In an Age of Propaganda, all paths are rigged in the fun house.

I

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees
You know we love to please
A manufactured image
With no philosophies

We hope you’ll like our story
Although there isn’t one
That is to say there’s many
That way there is more fun

You’ve told us you like action
And games of many kinds
You like to dance, we like to sing
So let’s all lose our minds

We know it doesn’t matter
’Cause what you came to see
Is what we’d love to give you
And give it one, two, three

But it may come three, two, one, two
Or jump from nine to five
And when you see the end in sight
The beginning may arrive

For those who look for meanings
And form as they do fact
We might tell you one thing
But we’d only take it back

Not back like in a box back
Not back like in a race
Not back so we can keep it
But back in time and space

You say we’re manufactured
To that we all agree
So make your choice, and we’ll rejoice
In never being free

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees
We’ve said it all before
The money’s in, we’re made of tin
We’re here to give you more
The money’s in, we’re made of tin
We’re here to give you…

— The Monkees, “Ditty Diego—War Chant”, 1968.

II

When I wrote the book OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism, I spent an entire chapter discussing Bill O’Reilly’s program The O’Reilly Factor.

It was pure theatre and a seeming battleground.

What it actually was, in fact, was a rigged fun house, and the host was far savvier than most of his guests. He knew what he was doing and knew how to get his narrative across the noise of ideologues.

These days, that fun house goes beyond the Fox News Channel.

It spans through the entire dead profession of journalism, but also social media.

And yet there is an illusion of diverse voices.

Social media today reminds me of the Monkees’ movie Head.

The movie is brilliant as it is disturbing. It is, in essence, a movie about nothing in a literal sense.

As in, how the Monkees self-destructed and lost everything in the bargain.

The movie begins with the four jumping off a bridge, committing suicide, and then after a pastiche of fragmented and surrealist vignettes, they are jumping off the bridge, but inside of ending up in a lake, they are alive and stuck in a fish tank.

This is what social media has become: a fish tank that is now actively confining thought and thinking patterns rather than expand them.

Because everything is rigged to force a binary outcome before the binary vies for a monolithic victory.

Because everyone has to fight for attention, the rig is competitive in nature.

And as they are no overt guides, people must guess what is acceptable, but in such a way that they are at the top of a pecking order. It is the reason why there is so much sophistry.

And propaganda.

Because it has become rigged for it.

Try to break away through extreme measures, you get thrown in the fish tank where you are trapped inside, and everyone on the outside can see it.

The trick is to break the cycle, and it is not difficult to do. O’Reilly’s rigs brought him ratings and clout, but his downfall occurred outside his show when his champion and protector Roger Ailes was ousted, and he soon followed.

With so much focus on social media, it seems as if there is no alternatives, and yet there are several.

And in the coming months, a big part of Chaser will be breaking away from traditional journalism and social media to create a new form of news that never falls for rigs or propaganda…

Breaking the Cycle of the Fake Arenas: Journalism perfected it. Twitter stole their bit. And why both are con games.

I

It never ceases to amaze me how naive and gullible people can be. Educated people with doctorates are no more savvy than the person who never spent a day in school.

They are being constantly tricked by pathetic ruses because they see walls where there are none.

Here is a short list of Truths for you to ponder:

1. We have 7.4 BILLION people on the planet. 

2. You will never meet 99.999% of them, meaning these are strangers to you. They do not pay your bills. They do not call to see if you are doing well. They have no idea that you actually exist. They all can live easily without you.

3. This pool of 7.4 billion people you will never know exist will not all agree with anyone on any single point. Mass agreement does not exist.

4. You do not need a single one of these 7.4 billion people to agree with you.

5. 7.4 billion people can, in fact, disagree with you, violently throw tantrums and insult you, and you can still be The Only Person In The World Who Is Right because if you base your case on observations, research, facts, experiments, and other verification techniques and they blindly follow the dictates of someone else's lie -- the results will be in your favour regardless. The number of followers or agreers is immaterial and irrelevant.

6. You do not need to waste time engaging people who blindly follow other people's decrees to be proven right. They are trying to force you to submit to their lie so they don't get inconvenienced by reality.

Got it?

Have these Truths penetrated your mind?

If you still cannot grasp it, imagine you have been attacked by a group of thugs out of the blue as you were walking to work, and somehow, you manage to escape, but not without some major internal injury. You go to the hospital to get treatment, but the doctor on call decides "it's not that bad" and the police don't believe you because you don't look as if you were assaulted and as there were no witnesses or security cameras, they decide it is less work to file in the paperwork than believe you.

Worse, someone overhears it, and then uses their smart phone to record it and posts it, saying with repulsion that you are a liar because both the police and the doctor don't believe you.

