When I wrote Don't Believe It!: How lies become news way back in 2005, I had advocated that journalism should have been reinvented as an offshoot of psychology to become applied psychology. I showed how journalism's lack of knowledge in human behaviour made them vulnerable to lies, hoaxes, propaganda, and the like.
When I went to j-school in 1995, I was first student the program accepted who had a psych degree, and I was told that no student ever applied with one, either.
I was their first.
In 2003, I also wrote a commentary in my alma mater's magazine about how journalism and psychology went hand-in-hand.
And before I forget, I had given a speech before that about how the psychology helped the journalism -- the psych faculty at my alma matter asked to reprint my entire speech for their website, and, in turn, one editor of a psychology text asked to reprint part of that in their textbook.
So let us get that fact out of the way.
And now that we have established that Alexandra Kitty has been publicly advocating the fusion of both psychology and journalism for over twenty years, let me also establish that when I had insisted on this fusion to both j-schools and the industry, I was ignored and rudely dismissed.
I was not dismissed by people in the Psychology field. I was not dismissed by other academics.
So it is not as if I had a bad or silly idea. I had an innovative and original idea that was accepted by others, but not the very people who needed to hear it.
The Whole Story is a web site that is just another pseudo-journalistic sophistry machine that thinks doublespeak can cover up the blatant sophistry:
Our mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting about how people are responding to social problems.
Except it is the same old garbage repackaged with some differently-worded babble.
"Solutions journalism" is as Orwellian as one can get. Journalism is not about feeding "solutions" to people. It is about giving people facts so they can make use of those facts to find or make their own solutions -- if they wish.
Because you cannot assume you actually know what everyone's solutions will work for them.
The Big Brother vibe here is not pretty. It is patronizing and presumptuous. Even the name The Whole Story is a misleading form of authoritarian doublespeak: it makes a grand assumption that they can give a "whole story." Nice try. This is a very patriarchal mindset.
Patriarchal is all about the One. The Whole Story: we will spoon-feed it to you, children, and you need not bother to look any more than what this site presents to you.
It is a vile assumption that only goes downhill from there.
But there is one article that is particularly instructive on how journalists are trying to exploit the Age of Propaganda. The very title itself says it all:
Complicating the Narratives
What if journalists covered controversial issues differently — based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?
So right off the bat, we see a very deliberate skewing that is instructive and is trying to rig a board.
"How humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?"
That is a very distorted and loaded assumption, which is doublespeak for "how can we persuade people who voted for Trump to think the way we want them to think so we can go back to lording over people the way we thought we did in our glory days?"
It goes back to the same obsessive journalistic tantrum of November 2016: journalists were going to swagger in, tell the little people to vote for Clinton, and they would listen. All of them. Every single one.
Everything spewed from US journalism since that election has a single mandate of getting back at the man who proved that journalism is no longer a thing. It is the reason the profession has zero credibility now.
To immediately classify people as "suspicious and paranoid" means you believe these people are mentally unbalanced.
That is one hell of an assumption to blare as a headline.
It would be akin to calling a woman who was tortured and raped "suspicious and paranoid" whenever people tried to blame her for being tortured and raped because they do not want to imagine a world where anyone can be harmed out of the blue.
Right in the headline we know this is not an article to inform. It is pure propaganda that cannot even hide what it is, but thinks it has mastered the facade of neutrality.
It is no different than asking a man when did he stop beating his wife.
The article gets more manipulative with its base assumptions from there.
The very long and rambling piece begins with discussing a 60 Minutes piece that interviewed people who supported Trump and Clinton, and the writer of the article thought it was boring:
What went wrong? How could one of the most successful, relatable interviewers in American history create such uninspired television?
Uninspired? What? No Kardashians? No pundits making things "pop"? Perhaps some CGI or car chases?
Do we understand that the point of informative disciplines is not to entertain, but simply inform?
And reflect reality.
Journalism has lost its credibility, and hence, lost its power. To discuss an interview as being "uninspired" misses the mark. A corpse has uninspired behaviour -- it just lies there rotting away.
So what went wrong?
An entire profession imploded but are still too arrogant and oblivious to see it because they are still chasing after trivialities looking for inspired.
It is reminds me of house hunters to pass on a solid house that has dated wallpaper and buy the rotting bricks that has chrome appliances.
But the sophistry and backwards thinking has just begun:
As politicians have become more polarized, we have increasingly allowed ourselves to be used by demagogues on both sides of the aisle, amplifying their insults instead of exposing their motivations.
