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How A Russian Troll Fooled America
@TEN_GOP was a masterpiece of disinformation and disguise: a Russian account which masqueraded as an American for over eighteen months, fooling both friends and foes of President Donald Trump in the media, on social media, and even in the Trump campaign.
Its success came from its stepwise approach. First, it imitated genuine far-right commentators by posting hyper-partisan tweets, and attracted their attention by mentioning and praising them. Their responses gave it an appearance of legitimacy which allowed it to interact with higher-profile figures, including in the campaign, and to be quoted by genuine media outlets.
Throughout, it maintained its chosen character, posting tweets that made it out to be an American patriot, a supporter of Trump and the far right, an enemy of Islam and a critic of liberalism. A number of analysts suspected, and eventually proved, that it was Russian in origin; but their comments were not enough to stop it posting.
@TEN_GOP’s brief, but spectacular, career, shows how open America remains to foreign influence efforts. It was an anonymous account with no connection to the Republican party it linked itself to, yet it gained immense credence, first on the far right, and then in the main stream, entirely because of its partisan posts. Far-right commentators supported it; mainstream outlets and politicians quoted it; liberals attacked it; all were fooled by it.
As long as social-media users continue to blindly accept and share anonymous, hyper-partisan accounts, they will remain open to whatever successor accounts the operators behind @TEN_GOP are running now — and to any other disinformation actors with sufficient skill at camouflage.
Russia  Trolls  Election  Twitter  Fake  db 
6 days ago by walt74
Behind Belle Gibson's cancer con: 'Everything about this story is extreme' | Books | The Guardian
“Pretty much everything Belle had said about her varying illnesses in the years before she took to Instagram to post about having terminal brain cancer wasn’t really believed,” Donelly says, and the authors draw on testimony from old friends and classmates that paint Gibson as a habitual fibber. “People called her out on it, people thought she was lying. It only was believed when she was sending her story out online. And her whole business grew online.”
instagram  fake  news  media  socialmedia  lies  guardian 
8 days ago by noodlepie
Truth? It’s not just about the facts
From time to time, not very often, it looks as though the world has given philosophy a job to do. Now is such a moment. At last, a big abstract noun – truth – is at the heart of a cultural crisis and philosophers can be called in to sort it out.

Send them back. Philosophers’ problems with truth are not the same as the world’s. The post-truth debate cannot be readily fixed by a better theory. Most of the time, people are clear enough what makes something true. To use Alfred Tarski’s famous example from the 1930s, “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white. If that sounds obvious, that’s the point. A statement is true if and only if it corresponds to a state of affairs or event that obtains in the world.

This and other “correspondence theories of truth” are now out of fashion in philosophy. Pragmatism has long been more influential in America, which in crude terms is the idea that to say something is true is to say that it works to assume it is true. True beliefs took humans to the moon, false ones led to a space shuttle exploding shortly after take-off. Coherence theories see truth as a property of collections of propositions, not of individual ones alone: the truths of 2+2=4 depends on a whole number of assumptions not captured in that simple sum. Redundancy theories more or less do away with the need to talk about truth. You don’d add anything to a statement like “Paris is the capital of France” by prefacing it with “It is true that . . .”.

The merits of these competing theories are of mainly academic concern. When people debate whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussain’s Iraq, whether global warming is real and anthropogenic, or whether austerity is necessary, their disagreements are not the consequence of competing theories of truth. No witness need ask a judge which theory she has in mind when asked to promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Why then has truth become so problematic in the world outside academic philosophy? One reason is that there is major disagreement and uncertainty concerning what counts as a reliable source of truth. For most of human history, there was some stable combination of trust in religious texts and leaders, learned experts and the enduring folk wisdom called common sense. Now, it seems, virtually nothing is universally taken as an authority. This leaves us having to pick our own experts or simply to trust our guts.

Philosophers do have something to contribute to this debate. Alain Goldman pretty much invented the field of social epistemology, which investigates social contribution to knowledge, while Miranda Fricker’s work on testimony has clear real-world implications. When residents of Grenfell Tower complained that they had not been listened to, they provided a textbook example of how having access to truth is not enough if you do not have the social standing for your views to receive “uptake” from others. But for the most part, philosophers are not the best people to address people’s uncertainty over whom to trust. Greater scientific literacy, for example, would do more to reveal the truth in the climate change debate than a semester on epistemology.