And all the posters run with this assessment uncritically, it goes viral, and 7.4 billion choose that day to all agree and then malign you.

So, did it happen?

Of course it did. Experts can be wrong, lazy, corrupt.

Or perhaps one of those attackers is the mayor's kid, and he knew where to attack you without being seen.

Now, suppose someone who sees the video starts to ask questions, and gets flayed by those naysayers, but persists. They start to do research, ask questions, and discovers that, yes, you were attacked, and helps you get to a town where the doctors are thorough and the police do their jobs.

So, did it happen more so because one other person chose to believe you by verifying what you said was true?

No, the past is the past. It happened regardless if no one believed you, one person believed you, or all 7.4 billion people believed you.

It just happened.

So 7.4 billion people turn into white noise. Mass opinion does not actually count for anything at all. It is a red herring and a misdirection. Reality operates independently of our beliefs and so does the truth.

Now, let's suppose you were vindicated, and people who threw stones at your reputation were called on the carpet and got a taste of their own vile medicine. You sued the lot of people who could have cost you your life, including the busybody who filmed your suffering and made fun of it on social media, and your case made textbooks, history, feature films, and the like.

And someone thought you had it made, and decided to say it also happened to them, even though that is a lie.

If no one believes them, is it a lie?

If one person believes it, is it a lie?

If all 7.4 billion people -- including you believed it, is it a lie?

Of course it is. The beliefs and opinions have no relevance on the veracity of the fact that someone fibbed for whatever reason(s) they had.

Egotism and insecurity has infected the information stream. We look for validation from people who in no way have any way of making a point true or false. It doesn't matter whether they are patronizing with a smile or a sneer, opinion is not relevant to a point's veracity.

If humans, as a collective, were a realistic species, they would cease to look for like-minded people to validate their beliefs.

But they got into an unnatural habit of looking for shortcuts and then once they stumble upon a script that suits their worldview, do not let go of it.

People such as Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis and Nicola Tesla, for instance, were disbelieved, with Semmelweis getting committed for telling what turned out to be a fact.

Yet people fight all their lives to have other people believe them, envy them, admire them, love them, deify them, worship them...but right or wrong, lie or truth, people waste their lives looking for validation and vindication.

Even Mother Theresa ain't Mother Theresa.

But truth is truth. It doesn't need your drooling accolades to prop it up -- nor is your disdain of its existence going to make a single dent in it. Get over yourself.

It is why I never understood the Great Men goobers who think their opinions have worth. Their prattle is prattle. Their insults are meaningless. Their flocks have no minds, hearts, or souls: those suckers just hedge their bets that their leader will be The One who saves them from life.

And you cannot have one grain of respect for that cowardly lot.

Religions promised to save their followers who complied without question, but now in the West, people are walking away from the notion of a Santa God.

Right now, the News Gods are political ideology and the Internet -- and both are not going to last very long as deities.

But there was one Deity that had a relative short stint at the top: Journalism.

It managed to fool a lot of people for years, but it lost its clout, but while it had it, it could get away with it by manipulating the optics in a certain way, and for many years, the pigeons fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

II

But it wasn't a church where the cult of Journalism preached to its flock: it was an invisible gladiatorial arena. 

The most striking example of it was on the Fox News Channel and it was a simple show called The O'Reilly Factor.

The arena even had a name: The No Spin Zone.

Bill O'Reilly had real success of it for years, and I had chronicled just how he rigged the game in my book OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch's war on journalism. I had devoted an entire chapter to how that game was played.

The idea wasn't new. Journalism's fake arena was an absolute staple that gullible people went on in the mistaken belief that they absolutely had to go to the fight they were invited to attend or else they were cowards, liars, un-American, whatever con job was needed to lure a pigeon into the arena.

Public relations firms and image consultants made a very good living training people to be able to handle themselves in these fake arenas. Publicists and agents would issue a list of demands to soften the abuse.

However, what most people didn't understand was there was no actual reason to enter the arena. It wasn't real. It wasn't innate, natural, essential, or anything of the sort.

It was a scam.

It was a way of getting mileage on the cheap. Media outlets didn't have to pay these suckers to come on their shows, studios, or newsrooms to "defend" themselves. There was no value to it. 

And worst of all, these "newsmakers" were goaded to it by being chased by scrums of reporter who stalked and chased them in public. That was symbolic to let this person know who was the predator and who was the prey -- only the prey was labelled predator by the press who then shook these people down for interviews: well, if you are right, you will subjugate yourself to our demands that you give us free fodder for our outlets. We will be hostile to you, and you will look bad regardless of what you say or do because we stick on the labels and we set the terms of engagement that are rigged against you...