This is "people are brainless sheep" theory that journalists believed. Politicians pander. They are not visionaries or original thinkers because if they were, they would be too novel and unfamiliar and people will not go for something untested. They are like the therapists who merely repeat what the crowds express is their primary concerns.
If people have no jobs, they are going to look for someone who promises to spark jobs. It is why politicians bribe voters with their own money: people name their price and the politician who can read the zeitgeist and ortgeist can win.
Because that is precisely why Hillary Clinton lost. She tried to (a) vote shame people into choosing her, (b) had a platform that did not speak to what certain critical voting blocs made absolutely clear they needed and wanted, and (c) then decided to insult those people who were screaming for political attention as deplorables.
If you are dependent on the goodwill of the masses to get a position of power, then you cannot risk belittling them. Clinton made the same structural assumption as the author of the drivel did, and she lost an election that should have been an easy coup for her.
Clinton's own incompetency prevented a victory. The Left should have seen it coming. Journalists should have seen it coming. Clinton keeps making the sae mistakes, but expects a different outcome.
And now people who put their money on the losing side are angry that a Sure Thing wasn't a sure thing.
There is no polarization. The people who are pretending to "resist" and be "woke" are slumbering dutifully in their own delusional fantasies because that is their own rote habit. Most of the world would celebrate if they had the same freedoms, opportunities, and prosperity as the Left is enjoying right now. There is nothing to "resist": you have a country with countless organizations, lobby groups, PR firms, social media, laws, special programs, and elections that can help people steer their politicians in the direction they choose, and they are behaving as if they are living in some destitute Third World dictatorship that has no human rights, elections, or even running water.
And who are these "resistors"?
Wealthy Hollywood actors whose careers have faded.
Rich people ranting in limos is not a "resistance."
And we have Millennials having, not any "woke" impulse, they have gotten old before their time. When you have advertisers pushing kids to grow up early, they still go through the same cycles of life, only sooner, and yet it is a youth-focussed society. Add the inflated expectations of being able to be rich and famous through social media that never materialize, and burning out youth with endless lessons and camps that focus on arts for fame, you have people with broken fantasies throwing in the towel at the age where they should be still clawing.
If you ever watched the third season of The Killing, the minor character of Twitch best reflects what happened to those twentysomethings.
They are now having an artificially-induced premature mid-life crisis, and this champagne socialism phase is merely the same rants their parents are having about social security.
This isn't the beginnings of a social revolution, let alone a precursor to civil war.
This a rare time in history where the Left are the old burned out reactionary youth swapping places with the older Right who were using social media for different purposes. One wanted to use it for themselves to make themselves famous with a me-focussed message; the other used it to disseminate a more you-focussed message.
And journalists hedged their bets wrong, and are now trying to incite a generation who are limping their way into rocking chairs left open by older generations who got off their duffs and went to the voting stations. Youth are grousing about the government the way well-heeled retirees living it up in Florida did during brunch quaffing mimosas and downing key lime pie.
This is not a question of "polarization." This is mere societal growing pains and confusion that is happening because humans have to still adjust to the liberation of communications, otherwise known as the Internet.
Journalism is trying to exploit a mirage because they never had to actually actively think or observe their surroundings. They are banking on a write-off generation who indulge in life-sink activities on their smartphones and then honestly wonder why their lives aren't fulfilling.
This isn't a question of politics. This is a question of gullibly believing a bill of goods you are sold to pacify you in order not to ask hard questions.
Had journalism bothered to ask hard questions, we wouldn't be seeing the rapid aging and deterioration of a lost generation: they would know what was out there, and what they could realistically achieve given their talents, environment, skills, education, and attitude, and what would be a healthy timeline to have to earn their place in the world. They have now aged to be older than their own parents.
And when you age before your, anyone older than you who has an eternally youthful and ambitious disposition is painful to endure.
Those "Indigo" children are imploding, not exploding. Socialistic tendencies is not a sign of rebellion, but a sign of defeat and exhaustion, and if you have youth who are exhausted this early and when they have opportunities, supports, and comforts no other generation of the history of mankind ever had, that means they are a write-off, and it will be up to those older and younger to pick up their slack, and neither side will be able to relate to them.
We always had two groups in society: the ones who push forward, and those who retreat. That's not politics; that's the cycle of life. The only difference is the young and old have switched places, and with new generations growing up, they will not behave in the same manner because they will have the middle generation of their morality tale of what not to do.
In other words, where journalists see "polarization", what they actually see is a cycle of life. They are the ones who are trying to create polarization. Politicians pander. The public makes their demands based on their wants and needs.