There is yet another reason why truth is not as plain and simple as snow is white. In the witness box, we all pretty much agree on what makes a claim true and why: a statement is true if and only if it correctly describes real events. In other contexts, however, what we take to warrant a truth claim varies. In neither maths nor science, for example, is truth primarily a matter of accurately describing the physical world as mind-independent reality.

In mathematics, truth attains a kind of Platonic purity and certainty. If a formula or proof is correct, then it is necessarily correct. The truth of mathematics holds independently of what facts might obtain in the world. The laws of physics could change but the maths wouldn’t. That’s why Hume distinguished between the truths of mathematics, which he said involved the “relations of ideas”, with “matters of fact”, truths about the world.

In science, matters of fact would seem to be all. What makes a theory true is that it predicts and describes what we observe to happen. But that does not mean what science describes is ultimately true. We may claim that a theory is true or that a scientist is correct, without committing to scientific realism. Indeed many scientists are happy to remain agnostic as to whether or not their theoretical entities exactly correspond to ones in the real world. Our final physics might or might not contain quarks or neutrinos. What matters is that the equations work, not that the model the equation uses describes the world as it is in itself.

Truth is rarely, if ever, a simple matter of getting the facts straight. History, for example, certainly demands factual accuracy but that in itself is not enough. There is also the question of which facts are made salient and how they are understood. There is no factual disagreement, for example, about the European colonization of Australia between those who would like to see Captain Cook’s statue taken down and those who wouldn’t. The difference concerns which features of that history are given centre stage and whether they are celebrated, lamented or both. When people complain that official histories are untruthful, they are rarely claiming that brazen lies are being told. Rather they insist that important truths are being ignored or overlooked.

People’s interest in the truth is often a concern not with facts but with their meanings. The truth in a portrait, for example, is not necessarily a matter of realistic fidelity. It is rather about capturing something in the sitter that a more physically accurate picture or photograph could miss. This idea is captured in Picasso’s famous aphorism “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth”. This kind of truth is often explicitly contrasted with the factual variety. “There is a distinction between fact and truth”, claimed Lucian Freud. “Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so.” Freud’s definitions may not match those of philosophers, but his point is clear enough. The kind of truth that concerns him is that which reveals the hidden meaning of things, not facts one could look up in a reference book.

Once we prise open a distinction between truth-as-meaning and truth-as-fact, all sorts of “truths” become possible beyond what can be established by reason and evidence alone. Contemporary religion has been good at exploiting this opportunity. In response to the charge that science has made religion redundant at best, demonstrably false at worst, many believers have retorted that religion is concerned with a different kind of truth from that of science and so cannot be falsified by it. Most famously, Stephen J. Gould argued that while “Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world”, religion “operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values”.

Many find this idea of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” of human inquiry attractive but keeping them apart is easier said than done. The religious tend to end up concerned with facts about the world as well as values. With Christians, I find this is usually made clear by the “empty tomb test”. When an articulate, theologically sophisticated believer starts expressing some version of the two magisteria view, one can ask: is it important for your faith that Christ’s tomb was found empty, and not because someone had sneaked his body out? It’s a rare Christian who says this doesn’t matter at all. Central to the faith of most is a supposed fact about a historical event, the everyday kind of truth which we are all concerned with.

In whichever guise we encounter truth, it has the curious property of being everything and nothing to do with us. To say something is true is to say that it is the case whether I want it to be so or not. Nothing can be made true by will alone. It is an all-too common nonsense to say that something is “true for me” but might not be for anyone else. At the same time, what is important about the truth is always relative to the knower. The mathematician, the scientist, the artist, the historian and the religious believer are not always concerned with the same truths or the same aspects of truth. Truth is not relative, but we relate to it in innumerable ways.
PostTruth  PostModernism  Philosophy  FakeNews  Fake  Storytelling  Memetics  db 
9 days ago by walt74

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