However, in all of these gladiatorial games, none of these interviews had much value: a reporter could uncover someone's wrongdoing without ever speaking to that person. Ronan Farrow did not have to corner Harvey Weinstein to talk to him at all, for instance.

You find facts that both confirm and refute, and then weigh them. You do not need to demonize or deify anyone. The truth is the truth.

But people bought the hype. They thought Mike Wallace and Sam Donaldson running after people meant something. It didn't. It was just for show -- optics, really, of how the valiant reporter was hunting down The Bad Guy.

Never mind that even now, some of these alleged Good Guys use racial slurs and did untoward things to others, but even as they are being exposed, they still try to wear the Hero label with babbling how they must sacrifice themselves for the little people as not to “become a threat to the mission ....of healthy independent journalism.”

They never take off the masks of deceit.

And yet proclaim that unless you go into their rigged arenas, you are deficient.

No, you're not.

There is no logical reason to play the game, especially not on their terms.

Because there is no empirical foundation to justify the need for that fake arena.

It is as if a fox browbeat a lamb into coming into his den to prove it is brave and honest -- has nothing to hide.

The lamb has nothing to hide, but has nothing to gain, either, by becoming the fox's next meal.

What is truth is truth. What is reality is reality.

Journalism's success absolutely hinged on having the monopoly of the public narrative, and it meant being the gate-keepers of information.

But then along came the Internet as technology did not have to get journalism's blessing or approval.

And then people could bypass journalism entirely.

Donald Trump used Twitter to get his message out.

Even in Ontario, the PC Party wisely ditched not only the fake arena of journalism, but also the other fake arena of debates, winning a decisive majority without ever subjugating themselves to anyone's decrees or dictates.

You do not need to justify or explain yourself.

More and more people have hit upon this revelation: you do not have to answer to anyone in that kind of forum. It is contrived, based on no empirical foundation, and is self-serving and rigged to favour those running the arena.

But it is not the death of the gambit.

Twitter -- the troll scroll and the sewer of social media -- is trying to pick up that mantle, but not with the success many of the rage pukers are hoping it will.

III

The entire premise of Twitter has become: My insults make it so! My disapproval is the last word and final say because I called it! Nyah! Nyah!

You are not Alpha and Omega. Stop deluding yourself.

The ruse works only if the sucker you are targeting backs down.

If the person is not a sucker or fooled by games such as Got Your Nose, they can ignore you, and do, think, or say whatever they wish without your approval.

And you are left shouting into nothing as your disapproval is emasculated and proven to be impotent.

And in fact, those who rebel against the tidal wave of tweets by ignoring the bait and continuing to do and say whatever they want and need, are proven to be stronger.

Imagine being the person who is unfazed and unmoved by the old biddy outrage of millions.

They prove to be weaker than the one person who knows truth is truth and reality is reality, and opinion's meddling is worthless.

Twitter is a life sink and a time-waster. It didn't have to be, but it drifted into the ideological gutter because it cribbed from a failed industry. Well played!

Journalism failed because it played those games, and then outsmarted itself. Sooner or later, you clue in that there is a certain fun in giving the troll scrollers something to talk about.

It's like watching those helmet haired old ladies look as if someone shoved manure deep into their nostrils just because you wore a red shirt to church.

People can nag you on Twitter, and you go on living your life, not needing to validate or justify a thing.

Because whether people agree with the truth or not isn't relevant.

It is facts that show us the reality to get us to the truth that counts.

Twitter is not built to last. If more people ignore tweets (and they will because sooner or later, reality points out the obvious), it loses its appeal. It tries to intimidate, bully, and shame people into backing down.

Just ignore it and don't back down. The end. It is not as if ideologues are open-minded and reasonable people who will ever admit to being wrong, manipulative, or controlling.

If someone cannot get a gang to bully you into submission or change what you do or believe, then they will abandon it because it gives them no power, but it does wonders for the person who can stand up to brainless mobs who have more free time than common sense.

Snubbing those invitations to degrade yourself with a slap fight that will not prove a thing is liberating.

Which brings us to F.R.E.E.D.

IV

Why the old and antiquated gladiatorial arena is failing civilization is simple: it is patriarchal, binary, deceptive, antagonistic, and rarely, if ever aligns with reality. It is one of the worst ways to gather relevant information.

Even the phrase L'esprit de l'escalier is a de facto admission that even seemingly "winning" an argument is meaningless: if you can think of a rebuttal after the fact, then what is the point of a fight?

To vent? To control others? To force people to follow you? To destroy? To harm? To hide your fear?

We can always justify anger. It is not hard to wear a halo as you are chasing people around with your pitchfork. People getting chased are not going to see you as an angel, and they certainly will not see themselves as a villain based on your say-so.

