“Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” In my early days in PR, this message guided any person or company that took issue with a particular news article or editorial (yes, showing my age here). The intent was to consider whether a public disagreement with a statement or position was worth the ensuing exposure. Sometimes the answer was yes, but those were the days when access to ‘ink by the barrel’ was limited to a much smaller media pool, and a pool that largely attempted to abide by the norms of journalistic integrity: truth, accuracy, objectivity, public accountability.
Today, social media and easy access to an audience means we are swamped with information – and disinformation – rife with implicit and explicit biases and agenda-setting, that make it challenging to determine what is truth. I could go on about the psychology of beliefs, but that’s another article, and yes, I’m acutely aware that our newsletter is an example of just what I’ve described.
It is incumbent on us – the defenders of Democracy, the progressive activists who fiercely believe that the goals of liberty, equality and justice for all require daily participation and effort – to use our channels to stand against propaganda, misleading messages and lies.
The Indivisible Truth Brigade is a growing army of people like us who work to defuse disinformation campaigns by using our channels to amplify effective counter messaging. There’s a ton of support through the Truth Brigade Slack channel, that identifies specific campaigns that need some truth-telling, creates messaging that can be personalized and enables brigade members to connect and share experiences with others in the ‘army.’
Messaging typically takes the form of a ‘truth sandwich,’ which was recommended by George Lakoff for those who spent some time studying his work. The truth sandwich has three parts that go like this:
- Layer one: Truth first! Name the common ground underlying the disinformation, and frame it with the truth.
- Layer two: Question the messenger’s motives, honestly
- Layer three: Truth reaffirmed! in a positive and proactive way
Examples of truth sandwich messaging:
- When Trump lied about the number of people impacted by COVID-19, Truth Brigaders personalize and share their versions of this truthful message: “This pandemic is making all our lives harder. That’s why I’m frustrated Trump is sharing misleading data to downplay the deadliness of this virus. The fact is over 180,000 Americans have died, and we need leaders who will face this pandemic head-on.”
- When Trumpsters falsely blamed the West Coast Wildfires on anything but climate change, Truth Brigaders personalized and shared their versions of this message: “I’m sad to hear about those affected by the wildfires. With so many misleading stories about the cause, let’s remember that climate change is the real culprit. This shouldn’t be political – we need leaders who make the climate a priority.”
Note that this method can extend well beyond social media into Letters to the Editor, testimony at public meetings and Town Halls – anywhere you know that certain factions are manipulating information and outright lying to run roughshod over democratic rights.
CALL TO ACTION