I’m currently reading the book by Ryan Holiday; Trust Me, I’m Lying. it’s really great at exposing how we get our information and how at this point in time we’re more exposed than ever to influence from lack of sourcing and bias. In modern times this almost entirely stems from social media and blogs (In his book Ryan uses the term blog to encompass every source of information with readers or viewers online).
He talks about how he discovered a cycle of information in that much of the information reported by some of the largest and most trusted media sources was actually sourced from smaller more influential sources. An example of this is a larger media outlet like TV news networks and The NY Times sourcing articles from Politico which could have been written by single, freelance authors with few checks and balances.
The conflict of interest that has been present in news sources such as TV stations competing for eyes by reporting more inflammatory material is even more present in online blog sources. Blogs have fewer checks and balances and primarily competing for ad revenue and clicks. To achieve this they compete to be the first to report the most extreme stories. Something occurred to these site owners and authors some time ago, if you couldn’t be the first to report these stories, you could fabricate them. Additionally you could report a story with one anonymous source and not fact check it. If any ire comes your way you could simply point to the source, of which of course there is no method of recourse.
The point of a lot of this is something I might get into more in the next post soon, but it has to do with the way Ryan used this system for his own gain and the gain of his marketing clients. He planted and created stories which he sent anonymously to blogs like Politico and Gawker that would report these stories tres vite. From there they were then picked up by larger sources that sourced back to the original article and would create large, free attention and controversy for him and his clients. I want to go more into detail on a lot of this on my next post in which I’ll describe some of the important lessons that can be learned and perhaps discuss ways to still use these methods without succumbing to the evil that is his original strategy.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ryan Holiday check out his website RyanHoliday.net
Thanks for reading!