Navigating the Media’s Altered Reality
Our Beloved Family:
Imagine for a moment that you’ve heard about a new drug on TV, and all the amazing things it’s purported to do sound too good to be true. So like a good proactive patient, you do your own homework. You conduct online research, check out social media information and reviews, maybe go to a nonprofit website like WebMD, stop by Wikipedia, and even go so far as to read the original study on the drug that was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Every one of your sources confirms what you originally heard on TV about the drug’s effectiveness. Of course, there was a small percentage of anecdotal evidence and personal comments about a possible connection to cancer, but all the experts you came across resoundingly dismissed this idea as a myth and those supporting it as quacks, kooks, charlatans and of course, conspiracy theorists.
Perhaps you discover that your own doctor recently attended a national conference where he learned about the drug and its amazing effectiveness. Feeling satisfied with your investigation, you leave his office with some free samples and a prescription. You’ve done your due diligence with regard to your health, far more than 99% of most patients, and feel confident that you’ve made the best, most educated health decision for yourself. Or have you? What if all the non-stop media information swirling around you on a 24/7 cycle was false, nothing but a carefully constructed and managed façade designed to manipulate your perception and ultimately, the choices you make based on those engineered ideas? Does this sound like dystopian science fiction? Look a little closer, and you’ll see we’re all living very much in an altered reality when it comes to accessing accurate information on almost anything.
The Washington Post’s story about “fake news” relied on fake news and turned out to be fake news itself, designed to silence people who ask questions.
The truth is, special interests have unlimited amounts of time and resources to discover new ways of manipulating how we see things, all while remaining invisible in the process. One of the most effective ways they do this is through a practice called Astroturfing. For those who don’t know, Astroturf is a type of synthetic groundcover often used on athletic fields instead of real grass to reduce maintenance. Astroturfing in the media happens when representatives of political, corporate or other special interest groups disguise themselves as regular people and go online to publish blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter accounts, reviews, letters to the editor or pay armies of people to post loads of comments below articles and videos to give the false impression that a grassroots movement is leading the majority of people to feel a particular way on a certain issue—to make you mistakenly believe that attitudes about something are overwhelmingly trending in a specific direction. This is to pretend that there is widespread public support either for or against something, when there isn’t. The goal is to get you to change your mind about something, not because you’ve learned new, factual information, but by making you feel like an outsider when in reality, you’re not.
Here’s an example. There has been an effort in the last several years to get the Washington Redskins football team to change their name because some people find it offensive. Without taking a position on the subject, if you look at the newspaper, online and TV coverage of this issue, the immediate impression is that the vast majority of Americans don’t approve of the team’s name and think they should change it. In reality 71% of Americans, more than two thirds, don’t have a problem with the name and don’t want to see it changed.1
If anyone was ever given the power to determine what was and wasn’t “fake news” and be the gatekeeper of information for all people, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Astroturf experts seek to isolate, ostracize and create phony controversy around those who disagree with them. Ask the wrong questions and they turn you into a social pariah, trashing you to your friends and business associates, burying you in ad hominem personal attacks with lots of moral indignation, but no factual evidence. Personal attacks like these are used to incite fear in the hearts of people afraid of being labeled Anti—[fill-in-the-blank] and bring them back in line with the false consensus the Astroturfers have manufactured. The idea is to make the person the focus of the controversy through lots of false attacks on their character for even asking such questions in an attempt to divert attention away from the actual facts of the issue. These kinds of attacks happen daily on corporate whistleblowers, politicians brave enough to go against the grain, alternative healthcare providers, private citizens, and independent journalists (mostly online) who report on the whole scheme and defend those caught in its web.
