That broad brush

I responded to a comment on another post and felt the general theme needed a brief mention here. I will leave off the specifics, as the general theme could apply to almost any subject. We tend to paint people and groups with too broad a brush when we read or hear criticism. I know I do, so I need to guard against that tendency and back off.

Two key points. First, bad behavior sells more readily than good behavior. The doctor who performs 19 perfect surgeries, will be publicized poorly if he messes up the twentieth. The good will from the 95% accuracy rate will get lost. A poor outcome is hard for anyone to swallow, but we need context.

A few members of a group who do poor things will get a great deal of social media attention. The entire group will be painted with a broad brush, which is unfair. This is why the group who should be most zealous in policing bad behavior is the group itself. The Catholic Church failed for many decades to adhere to this policy and all priests were tainted due to the actions of a few. The same goes for political groups – when leaders defame the office they hold, the group they belong to should be leading the way to fix it, not hiding such behavior.

Second, a social media analyst said in an interview that the Facebooks and Googles know that fake news is six times more likely to be read and routed than factual news. The sensational made-up stories sell more readily. Students of disinformation, like Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders and wanna-bes, know this already. It just needs a hint a believability to sell.

In fact, someone who studies the Russian troll factories noted that often, the trolls would take a sensational story that had some truth in it and then blow it up into a contrived piece and drop it into social media. Their goal is to get a conspiracy outlet like Infowars or QAnon to pick it up. Then, when an elected official picks it up and mentions it, the more serious pseudo-news people will cover it enough that the officials will say “people are talking about this.” When the real news outlets start reporting it, the trolls slap high fives for success. It is a sophisticated version of a circular rumor validating the original source.

So, what do we do? Read and watch multiple sources of information. Look at the sources. A piece from Fox News personnel may be slanted, but it is far more credible than something from one of their opinion hosts, which is not news at all (using Fox leaders’ own words under oath in court).The same could be said for MSNBC and other sources that have opinion hosts.

Then there are sources that should be avoided at all costs who are selling conspiracies. A judge told Infowars to pay restitution to the families of the twenty-seven Sandy Hook victims its host defamed, eg. And a North Carolina man served in prison for four years for believing Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a Washington pizza parlor and besieging it. She may be imperfect, but a child pornography ring?

So, consider those conspiracies sources as a can of ugly paint. And, leave that broad paint brush in the garage. When you paint in the corners and crevices, you need a very small brush. Use it finely and with better looking paint that will stand the test of time.

14 thoughts on “That broad brush

  1. Thanks for writing this. Reading words like these makes me feel like I can breathe. Iโ€™ve been so frustrated by people who fall into the Soundbite Hatred Hole. There are certain personalities that enjoy that kind of drama. But for the rest of us, who normally like truth and facts and solutions and kindness, we have to watch ourselves and our news sources.
    No two people in the world agree exactly on every thing, but most of us know that there is a time for compromise and a time to stand firm. Currently, too many people are running wild with the sole purpose of destroying the โ€˜other partyโ€™ by any means necessary.

    • Rose, this is very well said. Thanks for reading and sharing your well-articulated thoughts. Best wishes and please feel free to opine in the future. Thanks, Keith

  2. There should be consequences for knowingly lying. I’m not fond of FB for all the lies it hate it perpetrates, but stay on for connection. Have made a point of correcting the false information though.

    • VJ, I agree. I am not on Facebook, but will glance at my wife’s account when she sees something of interest. I like that you correct folks, which when done diplomatically and in a non-indicting fashion is an art form. Keep on keepin’ on. Keith

  3. Oh, yes, media is so good in adding spices to something which is not even a meal. Still, so many are burning their fingers because they used their head in the third or fourth place after they backed up a false story.

    • Erika, very true and a nice metaphor. An old friend once said “Always tell the truth, as you don’t have to remember as much.” Covering for a lie does not make you a truth teller. It makes you the opposite. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: What surprises me is people used to be bothered by being fooled. Now, the social media is so prolific, people are less inclined to know they are being fooled, if they are told not to pay attention to sources that are showing an opinion as such. If I found out a politician had purposefully lied to me, which I know too many do, that is not something to try to cover up, regardless of party of the source. We need our elected officials to be straight with us, as it is hard enough to govern with facts, but nigh impossible without them.

  5. I love the analogy of this Keith “We tend to paint people and groups with too broad a brush when we read or hear criticism. I know I do, so I need to guard against that tendency and back off.”

    so true… and we need to be mindful.๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

  6. As I began to find there was a mirror image between the vitriol on the Left and Right I began to become sceptical about anything posted by any person. True we can laugh at any lampoon which fits in with out beliefs; cartoonists have centuries worth of providing us with such, and we are naturally drawn to anything which nudges our prejudices (yes we all have them). These days the propaganda machines are running rampant under the cheap excuse of ‘it’s might right’ or ‘freedom of speech’.
    I quit a group on FB, although sympathetic to its original mission statement I could no longer trust the veracity of the posts, even those which seemed to fit my beliefs.
    Respected news outlets are one thing; individuals with an axe to grind, not so.

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