• Trust Me, I’m Lying

    “It is generally just the best and most valuable things that do not find their echo immediately.” –Kurt Wolf


    Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying is the Art of War of media manipulation. It’s that damn good, succicnt, and devastatingly honest. In the introduction, Holiday outright states, in a very ‘White Hat’ sort of way: “I’m going to show you every single trick to cajole and steal every second of the precious resource in the world – people’s time. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.”

    Trust Me I’m Lying is really just a phenomenal critique on the modern media industry. Holiday brilliantly displays how the ecosystem of the page view driven media is a structural extension of the sub prime era. With that, he also shows how to exploit it. Using only a handful of examples (American Apparel, Tucker Max), Holiday provides very specific instructions– particularly a step-by-step guide to baiting journalists and creating fake news.

    1) Start by “leaking” your tidbit (hopefully a lascivious or at least ‘kitten-falling-asleep-level-cute’ piece) to a low-level blogger or local source. These people are desperate to be heard, noticed, cared about; so they’ll be carrying your torch

    2) Find the mid-level blog or niche interest site, and link to the enthusiast from step 1 with a note like “why aren’t you covering this?”

    3) Watch the mid-level blog run with it, and hopefully get picked up by a national like HuffPo or USAToday

    It’s a brutally simple path that Holiday exposes, and along the way points out that all the clickbait headlines and worthless re-sharing we see is in service of ever more ad dollars, dollars that the people planting the stories are re-investing in those very sites – and yet no conflict of interest is ever disclosed. Every publisher, from the 5-subscriber “Room Of Jeanne’s Own” blog about her garden to DailyKos and Fox News is governed by one dictum: Traffic by any means.” [pg33] Put a more cynical way, the purpose of ‘the news’ is not to report the unbiased truth, the purpose of the news is to sell ‘the news.’

    Fiction passes as reality, and no one is called on their lies, because refutations and repudiations by the victims are treated the same as denials from actual targets. When a blogger posts an article made up basically out of whole cloth that The Daily Show is a sexist boys club, there’s nothing TDS can do, even if the show’s 40% female writing staff all sign a public post decrying the lie – it looks the same as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” [p132]

    The central question of blogs, of the internet itself, is not (as with TV) “Is this Entertaining?” it is “Will this get attention? Will it spread?” [p231]; and that does not, it cannot lead to anything that actually helps the public. Sadly, Holiday has no answer, perhaps indeed there is no answer. The media machine must feed, and it has drunk deep of the tainted pool of advertising dollars. It is up to us to find a way to ween it off that foul ambrosia.

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