Fake News Fallout
Only two months ago, The Washington Post published an article claiming 200 websites on a third-party list it obtained were fronts for Russian propaganda that threatened American interests and called for a crackdown on this “fake news”, as it was called. After lawyers from several of the listed websites threatened the newspaper with a defamation lawsuit, The Washington Post printed a retraction admitting that the list was sourced from a mysterious group called PropOrNot that tellingly “insists on public anonymity” and that the newspaper could in no way “vouch for the validity” of any accusation against any of the websites.2 In the end, The Washington Post’s story about “fake news” relied on fake news and turned out to be fake news itself, designed to silence people who ask questions. On the other end of the information spectrum, most people aren’t aware, but the U.S. government quietly voted in 2013 to remove a provision from the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 that formerly prohibited it from using media propaganda to shape public opinion.3
True free speech is open to all forms of expression, and it is left up to the individual as to what he will take or leave of it. Many powerful special interests continue to try to classify alternative and integrative health information as “fake news” to shut it down. The usual excuse is that there isn’t enough research on certain healing treatments, so they’re “unproven”, “unsafe” and therefore quackery. The truth is that 99% of all medical research funding comes from grants provided by pharmaceutical companies that are not about to pay for studies of holistic treatments that would undermine their products and profits. If anyone was ever given the power to determine what was and wasn’t “fake news” and be the gatekeeper of information for all people, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Wikipedia is mass media and should not be trusted for accuracy or objectivity, especially when it comes to matters of science and history.
Attacking with Overwhelm
Another popular tactic of the Astroturfers is to intentionally throw so much conflicting information into the media, that it makes people’s heads spin as they throw up their arms and disregard it all, including the truth. This is used extensively when it comes to healthcare information, leaving people with no clear sense of how to make tough choices or what plan of care to choose for themselves or loved ones. Special interests regularly throw enough so-called expert opinions, conflicting studies (that they paid for themselves) and contradictory surveys into the media that it obscures our ability to get to the truth or to know what really works or is safe. This method is heavily employed to blur the link between drugs and harmful side effects, such as with vaccines and autism.
Deception & Deal-Making
If there’s a one-stop-shop for being misled by Astroturfers, it’s Wikipedia, the alleged online encyclopedia. The message Wikipedia sells is that it’s the public’s free encyclopedia and that anyone can go on the site and write new entries or edit current ones to keep everything up to date as times change. In reality, Wikipedia is full of anonymous editors who control and co-opt thousands of pages on behalf special interests. Just try going on the site as a guest editor to correct inaccuracies or add a footnote and see how long your changes last. In most cases, edits that conflict with the intended message of the special interests are changed back within minutes. Information is regularly altered or entirely deleted with impunity in violation of Wikipedia’s own policy. This shouldn’t be surprising when we consider in 2012 Wikipedia was caught in a scandal paying a public relations firm to skew and edit entries on behalf of publicity seeking clients.4 Clearly, accuracy is negotiable at Wikipedia. This is underscored by the fact that when a medical study examined a broad selection of medical conditions as described in entries on the site and compared that information to peer reviewed medical research, Wikipedia information contradicted the actual medical research 90% of the time.5
Wikipedia is mass media and should not be trusted for accuracy or objectivity, especially when it comes to matters of science and history. In fact, some college professors are finally catching on and refusing to accept Wikipedia as a research citation or resource for any projects from their students. It’s sad to say in the 21st century, but you’d be better off with a 32-volume hard copy set of encyclopedia Britannica, but they don’t publish physical editions anymore.
In most cases, the doctors that aggressively push such drugs, downplay serious side effects and call critics quacks or conspiracy theorists or serve on advisory boards that approve drugs are nearly always paid consultants of the pharmaceutical corporation.
Truth for Sale
So let’s get back to that new medication you were researching and felt confident you’d done all your homework. As it turns out, the Facebook posts, Twitter accounts and glowing reviews on message boards were all written by paid professionals hired by the drug company. In fact, the Wikipedia monitor for the product’s page on that site is also on the payroll, but it doesn’t end there. Corporations and political special interest groups continue to pay Google to alter search engine results to ensure that only their manufactured positive reviews, self-funded research and news coverage that agrees with their point of view fills the first several pages of the returned results, while any websites or articles that raise questions or are seen as opposing the official narrative are buried on page eight or nine, or even further back, if they’re listed at all,—results that you’ll likely never see. So, it was no coincidence that in your initial internet search about the new drug, you were inundated by positive articles that severely minimized or even neglected to mention serious side effects, published by a nonprofit organization that was secretly founded and paid for by the drug company. In most cases, the doctors that aggressively push such drugs, downplay serious side effects and call critics quacks or conspiracy theorists or serve on advisory boards that approve drugs are nearly always paid consultants of the pharmaceutical corporation. Oh, and that conference that your doctor attended that praised the drug to the heavens was sponsored by the drug company, too.
