Be Careful of “Fake” #Fakenews

One of the things that I said I was going to work on in 2018 is lifting my persuasion game and thus by default, I would talk about it more in these posts.  From me talking about it more, hopefully, your persuasion skills will lift as well.

See that’s one of the most important aspects of persuasion – the more you know about it, the easier it is for you to spot it.

And let’s be honest, if you can spot when someone is trying to manipulate you, that’s a pretty invaluable life skill to have.

Here’s one that I’ve been noticing a bunch the last few months.

“That’s #Fakenews!”

You now see people start pointing out stuff as fake that they disagree with.

That’s a really important distinction – just because you disagree with something and you think it might even be somewhat untrue or of dubious origin, that’s not #Fakenews.

This is the equivalent of being the internet boy who cried wolf – after awhile, you’ll burn all of your credibility with everyone but your most ardent supporters OR stupidest followers.

It’s important to call that one out – stupid people believe most idiotic things because their opinions and beliefs are usually moronic, so when you say something dumb it probably resembles their opinions and therefore provides them confirmation bias, so they are likely to believe you.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a metric fuckton of money to be made getting stupid people to aimless follow you.  Stupid people have money too and because of their low IQ, they are more likely to part with it more quickly.

But do you really want your audience to be made up of people who have the mental capacity of a potato?  I dunno, that just doesn’t sound like a rewarding business to run.

So, a quick summary – crying #fakenews at something that conflicts with your “opinion” makes you look dumb and will probably only endear you to stupid people.

That’s not really a persuasion lesson though, is it?

Well… Maybe it can be if you think about it and target your attack a bit more tightly.

You’ll recall a couple weeks back I wrote about the fact that we’re now living in a “post-truth world“.   This is a phenomenon where to large swathes of people, opinions matter more than facts and truths.  They believe what they want to believe because it’s easier.

Every good book on habits, neuroscience and productivity written in the last three years all share a common theme – the idea that your brain will, at an instantaneous and sub-conscious level always default to the simplest activity.  It is easier for your brain to “believe” what it already believes because that just takes less energy.

What we’re now seeing is master persuaders starting to use the cry of “#Fakenews” every so often with stunning effects.

Why is there a difference?


Someone with credibility who says something gives your brain a shortcut – it doesn’t have to judge or challenge what that person is saying because they are recognized as a “credible source”.

And now, the best persuaders are starting to figure out how to use this to their advantage.

If you take someone in a position of trust and authority and they say call #fakenews on something, what’s actually happening?

First of all, they don’t have to actually say why.  They’re not postulating any counter-theory or alternative.

What’s the persuasion angle of that?  Well, it allows the listener/reader/viewer to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Here’s an example – imagine a Chinese University released a study that said that the rate of global warming we’re seeing right now is not anthropogenic (human-caused) and they had several models that showed a number of contributory factors to explain what we’re seeing.

Now, let’s pick someone like Stephen Hawking, a trusted and respected scientist but not REALLY an expert on climate change.  Hawking goes on Twitter and says, “This Chinese paper is #Fakenews”.

People who are predisposed to believe in anthropogenic climate change will have confirmation bias from a trusted source and they’ll fill in the details themselves.

“Chinese” university research is biased by China’s government who are a big polluter or they’ll wonder who paid for the research.  Whatever, they’ll run with that and figure out the details that fit their version of the truth later.

Secondly, by a trusted source calling something “#Fakenews” they immediately undermine the overall credibility of the source.

As a persuasion technique, this is WAAAAY more powerful that saying, “I don’t agree with their findings.”  It implies that the source is knowingly trying to obscure the truth because we’ve anchored “#Fakenews” to be a deception and a lie.

Which leads to the third point, it’s far less confrontational than calling someone a liar.  As contentious and hostile as debates now get online, people still are not comfortable calling someone a liar or being party to a conversation where the accusation is made that someone is lying.  It is one of those remaining social niceties that still exists.

When you say something is “#Fakenews” you are essentially calling the person disseminating it a liar without actually calling them a liar.

Think of it this way, calling someone a liar is like stabbing them in the chest, saying that they are spreading “#Fakenews” is like stabbing them in the chest THROUGH their idea – for whatever reason, we subconsciously see it as “attacking” the idea… but it isn’t.

And finally, here’s what I think is the most important persuasion element… Kinship.

Cialdini talks about this as the seventh type of influence in his book “Pre-suasion” and the one he discovered after writing “Influence”.  People like to feel part of a tribe and tribes like to be led.

When you are someone with a position of credibility within a community and you decry something as “#Fakenews” you are making a persuasion power move using kinship as a core tenet.


Well, people see you as a leader and by calling out “#Fakenews” you are leading the charge on their behalf.  You’re protecting them by drawing attention to someone trying to lie to them so therefore, it re-confirms that you’re not only on their team, but you’re leading the charge for all that you collectively believe in.

It’s a pretty ninja move when used judicially.

I saw it the other day in a Facebook Group that I’m in – someone in the community said that they think Messenger Bots are just spam and most marketers abuse them or don’t really know how they work.

I agree with that statement, I think 99% of the Messenger Bots that I’ve seen are rubbish and the one that I think is the best is the Paypal one that pings me every time someone charges something to my Paypal account.  I have yet to see a single Messenger Bot from a marketer or online business owner that I thought was valuable.

The person linked to a study done by a market research firm that said the return on investment for Messenger Bots is falling like a rock as people now find them annoying and block them very quickly.

One of the community leaders dove in and called the study “#Fakenews” and left it at that.

Within a few minutes, five or ten other people were agreeing with the Community Leader and opining as to why it was “#Fakenews”.  They discredited the market research firm, their methodology, the size of their sample and even their motivation.  Then other people started tossing out irrelevant use cases and red herrings.

One person, in particular, wrote, “I ran my first Messenger Bot last week and made $431 in a day, clearly Messenger Bots are not diminishing in return.”

That was quite possibly the stupidest comment of the lot.  I had to dive in and say, “You can’t discuss a declining ROI when you’ve only used something once, you have no evidence to support your opinion either way.”

I was quickly lumped into the Messenger Bot heretic camp for daring to suggest that someone talking about comparisons of ROI should actually have more than one data point from which to speak about.

It turned into a feeding frenzy for the hopium-infused crowd.

When I watched what was happening, I realized what had gone on – either by sheer clever persuasion on the part of the community leader or by accident.

They had followed all of the steps above – they discredit the source without saying why, opened the door for the crowd to fill in the blanks that suited their own narrative, they didn’t call out the person who posted it as a liar and most importantly, it strengthened the ties that bind the core of their community and entrenched their position as leader.

Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t lost on me that this community leader is also someone that promotes and sells information products about using Messenger Bots and makes affiliate commissions promoting ManyChat.

So there’s a good lesson on the use of calling something “#Fakenews” as an overall instrument of persuasion.

The key is to use it VERY sparingly, but when done well, it’s VERY powerful.

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