Network Distribution of Propaganda

Manufacturing Consent” identifies five filters of a propaganda model for controlling populations in modern society, i.e., concentration of media ownership, influence of advertising as a revenue model, the reliance on authoritative sources to define the narrative, flak as a means of limiting the range of discourse, and fear of “radical Islam”, “communists” or any other convenient boogeyman to leave people open to irrational appeals. This blog post on “Defense Against the Dark Arts: Networked Propaganda and Counter-Propaganda” discusses how these ideas are distributed in our modern media environment.

Russia, for instance, relies on having a dominant share of voice. If they consistently flood the media with distributed messaging, it leaves little room for any other ideas to enter into public discourse. China does the same, but they focus on changing the direction of discourse into more positive directions for the status quo. Both use the concentration of the media landscape, the funneling of cash into many different outlets, appeals to their own authority, paying for commentators to deliver flak in online forums and stoking fears of terrorism to exercise control over their populations.

Perhaps most interesting was his discussion on how individuals can use flak to get earned media coverage to promote fringe ideas:

“The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience. Let’s say 9 out of 10 people who hear something Milo says will find it repulsive and juvenile. Because of that response rate, it’s going to be hard for someone like Milo to market himself through traditional channels. His potential audience is too spread out, and doesn’t have that much in common. He can’t advertise, he can’t find them one by one. It’s just not going to scale…But let’s say he can acquire massive amounts of negative publicity by pissing off people in the media? Well now all of a sudden someone is absorbing the cost of this inefficient form of marketing for him.”

And the takeaway:

“Attention is the currency of networked propaganda. Attention is the key. Be very careful who you give it to, and understand how your own emotions and incentives can be exploited.”

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