it was a sound & something unseen, whispers waking in the lip underneath the dark corner now have speech, voice and arms & walk into living room in daylight, hanging jowls and threat-mouth always been here, always been around and been the one i saw in school & talk down and keep me in line with expectation, keep in line with all the children in system, in test room for money and apple like temptation sits on table, apple falling in the garden, apple of knowledge & bible in the class room bible on floor & hand over heart and stand up for football anthem, requirements of children, they lurking in the scrawl on the bathroom, in boy branded feminine crying in bathroom, in feminine fleeing boy crying in bathroom to flee, opening door to girls’ restroom & tears & support & scared & i watched this story but it is not mine to tell & the unseen sound was in the summer air, thick with flies & the plagues on a country already sick, already plagued with apathy & pressure & how thin the line can be between freedom and disaster, how simply and suddenly the once-invisible boot-politik is felt on neck, how quickly we started to eat ourselves, how fast the fingers move towards false protection and repair-narrative, how fast noise materialized out of the ether, becoming the strongarm, becoming red hats in dustbowl stadiums of rotten minds, coming into its own malice, loud & as far as eyesight can carry.
castle of sand & walkway spiral of saturn-rings
machine-firefly into dark evening sky, lost in aerial whine and
dipping wings aflutter like small & twisting fingers
this is in the cold, this hot and loud, this staring over shoulders in bar corners,
this hovering below the lamplight near strap-dress and spanish eye,
glasses and messy hair pours eyeballs into waterglasses, the blood
of tourists running in gothic streets, recolonization of the capitals as
the money moved overseas, left the countries without legs & ambition
bloated like it was karma,
this shouting from the walls, this from the roofs
this dangling from the beach umbrellas, swimming
in the warm quiet, hands
of broken skin
Art by wataboku
orange stillness in the mountain gates, whispers in tongues
white covering the hillsides and streaming down from the clouds fond papers on the tables
I leave the augury to my hotel room, the self-demolition to find the closest thing to a tongue, to find lips that move like sounds, like wooden doors fit perfect into spaces unwarped by minutes,
forever a hearth, forever a paper-crane traveler
forever seated in unknown commissaries & finding no contact, walks with the mountains
the world birthed this journey in saturday mornings and deep nights/ living art shipped into the mind-trunks & bundled across oceans, rubber boots on a hill, were they mine
or yours and did you take me here
who walks behind us in the snow
I have heard their guardians whisper at the peak so I hid inside the graves
walked again into a shop to offer fingernails and the rose of cheeks into plaques I could not read, though I hear it is fortune, fortune of fools, of the lost & walking into graveyards full of fallen soldiers, dancing crows in the light rain & silent families on the taut side of the screens, sipping the steam, drinking mist, & I stand
watching their prayers melt
Art by Citlali Haro
crawl into the earth
live in bursting. I have breathless soaring on my mind
alone on gravel fields with steam on my chest & you
running in the air pitching outwards ahead of fishing line legs casting into deep grass & the churns of soil risen in the morning air
sprinting out of shoes, wheels falling off into dusts and lung pumps gushing forth in morning breeze of wild birds, alone
grains in my hair and sand, most mortal when I can forget I am mortal
feeling one with the rushing winds, as I was born to, wilderness of oxygen speaking in my ear
quiet words of grass & rock, of rusting animal lurking between my temples, alive, alive, alive & springing into early mist-fumes reaching out of primal forest beneath evergreen boughs in the distance, we will meet & dine on flesh in moonlight, I
will break from this skin; tectonic writhing from chrysalis-body & run again, like I used to, like legs unweighted by bones & age, like unweighted bones lacking the burden of veins, nothing to carry anymore & nothing the same but the beating steps, forward into dawn, forward into the outer-reaches of the life-woods, forward into forgotten lakes and nascent buds of future selves, forward until your hands shake and it all falls away in the side of your vision, forward as the tunnel closes, as the legs give way, as the feet wear to bone, and the voice-light itself just
Photo via BerlinArtparasites by @nessikythian
