“PUBLIC OPINION IS JUST THE ADULT NAME FOR PEER PRESSURE. Experiments done by psychologists have shown repeatedly that an individual being will all too easily yield to the will of the majority at least one-third of the time. We all like to think we’re rebel souls, loners who don’t care what other people think, but the truth of the matter is, other people – and what they think of us – have a lot to do with defining our identity, hence our reality. Majority makes reality, and it is the rare individual indeed who can stand against the obese obnoxiousness of the mindless majority.” – Dr. Haha Lung
The ability to influence the opinions and perceptions of the masses is an ancient technique used by many men and women of power throughout history in order to gain influence and support for a variety of honest, but mainly dishonest reasons. Ranging from seedy political agendas all the way to multi-level marketing scams, the Internet is an incredibly powerful tool that is currently being used by mainstream media to provide information, but also to help convolute and confuse a variety of facts from fiction. Before that – it was television. Before that – it was the newspaper. Before that – the radio, courier pigeons, smoke signals, and so on . . .
Social media is wonderful – it allows for communication between old and new friends alike, but it can also be unpleasant due to the lack of accountability and transparency. Anyone can be anyone. They can say anything with little to no recourse. There is literally nothing holding these people liable. Some will even go through incredibly creative lengths just to keep their anonymity in check, but also to severely damage the reputations and lives of others through carefully orchestrated slander and deception.
Let’s play a little game called, Hypothetically Speaking. Imagine if I didn’t like you. If you’ve ever met me, then you know that it’s probably not as far-fetched as you might think. Now what if I wanted to convince others that you had been attacking or harassing me? How could I possibly do that without any proof? Well, the best way I’ve been able to explain it to people is as follows:
Let’s say you had a social media account such as Facebook – it would be nothing for me to right-click my mouse or take a screenshot with my cellphone in order to save a few pictures off of your profile, particularly if your security settings were all but non-existent. Then again, even if they were lock-tight, I could still copy your profile picture and there wouldn’t be a darn thing that you or anybody else could do to stop me.
Next, I would create a brand new Facebook account in your name, but first I’d need to create an easy generic email account – something like a Gmail. From there, I’d use that Gmail account to start-up a brand new Facebook profile where I’d type in your name and use your profile picture so that it definitely looked exactly like the profile that you already had set-up for yourself. Then, still logged in as you, I would visit my own profile and leave harassing or extremely threatening messages directed at myself. Once completed, I would then take a screenshot of the fabricated threat and then disconnect from the fake account. I wouldn’t delete it completely however, as you never know when I might need it again to nail your ass to the wall.
“I hope someone rapes you with a wine bottle,” I’d say (disguised as you). “Why don’t you do the world a favour and go kill yourself? Or better yet, I’ll do it for you!”
Next I would paste that screenshot (visual evidence) onto my own wall or website, along with a very desperate claim that you had been threatening me, and that more than likely, I was afraid for my life or whatever, blah, blah, blah. If I were so inclined, I could also send a copy of that screenshot to the local police department or perhaps even to your employer (if only I knew where you worked – thanks Facebook) who no doubt would think twice before wanting to employ a person who had been engaging in such despicable and criminal activities. If they failed to comply with my request (demand) to fire you, then I would just up the ante by threatening to report them to a local or national mainstream news source.
But wait! What if you had a strong support system of friends, family and peers? Surely if it came down to your word versus mine, you would win, right? Sorry, but you’d be wrong again . . .
The final phase in my highly illegal “prank” would be to convince others that what you had just said to me was in fact the truth and consistent with your overall character. I would do this by once again creating several coinciding email and Facebook accounts – each one of them anonymous and untraceable. Please note that the exact same thing can be done with any social media platform. So anyway, from there I would start leaving multiple comments under the initial post in an attempt to influence forward thinking amongst the readers. This is what I like to refer to as – mobthink.
“Oh yes, so-and-so is always making threats.”
“This exact same person threatened me last year. Be careful.”
“Why doesn’t someone call the police on this psycho?”
“This is a definite death threat. You need to report this person to the proper authorities.”
“I’ve known so-and-so a long time and can confirm that this person is very dangerous and highly unstable.”
“I just called the police. They are looking into it. Death threats must be taken seriously.”
“This person is always making death threats. I also heard he’s/she’s a pedophile.”
“How sad that you’ve had to go through something like this. What’s wrong with people?”
“Oh my God, why would anyone want to kill you? You’re like the nicest person I know. Stay safe!”
“This person obviously has nothing better to do with their time. What a loser! Call the cops.”
So now I ask you . . . if you didn’t know anything about the person in question – that person being you, making death threats towards me, and then read all of the subsequent comments that immediately followed (which were all conveniently placed to support the hard evidence of a screenshot), what would you be inclined to believe?
Would you find it at all suspicious and unlikely? Or do you think you would be influenced by what you would naturally perceive to be an educated majority? A better question is – what do you think the majority of other readers would believe?
For the record, I am definitely not saying that this is for sure what happened on the Nathan Cirillo Facebook memorial page or on Brianne’s What The Eff!? blog or Instagram account (remember, this example was only meant to be hypothetical). However, based on the accusations made against Brianne by her detractors, it definitely got me thinking about how easy it would be if someone were this unscrupulous and malicious towards others. I am a firm believer that anything is possible.
I’ve always been big on social experiments. The ability to control and manipulate thinking is something that has always intrigued me. Many times I’ve sat up watching late-night infomercials, not because I was interested in whatever garbage product they were trying to get rid of, but because I have always been fascinated by all forms of marketing (good and bad) and the way it’s specifically designed to manipulate and influence a particular group of trusting minds. Honest people like to believe that “truth in marketing” always exists, but more often than not, companies will gladly exploit the gullible assumptions that most people have about marketing and the broken promises that they willingly make.
As I sit there on my couch watching these slimy spokespeople, with their fake personalities and super-hyper (annoying) energy levels, I think, “What idiots would actually believe in this nonsense?” Then I remind myself that there must be quite a few of them out there because a lot of time, energy and research goes into the development of these carefully mind-bending presentations. Also, it’s not like a half-hour commercial on television is cheap – there’s obviously a lot of money to be made from certain individuals who don’t care enough to question whether the intentions of the people who are trying to take their money are honest or not. I suspect that if a person were so inclined, they could lie their way into great financial success. It’s not as hard to fool the average person as you might think.
“Many things are not as they seem. The worst things in life never are.” – Jim Butcher