How to counter disinformation and fake news

This short film from 2014 is still highly relevant today. It describes how Russia’s President Putin, among others, has used disinformation and fake news to undermine people’s perception and understanding of the world.

As the film explains, this approach is deliberately intended to create so much churning and confusion in our minds that we no longer understand what is happening: who is doing what or why.

In the face of such confusion, the film says, our only response is to say “Oh dear” and give up.

But there is another, more useful, way to respond. And that is to get clearer on who we are, what matters most to us, and what we are doing to achieve that.

The better we do this, the less the fake news will matter, for four reasons.

First, when we make everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. So the clearer we can get about our own priorities the clearer it becomes whether a piece of (fake) news is relevant to us. And if we know that a piece of news (fake or otherwise) is not relevant to us and our goals then we can ignore it, refocus, and get on with our own priorities.

Second, even if a piece of news does turn out to be relevant to us, that doesn’t change what we are working to achieve — though it might affect how we work to achieve it. Now, instead of asking, “Is this story true?” we can ask, “If it were true, what would I do differently?” Again this keeps us focused on our goals and makes us more likely to succeed.

Third, if it does turn out that the news (fake or otherwise) would make it more difficult for us to achieve our objective then knowing our purpose and values makes it easier to find other ways to achieve the same purpose and values. This keeps our morale high because we know that, no matter what happens, we will still be able to find new ways to move towards what matter most to us.

And fourth, the more strongly we have inspired ourselves and the people around us to build what we care most about, the less the fake news will matter — because the more we are surrounded by an inspired team of people, who are longing to get to where we want to go, the better we will be able to make that goal happen, whether the news is fake or not.

The clearer we are about our own priorities — who we are, what matters most to us, and what we are doing to achieve that — the less the fake new matters.

And then our response to fake news can shift from “Oh dear” to “So what?”

This then makes us antifragile — able to use change to become stronger and more valuable. 

How often do you find yourself distracted by news (fake and otherwise) that isn’t really important to you? Do you know what your purpose and values are? Are you working to bring them alive in an increasingly unpredictable world?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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(And remember: you can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

[Adam Curtis “So What?”, “Nonlinear warfare – A new system of political control”]

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