn't come back to haunt you. Not a completely naive practice, as it works, but some amateurs are known to leave incriminating link names up. Example: Remember Dove Outreach? Specifically the Quran-burning (free speech!) controversy? Just before that mess went down, they scrubbed their website of references to their "Support Westboro Church" campaign and pretended it never happened. Kind of pointless, since they're cited in numerous other press articles, but I guess you can always call the media liars; it's true often enough.

4. Snopesing . This is the act of adding a (usually half-true, but occasionally blatantly untrue) citation as authentication of the truth of an article. Example: A number of fact-checking resources exist on the internet, much to the dismay of deceitmongers. One of these is Snopes, which focuses on debunking urban legends, many of them political. At some point, people started realizing that calling Snopes a bunch of dirty liberals (debunking propaganda pisses off the propagandists) , or more rarely conservatives, just wasn't working. They began the practice of adding the words "Even Snopes says its true!" or the like to their articles. The expectation is that you will take their word for it and not look on Snopes or at least not read it closely. Sadly, given the ideological mindsets people have, many do exactly that.

5. Fauxtography . (1) Not my term. Uploading pictures that are  photosphopped, part of an incomplete set, taken out of context, or otherwise represent a completely different take on an event than what has actually happened. Example: I've posted on this one (A Picture Worth Too Many Words) (2) before because there's an article that surfaced on a news site sometime back alleging grand scale pedophilia in the form of a mass wedding in Gaza by older grooms to child brides. Accompanying the article is a picture of many men lined up with little girls in dresses waving flags. After locating the site the picture came from, it turns out the little girls are their equivalent of bridesmaids. Classy, really.

  This list is by no means comprehensive, and really only serves to shed a little light on some of the words I've used and will continue using in future posts.

~ End ~

1) http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fauxtography

2) http://www.blogster.com/insidepassage/a-picture-worth-too-many-words


User Comments

Astute observations.  Here are some more, presented in a humorous fashion.


Hah, thanks for sharing!

I wonder if that makes me 'Target'? :O

In this place, one never knows...

Very cool link! I saved it.

Interesting post.

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