Tag Archives: Truth

What you need to know about “Astroturfing”, otherwise known as organized lying.

“Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to the totalitarian state”

~ Noam Chomsky

I’m no fan of Noam Chomsky, but he got that right.

I suspect that a good deal of what we see, hear, and read in the public domain is manipulated.  I posted on one aspect of that, the kowtowing of media companies to the wishes of advertisers and sponsors, here: When Truth Doesn’t matter. (Come back to it later?)

Now, deliberate programs of mis-direction, mis-information, obfuscation, and ridicule have a name: “Astroturfing

Here’s Sharyl Attkisson (@SharlAttkisson) on the faking of grassroots movements as campaigns of propaganda in the service of political, corporate, or other special interests.

I dislike the term, but here it’s apt; this is “must see“.

As a take-away, here’s what you need to watch out for when you’re trying to work out whether some position, opinion, or argument is truth or lying propaganda:

Charged language.

The truth usually comes calm and factual.  Liars and spinners use emotive rhetoric to cloak their lack of facts and proof.

Ad Hominem attacks.

If you can’t beat the argument, attack your opponent’s character.  Ridicule, discredit, impugn.  Straight from the Saul Alinsky playbook.

Questioning those who question authority.

Classic misdirection.  If they’re not questioning “authority”, but rather, questioning those that do, you have to wonder about their motivation.

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And because I fear that there’s serious astroturfing going on at a macro-political level, we’ll give the last word to a master of lying big:

“We have made the Reich by propaganda”

~ Joseph Goebbels

How to tell if you’re being lied to, and why you must never stop judging.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

A few days ago I tweeted a #WorthyReading article:

Rory Vaden: “Three ways you can tell if you’re being lied to

There’s one paragraph I want to highlight, and amplify:

Sometimes we guilt ourselves into taking others’ word for something, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, but the key is never to completely pass control of our thinking to someone else, or to stop thinking for ourselves. When we stop thinking about our thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own — or worse, someone else does the thinking for us. While we can blame others, it is often our own lack of thinking that makes us susceptible to lies.  [emphasis mine]

First, a couple corrections:

“…the key is never to pass [ANY] control of our thinking to someone else.”


“When we stop thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own – or worse, someone else does the thinking for us”.  Not quite.  Stop thinking, that is, cease to focus the mind, and our whim and emotion takes over.  Feelings can lead us correctly, but can also be mistaken.  See here for more on this.

Now the amplification, and why I like the article in general and the paragraph in particular:

We, all of us, must constantly be making judgements.

Check everything, especially what people say (write, print, broadcast, post, tweet, SMS), against the facts that you can verify with your own senses and the application of logic.

People don’t need to lie, but the sad fact is that most do.  Still worse is the fact that the people who have been fooled by lies, repeat them, and repeat them, and repeat them.  So many lies get repeated so often they become accepted as fact.

The funny thing is, the bigger the lie (and there are some whoppers in plain view of us all), the less they seem to get questioned; to be judged false, as they patently are.  I’m still not sure why that is.  You?

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Here’s a couple more good pieces on lying liars, and how to spot them:

Become a Human Lie Detector” by @cranstonholden at TodaysManager

The Science of Sniffing Out Liars” by Susan Kruglinski at Discover Magazine


Caveat Emptor in the Market Place of Ideas

EVERYTHING IS A TRADE.  From buying a car to reading a book, from taking a class to engaging in a conversation, everything you do involves trading some value of yours for some value you hope to gain.  You always hope to make a profit.  That is, you always hope that what you get back exceeds the value you put in.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Everything right in fact.  Even if all you’re doing is giving your time, that is still a value to you, perhaps the most valuable commodity you possess, and you need to spend it wisely.  Profit is not a dirty word.

Give up time and money to take a class, your profit is to get smarter.  Give time to help a friend move house, your profit is the enjoyment of company, the satisfaction of hard work, and the value of friendship.  Put years of blood, sweat, & tears into a start-up, your profit is to come away with a great product, pride in a job well done, and hopefully some wealth you can use to enjoy or invest.  Spend your hard-earned capital on a new widget, you profit by having a useful/beautiful/enjoyable thing that makes you happy.

