There’s a war for the future being waged online. It’s being fought across the world’s online social networks, and the outcomes of these online battles increasingly dictate the outcome of what happens later in the real world. Facebook is the nonstate world country. Its not just where we get our news, its where we get our empathy, or not. It is the emotional platform.
One of the most successful tactics used in this war is the manipulation of language in order to confuse, scare, nullify or outrage targeted audiences with the objective of making money, aggregating political power, and disrupting opponents.
While this manipulation has always been true of human conflict, it’s being done on a scale and to a degree that we’ve never seen before due social networking, globalization, and social/media fragmentation.
Tactical emotional manipulation exploits the gap in the emotional content of a word or phrase and the factual content.
“I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pig-headed fool.”
“I am righteously indignant; you are annoyed; he is making a fuss over nothing.”
The factual content remains unchanged, the person referenced is factually described as “a person who is reluctant to accept new information.” However, the words used change the emotional content drastically, from a positive to neutral-negative to negative-opprobrium.
The ability to change the emotional spin on a fact is critical. All great marketing pros already know the emotional content of a message is much more important than the factual content when it comes to selling anything. All brands are simply emotion (a commercial brand is monetized emotion).
However, this gets more complicated when an emotional spin is applied to facts presented as news. People don’t just care about the factual content since they don’t view a fact as a bit of disconnected information. They see all facts within a social context and that context is identified by the emotional context attached to that fact.
People care more about the social consequences of the facts than the fact itself.
Context seeking is the basis of consumerism as Thorstein Veblen pointed out in his classic book on modern economics The Theory of the Leisure Class. The modern economy is based on people buying products and services in an attempt to mimic the choices and habits of people they consider cooler, wealthier or more successful than they are.
This is also true with news in a fragmented society. Most people go to news sources they trust to find out more than the facts. They want to find out how they should feel about a fact (or whether they should reject that fact) from people they consider to be leaders of their social network.
This context seeking used to be limited to the news presented by reporters/editors of the big papers like the New York Times and the TV network news organizations like CBS. That’s not true anymore. Control over the emotional content of news has fragmented due to the rise of social media and social networking. People don’t just look for the “correct” emotional spin on a fact from a big media company, they seek it from alt news orgs and personalities on social networks they identify with.
There is is little lasting damage from surgically planted and amplified #FAKENEWS in our socially interconnected universe. Those are fleeting fancies…
The danger in this internetworked social world owned by Facebook is online orthodoxy. A sameness of thought and approach enforced by hundreds of millions of socially internetworked adherents. A global orthodoxy that ruthless narrows public thought down to a single, barren, ideological framework. A ruling network that prevents dissent and locks us into stagnation and inevitable failure as it runs afoul of reality and human nature.
This ruling network already exists. It already has millions of online members and it is growing and deepening with each passing day — extending its tendrils into the media, the civil service, tech companies, and academia. There’s little doubt that over time it will eventually exert decisive influence over the entire government as well.
Controlling the online debate is insufficient. For real power, the ruling network needs to control the information flows on our information infrastructure, and then own the emotional thruput.
The most dangerous of all is Facebook, it’s where grandma and the grandkids are. They are weaponizing empathy. Facebook is the emotional platform.
big h/t to John Robb and waiting for the launch of his Patreon account. This post is smashed from his commentaries…