i was asked before and / could not speak it, the mouth struggling to name / the motor giving voice to gut-engines, to the tremble / in back of throat-muffler, machine-neck sanctum of flesh and blood, / guarding from the light in through the windows, the alabaster shield of blindness / in the temple, skins of water and the dying below my feet–/ name it / the loss, the defilement, the breakings into the sound of noon,/ the piercing cry–name it– I could not find / a place to call home anymore if asked on a map–name it–for the spaces / written into my mind and blue textbooks shouting ‘we, the people’–naming us ‘we’ and I was / a we but there are those who were not, sitting with me in the classrooms & reading stories like I did, internalizing self-doubt that weighed more than they did but we could not and the books did not name it / racism –the first time I could name it, the days still broke in my favor, I had nothing but the name on my tongue, the spit in my mouth and a desire to tan my skin on the weekends, to to extort and borrow something now interpreted as beauty–but when asked to name that–I still could not, whether I was just too slow or / just only one alone I couldn’t speak it, kept using Chappelle specials to smooth over the cracks in sophomoric biases, / smooth over with salves of humor, humor as justification for internalized & subtle hate and something like hate is / where laughter came from. that I can name–insecurity–the belief above all that I must be special–some kind of twisted creature / white supremacy–unnamed until almost 20, unravelled in classrooms and lunch tables and the bedroom of a biracial girl who somehow tolerated my incapacity for names, forgetting syllables that I should have known by then, / syllables ingrained into the names given by the ancestors, ancestors who crossed seas and looted countries, took possessions, killed everyone while I rooted for them in movies / as a child mostly, but who doesn’t want to name themselves as the john wayne, single-man defining destiny [manifest in his hands] and slaughtering all the bad guys, / returning from college to small midwestern cities and realizing you / are those enemies, / like something they cannot name, something different and revered by some who never escaped, hated by others, who could not name / you even if they learned it all by heart–learned to see where you were / and the people at the feet of their alabaster hallways, the blood-gold dripping from cloaked and breeched statues in town centers / the things we cannot name from the inside of our ice castles, the inside of our gut-engines, spilling out onto the floor, / lying next to porcelain android, blue-eye crystal like glassiness in the moonlight–watching movies about love between two men, I try to name / this feeling, but it escapes me.
Accusations that have no basis in reality can be surprisingly damaging. But there are some ways to weaken them.
There is little debate that we are entering a new era in crisis communications. The proliferation of algorithmically-driven social media platforms allows erroneous claims and “fake news” reports to propagate with unprecedented speed. This is being made all the more worrying by Donald Trump’s White House, which not only lends credence to questionable information to further its narrative but is, in many cases, an instigator of fake news.
Not long after Trump became president, his counsellor Kellyanne Conway introduced the phrase “alternative facts” when defending inflated claims about attendance numbers at his inauguration by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Trump’s recent assertion that Sweden was having “problems like they never thought possible” because “they took in large numbers” of refugees went viral and was largely disputed. But what makes the spread of this information particularly dangerous is that, according to research, misinformation takes hold more rapidly and more easily in populations that perceive themselves to be in an insecure position. Trump’s base, therefore, ran to his support.
Given that fake news instigators thrive on stoking their followers’ confirmatory bias, the tendency to favour information that confirms existing beliefs, they present serious challenges to the reputations of those they attack. In his book, On Rumours: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, and What Can Be Done, Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard and formerly President Barack Obama’s administrator of information and regulatory affairs, suggests corrections or counter-information to false rumours, lies, or “alternative facts” are very difficult, and should be a matter of public concern. In many cases, therefore attenuating them may be the only hope.
Correcting fake news
These alternative facts can also be durable. In a paper, “The Continued Influence of Misinformation in Memory”, Colleen Seifert at the University of Michigan noted that there is a “continued influence effect”, where misinformation continues to influence judgments even if that information has already been corrected by the accused.