We let things go, however. We don't question things. We don't do our homework by doing legwork (and no, scouring Facebook propaganda meme posters is not homework). We don't find facts that refute our theories, let alone find the ones that confirm it.

Journalism made it seem it got the facts, and in the days when print ruled, it very often did. 

Television came along and it need to hook viewers -- and its showmanship brought in a very unstable and troubling factor into its calculations: the ambush interview.

Notice, however, it was not that ambushing of television that brought us Watergate. It was print, and the reporters who did it were not resorting to using a fake gladiatorial arena.

I find it very interesting how the profession conflated fact-finding with ambush carny. The former takes work and skill, while the latter is mere smoke and mirrors.

F.R.E.E.D. is the system that has reality at its core and truth as its mandate. You can throw all sorts of words out there, but it is a very different thing to have those words have meaning and value.

Journalism was all about cruelty and sensationalism. I find it interesting that post-Trump, the industry hitched its ride on #MeToo, even while their own were being exposed, and sobbing over those people who want entry into the US without going through the regular channels, even if the situation is nothing as it is being portrayed -- and that other Western nations are having the same breakdowns because the migration of tens of millions of displaced people is overwhelming various countries who were never equipped to handle an influx of people who have no resources, skills, education, guarantors, or plan.

Many of these people need serious medical attention that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the healthcare systems aren't even equipped to handle aging populations such as the Baby Boomers.

The traditional model of fake combat has the Left screaming we must let everyone in without a plan, while the Right are screaming it cannot be done.

Who's right?

Neither side, of course. You have a series of hard, serious questions to ask. You do not just throw a temper tantrum one second after something has happened.

What is the situation? What are the resources on hand? What is the investment -- and what is the return? What are the consequences of the actions? Even well-meaning actions can be disastrous one way or another.

Say, you let people in and the economy collapses -- perhaps as a result of a flighty and impetuous strategy, or perhaps some other factor, and as a result, there is a debilitating disease outbreak and the refugees that were taken in were hit the hardest, and then they blame the policy for their woes, and it causes serious problems later on with never-ending lawsuits and "solutions" that may bankrupt the country, making it vulnerable to outsiders who will exploit it, causing further weakening.

Or, you keep people out, and they congregate near the border, and desperate and disillusioned, they become prime pickings for terrorist cells who recruit them, and there is carnage and instability to the point where personal freedoms are curtailed as a "solution."

And you can never bank on any "best case scenario" because it has yet to happen in the history of mankind.

So here we are, in 2018, where people think tantrums on Twitter can solve the world's problems.

We didn't solve problems with journalism: it was made to seem as if they were because there is always a sunny ending where the reporter swoops in and saves the day for democracy...except it didn't.

It didn't stop crime. It didn't even stop certain criminals from re-offending.

So what to do with an influx of migrants?

If you have been reading up until now and expect me to spew out some opinion off the top of my head, then you obviously haven't been paying attention.

Or were hoping I was some flighty hypocrite.

I don't know, but with F.R.E.E.D. we start to find out.

We don't "duke it out." We find facts. We don't paint people as victims, villains, heroes, or heretics. We find facts. We get information. We will most likely not like what we discover. We start to formulate plans we can begin to test.

We don't act like asses on the Troll Scroll. We don't try to shut down people who point out problems that go against our opinions. We find facts.

People will raise concerns. They are not to be dismissed. If you want to let in an influx of people and someone raises concerns about the affordability of such a massive move, you do not try to demonize them as being bigots and then hope a personal attack will make them go away so you can impose your will on them.

You find facts about costs. You find facts about people already citizens who are up the queue and how much they are going to cost you. You find facts about the resources you already have. Then you find facts on how much it will cost to bring people in.

Then you find facts on alternatives, such as sending foreign or peacekeepers to destitute nations.

And then you line up your facts and get to work.

But you also find facts about other potential issues regarding culture, assimilation, housing, healthcare, mental health, education, employment, and the like.

In other words, we do not fly by the seat of our pants. We do not try to play the propaganda card by putting out "a face" on the story: one deemed a saint and the other a sinner.

We do not use narrative.

We line up our facts.

And then the solutions begin to emerge -- the ones that have the best chance of success and consensus will present themselves.

There is no need to waste your life on Twitter, raging about things you know bupkes about.

Journalism kept trying to rig outcomes with increasing frequency, and it harmed society as new and innovative solutions that weren't obvious were suppressed.

It is time society grew up and stop acting like children who have no idea where and how money comes to pay for things.

Liberation comes from facing reality to find truths.

Not by wasting your life trying to boss people around because it will not turn your lies into truths.

That is just playing a con job, and trying to bait me into your fake arena won't change that truth -- or me...