With the election looming on the horizon, it is no surprise that there are numerous messages flying back and forth. It’s shocking how truth is being purchased on an hourly basis all day long through false messages, false narratives, doctored videos, and quotes taken far out of context. On today’s show, Bill Stierle and Tom talk about message editing and how truth is being purchased through this method. What happens when that message is determined to be wrong or inaccurate? Find out by tuning in to this episode.
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Purchasing Truth Through Message Editing
Bill, there’s much going on in our pre-election world here in the United States. There are many messages flying back and forth. It’s shocking to me how much truth is being purchased through false messages, false narratives, doctored videos, and quotes taken far out of context that truth is being purchased on an hourly basis all day long every day by somebody in the political universe. I think it’d be great to talk about that now but also to talk about what the consequences are, what happens when that message is out there, and what happens even if it’s determined to be wrong or inaccurate.
I appreciate this discussion, Tom. The feeling that usually comes up is this exasperation, curiousness for some people, helplessness for others and a lot of doubt that we can get the need for truth met and to restore truth and make truth something that we fight for, clean towards or recultivate as something that we find is valuable. If somebody brings a research piece of paper in front of us, we say, “That research is important. Let’s see if we can duplicate that.” Then not necessarily take a onetime research paper and make that a part of the truth. The only truth is there is little funding for validation studies. What winds up happening is a researcher can take fifteen people and say that chocolate helps solve cancer because they researched it and they cherry-pick the data. That’s a bias. Then the news media says, “New report says.” That did not have a validation study and the experience that was needed. Truth is going to be hijacked because the person’s brain is going to be imprinted with the small short message that causes things to stick.
I think we’re going to have a lot more discussions about this later in 2020 and early 2021 when it comes to vaccines. If they have gone through the proper trials and is the research sound or has it been rushed and are we risking our health and taking chances that we shouldn’t. For now, we don’t have vaccine research to review yet but I think there’s a bigger example in our daily politics. When you talk about research, I’m hearing Jordan Klepper in my mind when he was at Donald Trump rally. He did that video talking to people about, “Don’t be a sheep, do your own research.” I think truer words were never spoken. I think everybody needs to do that. Unfortunately, many people hear a message that lines up with their bias and they run with that and even spread that message without verifying if there’s any truth to it.
There’s no time for a retraction to stick. There’s no space for a retraction. A retraction has very little impact.
I think the Republicans are good at this. Everyone from Donald Trump, himself to Steve Scalise who is the House minority whip to Donald Trump himself in the Donald Trump campaign. There’s been a lot of evidence of this lately. One was a video that Donald Trump retweeted where Joe Biden’s having a conversation with this person who is an ALS patient. He has Lou Gehrig’s disease and he has to use another device to speak. RNC or whoever put this Republican commercial out and doctor the words that this guy said because it wasn’t his voice. It was easy for the doctor because he uses a machine to speak. They could replicate the machine’s voice and this video went out. I think that was Steve Scalise where Steve Scalise tweeted that.
The gentleman who was speaking, his name is Ady Barkan who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He tweeted back at Steve Scalise to take down the video and said those weren’t my words and scolded him and Steve Scalise begrudgingly took down that video. This stuff happens all the time. It was White House, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and their Director of Social Media, Dan Scavino posted a manipulated video where they’re trying to support the Sleepy Joe Biden label, which to me is a serious label because Joe Biden’s the guy riding bicycles out in the world for exercise. Donald Trump doesn’t exercise a lick and rides golf carts around the golf course instead of walking.
The reality of this video of Joe Biden sleeping, it was supposedly showing Joe Biden falling asleep during a live interview. He didn’t fall asleep at all. It was an old video with singer Harry Belafonte. He appeared napping before an interview while technical glitches were being worked out and Joe Biden was looking downward for a moment. They had Harry Belafonte sleeping and Joe Biden looking downward, they were trying to show that Joe Biden was sleeping and the reality is Harry Belafonte and others came out and said, “This is a complete lie. He wasn’t sleeping.”
This is to me the worst one is President Donald Trump and his campaign put out a video where they carefully cut a clip of something Joe Biden said where the Donald Trump campaign tweeted a video clip of Joe Biden saying, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” That was the entire clip they put out. They’re saying, “Even Joe Biden says you won’t be safe in his America.” What Joe Biden had said in its entirety was that he was quoting President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The full quotation was, “Donald Trump and Mike Pence are running on this.” I find it fascinating, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
What’s their proof? The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America. That’s the entire quote of Joe Biden in its full context. Here’s the problem. We’ve given three examples here of different videos or quotes taken out of context and messages. They get put out there, Bill. Even if they take them down later, what’s the cliché, the horses out of the barn? You can’t unring that bell. These are true. The message’s out. They purchase the truth of it. It feeds confirmation bias. It gets amplified and even though they get called out on it and take it down, the damage has been done.