This is one reason why conventional communications tactics of responding to fake news or false claims with condemnation and retort have so far proven inadequate in the post-truth era. Responding with outrage has also fallen short, making the accused appear to be “crying wolf” and easily painted as hypocritical or over-reactive, as Hillary Clinton learned in the presidential debates. Successful correction, Seifert goes on to state, “appears to require assisting the reader in resolving this contradiction.”
Ways to respond
These powerful “barrage” tactics, therefore, require a new kind of response, suggestions for which I have listed below. These are not exhaustive, nor are they a process to follow, but considerations for responding when under attack. In many cases, however, responding can only go so far so there are limits to the effectiveness of these counter strategies. Your counter information may never make it past the biases of the hardened followers of the accuser, no matter how clear the message or pure the intentions. Your aims should be to target those in the middle who are either undecided or interested in furthering rational debate.
1. Condemn and turn the argument on the accuser. While condemnation may be necessary, be careful not to repeat the instigator’s claims lest your outrage become fodder for their followers’ entertainment. Turn the argument around by making strong points or asking pointed questions to demonstrate that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
Trump’s recent claims that something happened “last night in Sweden” elicited a very calm yet pointed response. The Swedish embassy in the U.S. tweeted in response, “we look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.” Even to those not following developments, it served as a stand-alone statement that might simply be construed as an act of friendly information sharing, staying well clear of the original claims. Even Trump, the accuser, was forced to admit the source of his claim, which turned out to be a widely debunked Fox News report.
2. Communicate your values. Research by INSEAD Professor of Organisational Behaviour Charles Galunic found that when companies differentiated their espoused values from their peers and updated them over time, they outperformed their peers.
The response of U.S. CEOs to Trump’s first proposed immigration ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries both produced a memorable response that loomed larger than claims that immigrants were bad for America, but also drew a line in the sand when it came to values. This also builds on the traditional crisis communications strategy of taking the moral high ground, especially if you have it. If you engage in the same sort of pettiness, you’ll end up with the dirt on you too.
3. Be funny. It may be tempting when responding to fight fire with fire, but in the increasingly divisive nature of fake news, this often reinforces the accuser’s narrative, confirming stereotypes or negative beliefs that their followers already have about you. Refusing to play the “enemy” role makes it more difficult for the instigator to pin you down and demonise you to stoke more support for their ideas.
One very effective way to respond is with humour. Research on humour shows that when people in a conflict situation are exposed to humour and given pause to laugh, convergent thinking (the tendency to believe in only one solution) gives way to divergent thinking, which unveils other possible outcomes for the conflict. This is also reflected in other research on schools and offices showing humour as an efficient aid for creativity.
4. Or consider not responding at all. There is also such a thing as engaging too much. Depending on the ludicrousness of the claim, it could be better to wait it out. McDonald’s learned this lesson when a series of fake stories spread online that it was using worms as filler in its burgers. Eventually it stopped responding and let the story run out of steam. It was subsequently found to be false. It will be important to pick your battles and set a cut-off point for making further counter claims. Consider whether it is something that is likely to die out in the news cycle or something you need to kill.
All aboard the fake train
Preparing for the day of a fake news attack will be challenging as it will be difficult to anticipate exactly what form it will take and where it will come from. But a good start for companies will be forming a holistic perspective on what their reputation looks like, especially to their biggest detractors. This will also reveal the kind of “alternative facts” already circulating among the audience so they can start readying counter arguments. A crucial part of such an exercise should be to unearth the saliency of your messages. In essence, question if people listen to or believe in your narrative.
Used wisely, humour is often a good response to fake news attacks, which can involve seeding funny content to fans that will come to your aid in the event of an affront. It may not always be necessary to respond. In the event of a barrage of negative attacks, it is wise to pick your battles, remaining pointed in the narrative framework of the accuser and building memorable responses. Hitting back could be necessary, but not with a direct attack. This redirects a potential vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle for your reputation.
Ian Anderson is a PhD Candidate in Marketing at INSEAD.
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Read more at http://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/responding-to-fake-news-in-the-post-truth-era-5526#sZPzuPYgXcqyDFaz.99