You go online and enter a debate about Vaccination. To support their Anti-Vaxx position somebody references the autism article by discredited and disbarred former Dr. Andrew Wakefield and you find yourself screaming at the computer “how can you reference something that has been so often and so clearly disproven?”. You’ve been firehosed!
Rand researchers Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews coined the term “Firehosing” in 2016 to describe the propaganda tactics Russian authorities use to quell dissent and control the political landscape.
Firehosing relies on pushing out as many lies as possible as frequently as possible. That’s typical for propaganda, but the aspect that makes firehosing a unique strategy is that it doesn’t require the propagandist to make the lies believable. Its goal isn’t to persuade. It’s to rob facts of their power. Firehosing inundates us with so many wild opinions that it becomes exhausting to continually disprove them. In this scenario, reality is reduced to positioning and who can sell their position best.
How do you fight this phenomenon? Factchecking alone is ineffective: According to the team at Rand “Don’t expect to counter the firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth.”
Turn off the tap at source: Social Media companies such as Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc need to be named and shamed for permitting dissemination of lies.
In traditional media if you have Dr. 5 PhD’s in clinical pathology advocating for Vaccination it does not provide “balance” to have Reverend Bible Thumper from Podunk Idaho Church of Anti-vaccination to speak for “the other side of the debate”.
Denying the lies reinforces the lies. To combat the lies you need to highlight the strategies being used by the firehosers. Expose their tactics to the audience. Educate the audience in what to look for. Trust the audience to make good decisions by providing them with the tools to make the decisions.
Adopt the old accounting mantra “follow the money”. Who is profiting from the lies? Who is funding them? Follow the breadcrums to the source. Expose the paymasters.
Acknowledgements to Lucky Tran & Guardian News