It is journalists who try to present it as something binary and patriarchal, making this observation from the article a dubious one:
Long before the 2016 election, the mainstream news media lost the trust of the public, creating an opening for misinformation and propaganda.
Creating an opening for misinformation and propaganda? Darling, the press were the creators of misinformation and propaganda.
Don't Believe It! proved that hypothesis over a decade ago.
But their verbal sleight of hand to make it sound as if journalists were some sort of victims doesn't play in the real world.
Which makes the next quote instructive:
“Conflict is important. It’s what moves a democracy forward,” says journalist Jeremy Hay, co-founder of Spaceship Media, which helps media outlets engage divided communities. “But as long as journalism is content to let conflict sit like that, journalism is abdicating the power it has to help people find a way through that conflict.”
That is an interesting assumption that journalists do not stir up conflict or have vested interests in presenting reality as conflict-based. Wars are sparked by journalistic propaganda. Many wars could have been prevented if the press presented facts than sensational brawls.
And then the arrogance explodes:
But what else can we do with conflict, besides letting it sit? We’re not advocates, and we shouldn’t be in the business of making people feel better. Our mission is not a diplomatic one.
If there is conflict, you should present the facts of it. You are not a social engineer. That's it. The mandate was always to present facts.
Not pick sides, editorialize, or misinterpret reality.
The article is not to inform, however. It is a sell, and an indirect sell, and usually the indirect sell has a purpose: to try to persuade people into a bad deal. If the sell was a positive one for the audience, then just spit it out.
And the sell of the article comes like this:
To find out, I spent the past three months interviewing people who know conflict intimately and have developed creative ways of navigating it. I met psychologists, mediators, lawyers, rabbis and other people who know how to disrupt toxic narratives and get people to reveal deeper truths. They do it every day — with livid spouses, feuding business partners, spiteful neighbors. They have learned how to get people to open up to new ideas, rather than closing down in judgment and indignation.
Yes, speaking to patriarchal authorities who have had a very bad history of brokering lop-sided deals. For anyone who had to go up against authorities with any of those professionals, you know going in that those people are not going to step on the toes of institutions where they have to keep having business to do with them long after your problem is resolved by decree.
So, in other words, here is a reporter trying to advocate for a pro-authority status quo.
Let's go back to the good old days, kids, where journalists had clout, told the Great Unwashed what to do, and they would do it without question, regardless of what a bad deal it was to them.
It is an indirect approach for a reason.
It is not impressive to speak with Establishment-enablers for months.
That is appealing to authority.
What journalists have always been doing.
And here is an article pretending to do something different than other ones.
But the author must love the way she writes:
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years, writing books and articles for Time, the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and all kinds of places, and I did not know these lessons. After spending more than 50 hours in training for various forms of dispute resolution, I realized that I’ve overestimated my ability to quickly understand what drives now people to do what they do. I have overvalued reasoning in myself and others and undervalued pride, fear and the need to belong. I’ve been operating like an economist, in other words — an economist from the 1960s.
Memo to Amanda Ripley: you obviously did not learn a single thing in those fifty-plus hours. Not one. You are doing the same thinking you did before, and the same thinking that destroyed journalism.
Then she pulls the same studies way too many writers use as a hack:
For decades, economists assumed that human beings were reasonable actors, operating in a rational world. When people made mistakes in free markets, rational behavior would, it was assumed, generally prevail. Then, in the 1970s, psychologists like Daniel Kahneman began to challenge those assumptions. Their experiments showed that humans are subject to all manner of biases and illusions.
Kahneman and Tversky were two psychologists who conducted flawed, but not entirely useless studies. Their work on heuristics was my first psych essay I wrote as a first year undergrad so that I wouldn't have to be a guinea pig in a grad student's experiment. When a writer wants to sound as if they know something, they break out those names, without questioning the studies. It is just a given to parrot them, especially out of context.
A hack or a shortcut, in other words. Just throw those names out there and you can believe you sound as if you did research and cannot be questioned. Don't kid yourself.
And notice that the author states that to believe that humans are rational is a wrong-headed thing, opening the door to the assumption that people need a better-quality of person to guide them.
Nothing new, but the author seems to be trying to find a way to repackage the old with a new spin by comparing the flawed assumption of economics (who never quite see when a crash is coming) with the dead profession of journalism:
Journalism has yet to undergo this awakening. We like to think of ourselves as objective seekers of truth. Which is why most of us have simply doubled down in recent years, continuing to do more of the same kind of journalism, despite mounting evidence that we are not having the impact we once had. We continue to collect facts and capture quotes as if we are operating in a linear world.