One of the biggest challenges of the brain is that as I want to bias that is familiar to me that fits my belief structure about what my guy is doing, the value of what my guy is up to. If my guy says this is true, I want to take the best message from the other guy and say, “This is a boy I believe because this is coming from my guy.” Instead of going like, “I’m not sure if my guy is telling the full truth on this.” The bias doesn’t want to believe that is. The brain values stability and that is difficult because it’s hard to shake the limbic brain, the safekeeping brain, the habit brain off of a bias that is feeding the narrative that the other guy is doing something. I don’t want to believe my guy is doing it but I believe the other guy’s doing it because I’m seeing the environment. I want to assign it to the other guy.
We talked about the death of curiosity in the previous episode. Part of the problem is that people hear our message and when it seems too good to be true or too outrageous, few people question it and say, “Is that really true? What’s the source of this?” They don’t demonstrate curiosity to go find out. If it’s in alignment with their beliefs and biases, they’re like, “I’ll take it. Let me amplify that. I’ll spread that and share it with my 5,000 followers or my 25,000 followers.”
If it is something that is not in alignment with my beliefs, then I might question it and try to poke holes in it and shoot it down. Even if I do that, it’s still too late. The message is out there. It’s like what we were talking about before this episode about the newspaper retraction as if that is helpful. It’s a fact, they may print a retraction. They may take back what they said, but it’s a day or two later and it’s not front-page headlines.
It’s not at the front. I think it’s necessary to do the retraction but the problem is that there’s no time to clean things up. The thing that’s unsettling is that the brain is already in the place of rejecting what is happening. It’s unsettling because the brain is in search of stability. What winds up happening is that if I can assign this chaos to my opponent instead of this chaos to the issue then I’ll win. That’s where the traction is taking place. The traction is not about who is better, who’s more skilled and who’s better to run the position, then what’s available is what the voter believes. It’s unsettling even to slow down. The brain is going to reject truth in order to have a stable belief and regrettably, the answers do that. I’d rather believe what’s stable rather than to believe what’s true. You and I are going to have an uncomfortable discussion right now about what brands happens during the branding process. If I want to pick up on a brand and I say about this brand, “It is not safe.”People would rather believe what's stable than believe what's true. Click To Tweet
Let me pick a brand that’s dead. If I say that Pontiac cars are not safe because of XYZ and they have this, and they’re not safe because Pontiac cars aren’t safe, a Pontiac cars breakdown or Pontiac cars do this. All of a sudden, the brain is believing that the need for safety is not associated with the Pontiac car. It’s going to go like, “I heard this message one time. I’m not going to shop over there because I heard this message about safety.” If there’s a clever slogan that’s associated with the brand, it also can be very damaging. Fiat had to work against a clever anti-brand, which was Fiat means “Fix it again, Tony.”
It was a slam on Italian made cars where Fiat was going, “What do you mean our cars break down the same as everybody else’s cars? In fact, we have better things. How do we get stuck with the Italian slam over here?” That is 30 years old, but it’s still sticking to my brain. Even though they’ve done all these improvements, all these things, have a stellar record, they’re in good shape as a car company, they’ve retooled, they’ve bought other card companies and completely upgraded and got their act together, no. The mental engram is going to stick. People will still see Hillary Clinton as crooked. She has made some mistakes but crooked has been associated with her name. It’s also now associated with her husband.
The label has stuck. From my perspective, it seems like the Republicans are much better at putting out these messages that stick and putting out messages even though it may be a false narrative or not even a partial truth, but not true at all. They’re good at putting out these messages and then they’ll remove, they’ll delete the tweet, and they’ll take down the video but it’s too late because the message is out there. I don’t know if it’s the people in the Republican campaign that are good at it, or if it’s just Donald Trump himself. He is a brander for sure but what about others? What would you do if you are the Democrats? How would you battle or counteract these messages? Is it just that they need to up their game, play harder, and do the same thing?