Now, the first rule of any trade is Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.  Are you getting what you think you’re getting?  Check, check, check.  When you shop, invest, even barter, no doubt you’re pretty good at this.  We’ve all become pretty savvy when it comes to spending money.  Sadly, there’s too many crooks about not to be careful.

In the realm of ideas though… mmm, that’s another thing altogether.  In the realm of ideas, cheats, frauds, incompetents, and fools rule the roost.  In the realm of ideas, the truth is more often than not hidden in the shadows cast by towers of bullshit.

So why is it that so many people blindly accept lies, fabrications, distortions, and mistakes, without so much as a cursory reference to the facts – the evidence?

Is it because:

We place too much respect in “experts”?

We’re too obedient to “authority”?

We believe what we want to; what makes us feel good, or safe, or reassured?

We wear the “blinders of tradition”?

We fall for “Brand Traps”?*

I don’t know.  If you do, please fill me in.  In the meantime, remember this:  the power any lie has over you… comes from you.  Flick the switch of reason, check the facts – the evidence – and the light of truth exposes lies and sends liars scurrying.  When it comes to ideas, especially the big ones, ask yourself this:  “Have I bought the truth?”

*(hat-tip to Jens at LeanSelf)

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Related reading:

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

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MPJ Author Profile

The truth about truth

TODAY a little philosophy.  Just a little.

Contrary to popular belief, the truth is objective.  There is no such thing as “your truth” or “my truth”.  That’s a misunderstanding; an equivocation on fact and value.  So let’s clear it up.


1.  Chocolate is the best food in the world.  True of false?

2.  The sun will rise tomorrow?  True or false?Sunrise

Question #2 is a fact, and facts are either true or they’re not facts.  This one is true.  🙂

Question #1 is a value judgement, not a fact.  In and of itself it is neither true nor false.

Let’s see what happens when we rephrase it.

John thinks chocolate is the best food in the world.  True or false?

Ask john.  If John says yes, he does think chocolate is the best food in the world, than we can say that that’s a fact – that is, what John thinks of chocolate is a fact.  Or, the fact is, John loves chocolate.

What Mary thinks of chocolate (Blah!), is also a fact.  The fact is, Mary thinks chocolate is awful.

Value judgements are not true or false in and of themselves, because any statement of value presupposes a “somebody” (a John or a Mary) doing the valuing, and therefore depends on the judgment of the  “valuer”.

Facts of reality, on the other hand, are not open to judgement or interpretation.  It doesn’t matter that John thinks night is better than day… the sun is still coming up.

Why does this matter?

In leadership, as in life, objectivity is paramount.  Any judgement, especially judgement of the statements of others, requires an ability to distinguish between fact and opinion.

More importantly, the mistaken belief that “the truth” is whatever anyone says it is, is like pulling the rug out from under realty’s feet – people are going to fall over.

The truth is, reality is not malleable to anyone’s feelings, wishes, opinions, desires, or demands.  What is, is.  As Aristotle put it, “A is A“.  And “A” is “A” for everybody, regardless of what anyone thinks or feels about it.

So next time someone starts talking about “their” truth versus “your” truth, you’ll know better.

And next time you need to resolve a conflict, or direct a creative one, start by separating facts from opinions, truth from value judgments.  Clarity, resolution, and creativity will quickly follow.

Who do you trust?

THERE are many good posts on why trust is important in leadership, so I’ll not rehash what’s already part of the conversation.  I’ll just take it for granted that we agree that no one will follow the lead of someone they do not trust.

It’s rather obvious, but I think a reminder won’t hurt:  the fundamental drivers of trust, which are actually two sides of the same coin, are Honesty and Truth.

Who do we trust?  We trust someone if we know them to be honest.  Honesty simply means fidelity to the truth, in word and action.

Why be honest?

For yourself:

Because innocence is the precondition of self-esteem, and self-esteem the precondition of happiness.

For others:

Because everyone deserves to hear the truth, or, conversely, no one deserves to be lied to*, not even so-called, “white lies”.

It’s that simple, in leadership, and in life.

*There are a couple exceptions.  If you’re interested, ask me in comments.