Rigs and Forces.

In propaganda and partisan narratives, there are two things to look out for, no matter how smart and savvy you think you are.

Rigs.

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And forces.

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If you understand what a rig and a force is, you know what to look for in a story, whether it is a story attacking something you believe is true -- or a story pandering to you by means of agreeing with something you believe is true.

Stage magicians use both to make your senses deceive you because that is why there are rigs and forces at all, but you can have intangible rigs and forces to do the same thing. 

A rig is an element that pre-sets an outcome. So, for example, I want my friend to get a job over my enemy, but I cannot outright discriminate because then I will look like a petty and vindictive jerk. Perhaps my enemy has many friends and allies, and if I rock the boat by picking my friend, my enemy's supporters are going to throw a temper tantrum and may make real trouble for me.

But let's up the ante. Let's say my enemy is more qualified than my friend -- and maybe even more qualified than I am, and I just don't want competition.

The goal is to hire my friend in some strategic job, while shutting out my enemy, but in such a way that (a) I do not look like the bad guy, (b) my friend as choice looks legitimate and unquestionable, and (c) my friend looks more qualified and hence superior to my enemy who will apply for this position because there are perks and the like.

So what I need to do is make a rig. 

In this way, when my enemy becomes suspicious, I can just whip out the reason -- but spin it in such a way that it looks above board.

The rig is not made to look like a cheat.

So, for instance, one rig is to hire someone who may not have the same years of experience, but has a certain certificate. I place value on this certificate as the deciding factor, even though experience may encompass what is taught in the workshop or course that issues it, and while learning is well and good, it is, at most, theory. Experience is the practical application of it.

So there is the rig that takes care of everything.

Or, if my enemy has more training, but my friend has something else, I can rig it so that whatever my friend is more likely to possess makes him the winning applicant.

Or, perhaps the training is essential, but it is available to certain people because they are wealthier, live closer, or have some other quality that will put them in closer reach than another group of people.

That's a rig.

A force, on the other hand, is very similar to a rig, but with a twist. I make it appear as if the person has complete free and unfettered control to make a choice, but in fact, the notion of choice is an illusion. I have already rigged the outcome to only one possible choice, but make it appear that there is more than one.

Sink or swim fallacies, appeal to authority, and the confirmation bias are a few ways to make it seem as if the person is arriving at a logical conclusion, but I shade my facts in such a way that the person arrives to the same conclusion I want them to conclude.

I remember being in j-school when I saw an example of both. I had to do a radio story, and I got to choose anything I wanted, and I chose to cover something over at London City Hall as there was some scandal-ish thing being played out in the press, and if I recall correctly, it was being dubbed "Olivergate."

I was there along with reporters from radio, television, and print. All the reporters were standing around in the hallway, and I was there.

I struck up conversations with as many reporters as I could, but I still remembered to take the agenda and read it from cover to cover.

It became more than obvious that what I originally came to cover -- what everyone in town came to cover, wasn't going to be brought up during the meeting, and I didn't have time to fool around. I had to have a story and I had to air it by noon.

While everyone else was focussed on the One, I started looking for an alternative, and found one that was very serious: the city had two race relations boards, and they were clashing with name-calling. The police chief at the time was a member of one board, but there was also another one affiliated with City Hall.

It was, to say the least, very odd and complex. I left the hallway to make calls because there was no Internet access readily available in 1995 the way it is now, and when I got more information, I marched back in, and started to find the people who were waiting there all along because their grievances were going to be on the agenda. I interviewed various players from both sides, and I had been the only one, until one newspaper reporter there overheard the whole thing, and told me he was going to do the same thing, because it was obvious to him as well that the sexy scandal wasn't going to play out, but there was one just as important with all of the players available in the hallway and more than willing to talk.

His story ended up on the front page of the metro section of the London Free Press the next day. My story lead the radio broadcast by noon.

As for the other scandal, the meeting was "in camera", meaning journalists weren't allowed to be there, and for those who hung out for a few hours in the hallway, they got nothing for their trouble.

But the lesson was there, and I learned it.

If I wasn't a student, but a journalist working at one of those outlets, I would have handled things differently because I would have had the space to do so, but I was a student who parachuted from another city, and had no time to cultivate sources or anything of the like. If I was there longer, you would be certain I would be talking to as many custodians, assistants, and other background employers as I could because those are the people who hear absolutely everything, but people with suits never actually see them and just assume they are too stupid to be able to read a spreadsheet.

I would have already known going in what was happening and how to get around things.

But I had limitations, or, rigs working against me. I had to bypass those rigs to get a story, and in this case, reading ephemera, scouting for something important that I could file within a couple of hours.

The nature of a city hall meeting is the rig. What they choose to cover during a meeting skews an outcome. You see pomp and circumstance, which is an act of authority-signalling, and you see many local and even national media outlets treat local authority as something trustworthy. For instance, the local television station here never questions authority and repeatedly defers to them as if it were the Word from God.

If we held these meetings at a donut shop where people were informally dressed, and the public could direct the content of the agenda, you can be sure those rigs would bring about a far different outcome.

But that meeting wasn't just rigged in such a way that you could have a secret meeting that no one outside the council could hear.

There was also a force.

All the reporters standing aimlessly in the hall were so focussed on one story, that they never bothered looking for a plan B story. They thought they had control and were exercising free will, but the way the meetings are set-up, it is not as obvious to see that council would prefer reporters waiting for nothing, than start looking for another story of equal importance, but equally troublesome to their image.

I bypassed that force because I hadn't been broken in and groomed by the rules. The agendas were in a stack by the door, and yet I had been the only one of about fifteen to twenty veteran reporters to bother to pick it up and read it.

The letter of complaint to the council by one of the members of one of the race relations boards pulled no punches, and I still remember her using the phrase "navel-gazing." She all but called it a farce.

So that day, there were at least two crises popping right then and there.

One almost got completely ignored because the focus was on the other one.

It is very easy to miss angles, facts, and reality when we are focussed on certain details over others.

This is how propaganda and partisan reporting thrive: you are trained to see the world in a certain way, and the propaganda can even be brazen about it.

Are you on the Left? The Right? Why have you confined yourself to a single side? You admit that you, at most, can be half right, or see only half. 

And you're not accurate if you are just considering one half of the equation.

Are you on the Left? The Right?

You are on The Half.

Not full. Not whole. Not complete.

Just half.

The rig that prevents you from seeing the whole wide world as it spins, and the one that forces you to take a single side. Settle for half, because you are not good enough for the whole.

That's what you sign up for when you do not question rigs and forces.

And your thoughts are never whole -- or your own...

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