In a not-so-unique example these incestuous conflicts of interest, former CBS news reporter, Sheryl Attkisson, was given a press release from the National Sleep Foundation that declared there was an “epidemic of sleeplessness” across the country and that Americans should “ask their doctor about it”. How many times do we hear that on TV every night? Attkisson became suspicious because she knew that “ask your doctor” was a catchphrase used by the pharmaceutical corporations. They know that if they can get people into their doctors’ offices talking about a real or imagined malady, that they’ll likely leave with a prescription in hand. Attkisson’s research soon revealed that the organization’s press release wasn’t based on any research, but a public survey, which was sponsored in part by the sleep medication, Lunesta. It was only because of Attkisson’s investigative work that the conflict of interest was included as part of the story when it aired on CBS. None of the other networks even mentioned it. They simply read directly from the press release. Eventually, Attkisson would leave CBS and network news altogether because of the media illusion that’s intentionally created for public consumption and the frustration, resistance and consequences that come with attempting accurate reporting.
FACT FROM FICTION
So what can you do to separate fact from fiction online, in print and through the airwaves? Here are a few important tips:
Astroturfers use inflammatory language very often, along with personal attacks and name calling to divert your attention away from the fact that they have no evidence to support their claims. The minute a person calls someone else a name, you know the argument is over because they have nothing else to offer. Be aware of the indiscriminate usage of names like quack, kook, charlatan, fascist, racist or conspiracy theorist to try to get you to label someone, shut your mind down and stop listening to what they have to say.
Just a word about the term conspiracy theory. The media would have you believe that conspiracies are extremely rare occurrences and people that even suspect one might be happening are crazy and should take off their “tin foil hats”. The fact is anyone who doesn’t believe in the reality or frequency of conspiracies doesn’t believe crime exists. Why? Because virtually 98% of all crime involves some level of conspiracy, which is nothing more than two or more people coming together to plan and/or carry out an illegal act. That’s it. There’s no mystery here. If two people agree to rob a bank and get caught, they’re guilty of conspiracy to commit armed robbery. If a woman hires a hitman to kill her husband for the insurance money, she and her accomplice are guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and fraud. Clearly, collusion to mislead the public through the media and maximize drug profits or engineer public behavior or opinion by the highest levels of business and government can’t possibly happen without a great deal of illegal planning and secretive cooperation, which is a conspiracy by its very nature. Conspiracies happen every day on a large and small scale. Now who’s wearing the tin foil hat?
Astroturfers are always claiming to have “debunked” so-called myths that oppose their narrative to keep you away from the truth. The idea that what they don’t want you to know is a myth, is the myth itself.
Attempts are always made to attack people and organizations surrounding an issue, rather than the issue itself. Pretending to be morally outraged at the very posing of a question with no attempt to actually answer it is a big red flag. Astroturfers reserve all their skepticism for the people exposing the wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoers themselves. They never question authority, but constantly question the credibility of those who do.
This information is provided to you so that you can be more conscious when consuming any amount of public information, especially where it regards your health or the health of your family. With a greater level of discernment, you’ll be able to think for yourself, make the right choices and better navigate our political/corporate sponsored altered reality.
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Happy New Year Family, and We humbly send blessings of Light of Light Ahead into 2017 for The Highest Good of ALL Concerned,
Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami
(1) Clement, Scott, (Sept. 2, 2014), “New poll says large majority of Americans believe Redskins should not change name”, The Washington Post.
(2) Durden, Tyler, (Dec. 8, 2016), “Washington Post Appends ‘Russian Propaganda Fake News’ Story, Admits It May Be Fake”, ZeroHedge.
(3) Kelley, Michael, (July 16, 2013), “US Government-Funded Propaganda Has Officially Hit the Airwaves”, SFGate.
(4) Goldman, Eric, (Oct 5, 2012), “Wikipedia’s ‘Pay-for-Play’ Scandal Highlights Wikipedia’s Vulnerabilities”, Forbes.
(5) Keymey, Dan, (May 27, 2014), “Don’t Trust Wikipedia When It Comes to Your Health, Study Says”, TIME.
(6) This message was based on a TEDx presentation by former CBS reporter, Sheryl Attkisson, TEDx.