You are not having the same impact because the Internet broke down your gates. If an isolated town has but a single restaurant, everyone will go there, no matter what slop is being served. Open a dozen more who a superior menu and choices, and the old dive goes out of business. The End.
But the sophistry takes a chilling turn:
If we want our best work to have consequences, we have to be heard. “Anyone who values truth,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote in The Righteous Mind, “should stop worshipping reason.”
Social psychology is fraught with problems, which I will not go into here, but this is a clear advocation of social engineering journalism. We should stop giving facts because they are boring. We have irrational audiences who aren't listening to us, and we should stop using reason in our work, as if we ever did.
You want to be a politician without having to run for office. You want to make decrees. that people have to obey. This is as close to being a manifesto advocating propaganda as you can get.
And it gets worse:
We need to find ways to help our audiences leave their foxholes and consider new ideas. So we have a responsibility to use all the tools we can find — including the lessons of psychology.
Hello, Ms Ripley! Why are you assuming that just because people do not believe what you believe that they live in a foxhole? How arrogant are you? How unfeeling?
Who are you to tell them what to believe? Shame on you.
#MeToo was a rebellion by women being told they live in a foxhole just because they did not want to be sexually harassed.
And if you are hoping to use psychology to help manipulate the little people, it doesn't work that way.
And the writer's penchant to quote other people as if someone else's words would bolster a shoddy argument, let me counter-quote from those fabulous punk Swedes the Hives form their song Dead Quote Olympics:
It doesn't mean it's good 'cause you found it at the library
The article goes at length to appeal to authority and commit one confirmation bias after another. The hypothesis of this manifesto is flawed and self-serving, and everything that follows does nothing to prop it up:
The lesson for journalists (or anyone) working amidst intractable conflict: complicate the narrative. First, complexity leads to a fuller, more accurate story. Secondly, it boosts the odds that your work will matter — particularly if it is about a polarizing issue. When people encounter complexity, they become more curious and less closed off to new information. They listen, in other words.
There are many ways to complicate the narrative, as described in detail under the six strategies below. But the main idea is to feature nuance, contradiction and ambiguity wherever you can find it.
No, the lesson is get rid of the narrative. Complexity is mere illusion and a fortress people build to deflect attention away so they will not have to change their behaviour. Nuances are grains used as a misdirection so a person gets dragged in deeper into the rabbit hole and create an illusion that a situation is more difficult than it is, and that there are bigger differences between groups than there actually is.
Just as the author of this drivel is doing with reckless abandon.
This is an ineffectual propagandist's manual on trying to manipulate people, based on a fairy princess narrative. Find out what people are thinking in order to exploit it to push an agenda. There is babble about breaking narratives, and yet the writer of this piece wants everyone else to break a narrative, save for those in her own dead profession. It is a truly chilling and mystifying piece as it is infuriating.
But it all goes back to sticking it to Donald Trump for showing the world journalism has become a sham.
Experimental psychology has many benefits, but only if it is used properly in its structure and core mandate. Ripley wants it to be some magic wand to Make Journalism Great Again.
It is a self-serving piece meant to play the same toxic games, but present it as being more enlightened: maybe if we have some psych, we can manipulate people into obeying us again.
The ship has sailed, and it couldn't speed away fast enough.
That is the reason journalism cannot correct itself: the core has been corrupted beyond repair. You don't eat rotten meat and expect to get anything of nutritional value: you are lucky if you don't die of food poisoning.
Once upon a time, you had idealists in journalism. You had beautiful souls who understood it was about facts and risked their lives to get them to people. They pushed and pushed.
You had Nellie Bly go undercover in the worst possible places to find the truth. You had Daniel Pearl who died digging for the truth. You had reporters who had no trouble with this concept.
If you had those people in a more empirical structure, their work would have been more powerful. We would be in a very different place, and Alexandra Kitty would have been happily writing a book called Why Journalism is a Beautiful Thing.
The problem stemmed from the lack of evolution in the industry, and then it became overrun with people who decided journalism was their castle and they crowned themselves kings and queens, issuing edicts to those little peons and plebs.
Journalism used to be a thing, but it's not anymore. It is articles like that one that is infuriating as it is ugly.
It is because of that horrific thinking that journalism has nothing left to give: it is diseased beyond curing.
You want to inform a public?
You need a clean slate. You need a new mandate, focus, method, structure, and goals so that it is not infected by the same corrupting arrogance and expectations of a profession that destroyed itself.
And still doesn't know it cannot be saved...