Mudslinging and Misinformation in Political Campaigns

Posted by M ws On Thursday, March 28, 2013 1 comments
I don't know about you  but I am VERY tired of waiting for the next election. Please cut short our ordeal of waiting, speculating, postponing holidays etc and hold the elections asap. I'm fed up of the mudslinging and the misinformation given through many forms of media to make opponents look incompetent, immoral or useless not forgetting worn-out plots (especially sex videos) and over-used scripts. The recycling of sex video attacks is evidence of the state of neurons in the minds of some who are prime candidates of the competition for Air-Head of the Year. Don't they have any other thing to do apart from insulting our intelligence? Sighs...

It is about time responsible leaders exhort us to vote for the character of a candidate based on their campaign manifesto, aspirations,  ideas and service record. To that end, each of us must take responsibility and do our homework by undertaking research to find out the background and worthiness of the candidates without being influenced by any other kind of political propaganda. Then only can we rightly vote for the best candidate.

At the rate we are being fed on a staple diet of disinformation and misinformation, whither Malaysia?

CLICK HERE for a paper on misinformation.

 This link  reports that "an intriguing new study released last week in Psychological Science in the Public Interest reveals why people are more apt to believe false information being fed to them by the media and politicians.

According to the team of psychological scientists working on the study, led by Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia, the main reason that people are more likely to believe false information (for example, that climate change is a hoax) is because it actually takes less brain power to believe a statement is false than to accept it as truth. Finding the truth takes time and effort that people often don’t care enough to spend on particular issues that aren’t of immediate concern.

A few excerpts from the report:

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true – it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold. 
And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it? 
Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome. 
Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief. CLICK HERE for more.

Time carried an article here which discusses the same research and why misinformation sticks and corrections can backfire. 

Sora Sing's The Upside of Gossip: Social and Psychological Benefits discusses how engaging in behind-the-back talk actually had meaningful social benefits. It lowered gossipers’ stress, prevented exploitation and promoted more generous behavior.

This site also reported something interesting:

A new study about media misinformation and media users’ ignorance is only the latest wakeup call for anyone who worries that the American press has gone badly astray. From the summary of “Misinformation and the 2010 Election” comes this bottom line:

  • The public is thoroughly cynical about political campaign advertising.
  • Much of the public is misinformed about major issues.
  • Fox News viewers are especially prone to believing things that are not true.

The report, from the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, won’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to national affairs and the media. We have an information crisis. Influence peddlers and opinion launderers can now spend unlimited amounts of money, much of it raised from anonymous sources, to push political issues and candidates. A system that has absolutely no accountability is almost guaranteed to become a sewer, and this one certainly has.

Meanwhile, “news” outlets are becoming not just advocates but outright partisans in the worst sense of the term. They treat policy as war, and in wars the truth comes second to winning.

In some respects, the survey is heartening. Nine in 10 voters believed they’d seen ads that were misleading or false, and more than half of the voters thought such ads were a frequent occurrence — and that the misinformation was accelerating. Why is this good news? Because the more skeptical people become about political ads, the more likely they are to disbelieve all political ads. It’s the only rational approach at this point, given our political system’s unwillingness to address the poison it spews, and I hope that by 2012 the public will have a universal belief that any political advertisement they see is probably a lie. MORE HERE.

The Washington Post  says that misinformation is the norm at political conventions and discusses how "by its very nature, that means downplaying unpleasant facts, highlighting the positive and knocking down the opposing team."

So, what then should we do? Read carefully and cautiously. Think, analyze and then only accept it if you are fully convinced it is the truth.

Check out my post on The Politics of Misinformation.

When writing this post, I realized that so many types of governments have this problem. Then, why do even more succumb to both disinformation and misinformation???

In closing, allow me to quote from THIS BLOG:

Nothing affects the lives of average citizens than the pervasive, endemic, and widespread cronyism that has infected cities and states across the entire country, again, driven by the ability of corporatist cartels to buy off politicians with special favors, campaign contributions, lucrative jobs, and many times, old-fashioned bribery and influence peddling. 
Nothing is more damaging to society than the existence of a two-tiered legal system, where average citizens are subjected to increasingly punishing and draconian laws, while the rich and powerful get pass or a slap on the wrist. 
And finally, there are the issues related to our disappearing constitutional rights, the widespread expansion of a total-information-awareness surveillance security/police state, and again, a lot of it pushed by nefarious corporate interests, acting behind close doors, hidden from public scrutiny. 
Something that should be very concerning to progressives is the trend on the so-called liberal media, which has now become obsessed with reporting on every single "outrage" committed by Republicans and the right wing.  The reporting mainly serves to inflame emotions of the "liberal" viewers, but really have very little effect on addressing the real issues we should be confronting. CLICK HERE for more.

If there is any reason why the situation is so bleak in this land, it is largely due to the pathetic standards of education. Whoever it was that made all the wrong decisions effectively destroyed our human resources, the pool of leaders, thinkers and citizens who could together develop Malaysia.

Alas, with the slow death of the thinking mind and the manner in which we are losing our international or even regional competitiveness, I dread to think of the kind of messages and information that we may get in the future. Just take a look at how some politicians respond to citizens who express their concerns about mega projects. CLICK HERE to read a letter written by an old friend whom I have not seen for many years. Is it wrong to question when it appears that ome decisions seem to have been made without public consultation or EIA and then the public are confused about subsequent statements?

If you do have time, please read Lies, Damn Lies…and What We Believe Anyway by Jeff Cobb where he dargues that fundamentally, we need to place more emphasize than ever on developing and practicing good learning habits – like critical thinking and reflection – that prevent misinformation from making inroads in the first place.

As the report suggests, once the truth gets twisted, straightening it back out is no easy matter.

1 comments to Mudslinging and Misinformation in Political Campaigns

  1. says:

    UP41 There are con man, trickster and politicians. And the last group is the worst.

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