Remember when President Trump removed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bust from the Oval Office? How about that time he boorishly poured out his box of fish food when visiting the Japanese prime minister? Of course, you can never forget that time Trump threatened to invade Mexico on a phone call with the Mexican president, right?
What do all of these scandalous stories have in common?
…the story does not necessarily have to be credible; it just has to appear to be credible.
They are all completely fake and designed to mislead the American public. Even more insidious, the outlets that disseminate these fallacious fables have reported additional false stories intended to promote the progressive agenda.
In some cases, the not-so-noble Fourth Estate puts out stories that are blatantly untrue. In other cases, it cherry-picks only the facts helpful to the cause. Either way, the legacy media’s objective is to smear, slander, and sully the character of conservatives who support the president. And, unfortunately, they are often successful.
But how has the establishment media managed to deceive so many people? It’s simple. They are experts at perpetuating false narratives. Fortunately, it is not difficult to figure out how they craft their deceptive stories.
The Media Practice “Succes”
In their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath explore the fundamental principles of marketing ideas that catch on. While their work focuses primarily on marketing for business, the same ideas apply in any effort at mass persuasion.
According to the authors, six principles are present in the successful execution of a marketing effort. They use the acronym “SUCCES” to illustrate this point. Yes, they know that the word “success” is being misspelled, but the last letter is not necessary for communicating their message.
Any effective persuasion strategy should be:
Many of the progressive media’s fake stories contain most – if not all – of these attributes. Let’s take a look at one of the more egregious examples of the legacy media’s narrative-building.
Brian Ross’ Example of Viral Fake News
After the 2016 election concluded, the Democrats fell into a deep malaise in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to President Trump. The cognitive dissonance caused by a brash businessman beating an established icon of the Democratic Party proved to be too much for many on the left to handle. In response, they began pushing the Russia collusion narrative to explain why she was defeated.
The Russiagate narrative has been bolstered by a long series of news stories – many deceptive – promoting the notion that President Trump collaborated with the Russian government to swing the election in his favor. Last year, ABC News’ Brian Ross reported that former Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was going to inform Congress that then-candidate Trump instructed him to reach out to the Kremlin.
Ross’ report elicited a strong reaction from the left, with many believing Flynn would reveal the smoking gun that would prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Trump had worked with the Russian government. Several other outlets excitedly spread the story on their networks and social media. Unfortunately for the left, the story was false.
The report’s contention that Trump asked Flynn to contact the Russian government was true. However, the deception occurred when Ross suggested that Trump was still a candidate when he gave these instructions. The reality is that Trump already had won the election and was the president-elect. Moreover, Trump did not ask Flynn to engage in any illegal activity, so the smoking gun turned out to be loaded with blanks.
Why Did the Flynn Story Spread?
This story gained quite a bit of attention before the lie was exposed. Why? Because it followed the formula laid out by the Heath brothers. For starters, it was a simple story. Trump told Flynn to contact the Russians before he was elected, which indicated that collusion occurred. Not too complicated, right? Moreover, the story was unexpected because no real evidence of collusion had been discovered and the majority of the American public did not believe the Russiagate story. Ross’ report was concrete in that it exactly detailed what Flynn allegedly did with no vagueness in the description.
While the American public does not trust the media as much as it has in the past, there was still a certain level of credibility to Ross’ report. It was unlikely that a reporter would report such a damning story without fully vetting it. Remember, the story does not necessarily have to be credible; it just has to appear to be credible.
It might seem difficult to detect where emotion plays into the rapid spread of the report, but when you consider the anger and hostility many Democrats displayed after the election, it is easy to see that they are emotionally attached to the Russiagate narrative. Because cognitive dissonance dictates there is no plausible way Trump could have won the election fairly, when humans discover information that substantiates their beliefs – no matter how irrational – they are likely to cling to it for dear life.
Lastly, the storytelling aspect of this situation is self-evident. The news media communicate their ideas using both false and true stories. It is their primary method of promoting their views. Stories are compelling because they automatically encapsulate the other five principles. Not only that, telling stories makes messages more memorable.
Can Conservatives Counter False Narratives?
Let’s face it. Conservatives have done a poor job countering many of the progressive left’s false narratives. Worse, the far left has maintained a firm grasp on most of the American institutions by which ideas are disseminated to the public. But is it possible that conservatives can push back against the specious stories upon which the left has relied?
The answer is yes.
Alternative media have provided conservatives with the means to subvert the establishment media juggernaut. Despite its best efforts, the progressive propaganda machine has failed to stamp out right-leaning opinions on the internet. Conservatives have a deadly weapon at their disposal, and they need only to have the will to use it.
It is neither necessary nor desirable for conservatives to mimic the left’s strategy of using dishonest reporting to advance their agenda. Instead, they can use the six principles to craft and disseminate truthful narratives that expose the deceptive reporting of the progressive media empire. Conservatives must start elevating their messaging if they wish to slay the leftist media dragon. Otherwise, it won’t take long for the left to win the long game.