Step into the quote, step into the label, empathize with the label, disassemble the label, and then set a vision. Step into the label is, “It seems like that he has a thought that I’m Sleepy Joe Biden. I feel curious if he would like to challenge me to a bike race because I’d like to see how that would work between him and I. I am not sure. Maybe I am sleepier than he is. Maybe he liked to go on a bike ride with me. I’d be happy to be collaborative and work with him if he would like to go on a ten-mile bike ride with me that I do every morning.”
I’d love to see that one.
I don’t need to say the video was out of context. I might even say the video that’s out of context is that I guess human beings get tired sometimes when they’re waiting for the videotaped and it looks like I and Harry Belafonte were taking a nap until the video people got their act together. Sometimes we as politicians have to wait for the video people to get their act together. Does that make sense? Seems like the two of us were sleeping there. We had a nice conversation fifteen minutes before, but we’re both tired. Human beings do sleep. I wonder if President Donald Trump has ever slept on the job.
I’ve turned and stepped into empathetic towards myself as somebody that’s a human being that sleeps and then taking a step forward. It’s helpful to step into it and then reframe it. The four-step is to set the vision. Setting the vision is that I think after the ten-mile bike ride, I probably would do some planning about how to deal with immigration reform other than just putting up a portion of a wall somewhere down somewhere that may not affect the overall immigration policy. I’ve minimalized the wall.
That was brilliant because you pivoted twice within those first steps. First of all, you stepped into the label of Sleepy Joe Biden, but in a way that did not even waste time arguing the fact that the video was false because it’s not important. What you did is you immediately pivoted to put out a counter-narrative, but a counter-narrative that made us all unfortunately how it did to me just as you didn’t have the mental picture of President Donald Trump in shorts trying to climb on a bicycle and balance on it at all, let alone ride ten miles. That was a thought I didn’t need in my head now.
You pivoted again from the brilliant message putting out there about, who’s calling who’s sleepy to then talk about the vision for the country and getting to a really important issue, not just labeling and diagnosing somebody. It’s like calling them names like a junior high school or a grade-schooler. I have thought about this but you also were demonstrating how to start on defense and change it to the offense but what about the fact that the Republicans are sending a barrage of these messages out on a daily basis? Do the Democrats need to up their game and not just respond but start putting out their own messages that get the same traction, or is that not going to be helpful?
The imprint of leadership is going to make all the difference. A defensive person is not a leader. The more that a democratic governor looks and communicates defensiveness, the weaker they look, even though they’re being truthful and they’re being honest to say, “I have a complex situation going over here. I don’t need your help.” Instead of going like, “There are moments and there are individuals that are taking advantage of the people that are free here.” There are people that are looting that are taking advantage of the things and we’re working towards restoration.
We’ve got to heal our city. If I want a message that is pointing out that there are some individuals here that are taking advantage of it, it’s not all those people. I feel like that’s a small part of what’s going on here. It’s okay if people come in the streets and yell things. It’s not okay if people that come from the outside to start the violence and it’s like the violence because someone else told them to come here or somehow as individuals, they thought that it is their right as an American to come and have a belief that they need to help our police.
Our police don’t need help. We do need some restoration. We do need to fix some of the things that of our policies but as far as health policing, not so much. If you come here and you have weapons, you will be arrested. Notice, I said as a leader, I said, “This is what’s going to happen.” The police officers, you’re stepping in the place of leadership and you will be processed and charged as the law prescribes in our city. You cannot bring those things here no matter what the president says. All of a sudden, I’ve elevated myself as a mayor or governor to, “I get the fight the law as much as he does.” In other words, “You don’t get to say you’re the law and order president when I’m the law here at this town. Don’t mess with the local sheriff.”We need to change how our society starts getting the voter to vote from an informed place. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, it’s like, “Do you have time to mess with the local sheriff? What are you doing at the national level? Pay attention to your job?” Did you see that immediately I turned that the local guy said, “Pay attention to your job? I’m paying attention to mine.” If you can see my messaging, I’m engaged in the process of going like, “This is what truth looks like to me and I got problems, but you got bigger problems. You can’t even walk down the street without using tear gas. At least, I can walk down the street without using tear gas. What’s your issue?”
I’ll just keep going like this, Tom. I’ll keep giving these one-liners to all the leadership that’s out there because they’re not in the position to be both compassionate and lead. They don’t know how to be empathetic and engaged to draw a line. I’ll be empathetic, but I am not going to let somebody hijack the truth for me. That’s one of the skills that regrettably our politicians need to learn and engage more. I hope this has been helpful. I brought out a bit of a monologue in a tad and a rant, but you can see how it’s a little mesmerizing too.
