Far too many times the "facts" presented in a propaganda message are not really facts. They may be distortions, misrepresentations, or outright lies. They may be directly stated or cleverly implied. Here are some common ways of playing fast and loose with facts.
Checking Statements of facts
- Assertion: Here the Propagandist simply makes a statement about something as if it were an accepted fact. It may actually be a complete falsehood or serious distortion, but if you don't detect it you get fooled.
- Big Lie: A Big Lie is an outright falsehood presented as fact. The conventional wisdom is that such a lie, repeated often enough, will be accepted as truth. The harder it is to debunk the lie the better.
- Card Stacking: This can also be called Cherry-Picking. The propagandist uses only those facts and details that support their argument. The selected reasons are used to support the conclusion. You will get misled if you do not notice that important details are missing. The worst part of card-stacking is that it can be very difficult to detect if you are not really knowledgeable about the subject.
- Disinformation: This technique is simply the release or planting of incorrect information for the specific purpose of deceiving the audience. Disinformation can contain elements of truth, but the payload is the lies.
- Forged Documents: Forgeries are an excellent means of planting false "facts." Media will often pick them and circulate them widely because such things can "sell." Any so-called "smoking gun" document should be viewed with suspicion.
- Image Manipulation: Today's image manipulation software makes this easy. The tactic is to produce a fake photograph by altering a genuine one, then release it into the wild. If the fake is well-done it can get a lot of mileage (and effect) before the hoax is exposed. Photos can also be staged for effect. Pictures which appear to tell a great story can be actually staged and posed.
- Quote Mining: This can also be called Quoting out of Context. It is often possible to lift a short quote out of a speech, essay, etc. and make it appear to say the opposite of what the speaker/writer meant. The real meaning is obvious when the quote is seen in its full context, but that context is conveniently omitted. Be wary when you see short quotes, particularly on controversial subjects, that are standing outside of their full context. You don't know what has been omitted. Political campaigns can produce some of the worst examples of quote mining.
- Straw Man: This trick involves misstating an idea so that it can be easily attacked. The misstatement asserts an alleged "fact" which isn't a fact at all. If you listen to the fallacious argument and don't detect the misstatement, you have fallen for the device.
- Swiftboating: This originated in 2004 with an anti-Kerry campaign that undermined Sen. Kerry. The idea is to concoct a story with just enough truth in it to use as a smear campaign.