A recent radio news hour reported that a “poll” said that a majority of Americans thought that people wearing masks are more attractive than those not wearing masks – and specifically those wearing “medical-type” masks. Okay, I said, lets look up the story and read the full details.
Lo and behold, there was such a story. Although I did finally find the correct story (published last week) in the Guardian, the first searches turned up a story from August of 2020 which seemed to be nearly the same thing. Indeed, the stories seemed to match very closely – enough to make me wonder and do some more research.
I am finding that the trend is for far more than just masking or the present war of words about vaccines and the dangers of Omicron variants of the COVID-19. News aggregator apps – especially those tailored for and pushed by companies for mobile phones – seem to have lost all sense of timeliness.
You read a new story about someone getting gunned down in town X yesterday or an odd fatal traffic accident, and there often are a dozen other linked “related” stories at the bottom (or in a sidebar). If you look at those carefully, there are (what I consider an inordinate amount of) articles from a half-dozen different locales. Often hundreds or even thousands of miles away. And just as frequently months and months ago.
I know enough about programming to believe that there are lots and lots of ways to filter such links based on dates and locations to leave out such curious bogus “related” stories. (Please, readers, tell me if that is a misunderstanding on my part.) Now, every software has glitches, but this is far too common to think that everything (or even most) is a coding error. Especially since (I assume) that there ARE humans in several points of the chain.
So why does this happen? I see two possible explanations.
The first is the less suggestive: the people doing the work of coding and editing/publishing the content are incompetent. Poor education, lack of experience, and probably lack of supervision. This matches the increasing frequency of poor English in many of the articles – both those published in both print and electronics, and those just published electronically. If the writers and proof-readers and editors don’t know the difference between “they’re” and “their” and “there” or can’t match subject and verb, they also are likely to have serious problems with geography and dating (math, not the other kind).
OR it is intentional – and these stories are being bundled for some reason.
What would that reason be? Again, two thoughts come to mind.
A. It is clickbait to sell advertising. Headlines are often generic and of course intended to get you to read a story – go to a particular website. And there be exposed to the advertising for whatever: burgers, real estate services, “free games” and all the rest. Carefully selected for YOU by the datamining of Google, Bing, and all the rest. Including your own internet service provider. AND of course, the government.
B. It is intended to propagandize you: to convince you that conditions are much worse (or much better) than they are. To sway your opinion. To strike terror into your heart or to brainwash you into believing that we are living in the best of times. And if you just support politician X or buy product Y, everything is going to get better.
Ah, the wonderful art (and sometimes science) of public opinion, advertising and related fields of manipulation. All of these techniques are tools that can be used for good or bad – and seem to be used more for bad results – more submission, more foolish spending, more demand for control – than for good.
So be very, very careful about what you see and read – regardless of the source. It could save your liberty, save your money, and even save your life.