It is, but it is also very helpful because we’re talking about messages now. We’re talking about editing messages in order to gain political advantage. I would say, added messages unethically or inauthentically, we’re not talking about amplifying messages that are true. We’re talking about taking messages then manipulating them for your gain or advantage whatever your cause is and putting them out there and how those messages stick. At the same time, you’ve got to either have counter messages or your messages that stick and not be on defense all the time. I agree that when you’re in a defensive position, there are ways to deal with it and you showed an example of that brilliantly with your four steps and what you could do with that situation. The Democrats need to do some careful amplification and it’d probably be better. I think what you’re talking about is value-based messages and vision sensory messages than taking cheap shots and trying to manipulate. Maybe they do need to get down in the mud and manipulate and get some out because maybe it would help them get more votes. It would be doing the same unfortunate things that the Republicans are doing, but they probably don’t need to.
They’ve got to appeal to the certainty and the stability that the human brain is craving for. I’m craving for certainty and I’m craving for stability. It’s a big religious belief that God is holding those two spaces for us as human beings. It’s the main reason why there’s an appeal with Donald Trump towards the evangelicals because that’s a part of their narrative. God is in charge of stability and certainty. My beliefs are stable and certain. They get appealed to from a place of stability and uncertainty. I am the stable law order president, but meanwhile, it’s not an alignment with truth or other religious values such as love thy neighbor, respect for all life, not just some, inclusion, cooperation, and community. We don’t know. Don’t let the cover that the person has, the color of their skin, or their affect causes you to start projecting that this person is one way or another.
If you and I had never met Stephen Hawking in a wheelchair, never met, never knew, never saw him, and just look at his disability, our bias would take place and go like, “Wow.” Because we’re looking at the physical state of the person, human being, there’s a projection of bias that it’s affected the mental state of the person. It’s clear that this particular detail is not true especially because we know what the truth is regarding the late Stephen Hawking. It’s the same thing people do in Donald Trump’s direction. They see a person that’s standing for stability and they’re giving a push on intellect, mastery, leadership, command, and strength. They’re not waiting to take a look at the, “I’m not sure if I know all those things.” They’re giving a push.
In the example of it, they’re giving the president more credit for having certain beliefs or having certain qualities, characteristics that he doesn’t have given the level of his office, and how he presents himself at the podium or whatever in certain situations.
Wealth does that too. I have a belief that someone’s smart because they’re wealthy. There’s a belief about that. I’m believing somebody is going to be generous because they’re wealthy. That’s not true. I believe the person is going to be a good person in society because they’re wealthy. I believe that because a person’s wealthy, God has favor on them. That’s a lot of projection because this is something that creates certainty and stability inside the mind. One of the things that political individuals have got to get a hold of is that it’s not about truth. It’s about belief.
I want to follow the voter’s beliefs. I’m not interested in reeducating the voter to the truth first before I get them to vote. It’s the weirdest thing. That’s not me talking right now, that’s Newt Gingrich talking on interview after the interview. He goes, “I am not interested in giving them the truth. I just want their vote and I’m going to say things that are in alignment with their vote, but they’re not true.” The newsperson says, “That’s not my job. My job is to get the vote.” That’s the thing that’s a little unsettling is that we’ve got to concentrate on where the voter’s beliefs are not necessarily where to get the voter to be an informed voter because that’s something that we’ve done a lot of work to disable at this point.
We’ve got a need to change the way our society goes to start getting the voter to vote from an informed place. We’re then going to get a more collaborative and cooperative nation. That’s me contributing a different vision and that vision can be more effective if we get ourselves back around that. Anybody can do it. Republicans can start top talking the collaboration game, but they’ve got to restore trust first and their values and all the other things that are on the rubble pile. We have a little bit more work to do here regarding this. The video editing, the way that quotes are taken out of context is something that we as Americans need to look at so that at, we create stability and an honest discussion about, do we have certainty on this video to be true first? We then got a shot at it. There’s some more work here and there are some hoops to jump through. I want to thank the audience for staying with us on this because this one is a tough one to get ahold of.
Also, to come to terms with and realize that we can’t rest easy just because the tweet was deleted or the message was retracted because the message got out there and the damage is done.
The damage as far as a brand imprint that needs to be painted over in a new way. That’s the thing that needs to take place next.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
More to come, Tom. Thanks.
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