Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Devious Question and Fake News in the Garden of Eden

When I was employed as a salesman at a car dealership, I learned that you can get someone to believe a lie without ever telling him or her a lie. It’s possible to get someone to believe a lie simply by asking the right question. For example, after I closed one profitable deal on a pickup truck, the customer said, “Dan, as much as I paid for that truck, you ought to throw in a set of mats.”
I acted as if I was taken aback. “Mr. Jones, we haggled quite a bit over this deal. Do you seriously think I have enough profit left to just throw in a set of mats?” I didn’t tell him a lie. I asked him a question. If I had just buckled and given him the mats, he would have wondered if he had gotten a decent deal or not.

Since I went with a question which helped him to believe he had done well, he left that dealership knowing he got a great deal. Probably boasted to his friends, “Salesman couldn’t even throw in a set of mats. Ha!”
Asking questions to manipulate someone is a very common technique. It is used by lawyers, journalists, criminals, police, politicians, you name it. I’m not proud to have used the technique, but at least I didn’t invent it. Credit for that goes to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. “Eve, did God really tell you not to eat from that one tree? That fruit looks really good, doesn’t it? Why would God tell you not to eat it? Doesn’t make sense, does it?”
(Note: I’ve embellished a bit here. I hope that’s obvious, but you never know.)
The serpent’s question planted a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind. She believed the fake news that the serpent was selling and she took the bait. Then she shared the fruit with Adam. Then the two of them realized that they were naked. Prior to that, it appears that they didn’t know even what naked meant.
A lot of the fake news that is being disseminated via the internet is designed to motivate people to do something that seems quite harmless. Fake news beckons, “Here’s something interesting. Just click on the link and take a look. It will only take a minute. What’s the harm?”
After going to a fake news website, the story may look good enough to share. And so it goes. Taking the fake news bait is one thing, and I doubt that there are many people who have never been fooled by fake news. Sharing fake news is a much bigger problem. When people share fake news, the big winners are the owners of the websites getting all the clicks. Think twice before spreading fake news and enriching the producers of fake news.
Have you been fooled by fake news?
Have you been fooled into sharing fake news?
Do you have friends who believe and share fake news all the time?

Do you think people need to be more discerning about fake news?

Leave comments and questions below.

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