Nerdout: #DirtyDisinfoTrick “Fightin’ Words”

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Sometimes we have more to say on a topic than will fit on one of our little cards

If you’re wondering where we get this stuff, we’re not just pulling it out of thin air. We use scholarship on how propaganda and disinfo works – how it’s worked for centuries – to inform what we do. We distill the info so everyone can get the gist really quick – but if you’re the kind of person who wants to dig deeper – we write up a “Nerdout.” Because we’re nerds, and some of you are too. 

Welcome to Nerdville. Population: you. And also us, cause we love it here.

Most #DirtyDisinfoTricks fit into a few categories at once. But in general, Fightin Words are personal attacks (the fancy Latin term is ad hominem). The technical names for a few of the subtypes are:

Labeling: coming up with easy-to-remember insults we can use to dismiss someone, and therefore, ignore whatever they’re saying. 

  • “He’s a socialist” 
  • “She’s a racist”
  • “Nasty woman”
  • “Superpredator”

Projecting: accusing someone of doing the same or worse than what they’re being accused of. There’s a rumor about Joseph Goebbels saying, “Accuse the other side of that which you yourself are guilty” at Nuremberg, but no sources can be found. Either way, it shows up ALL the time. [meme]

Whataboutism: instead of answering a charge, the person brings up some other random thing. 

The classic? This.

Guilt by Association: saying someone’s guilty because of what their friends or family supposedly did. Like – someone’s son did something shady, so their leadership sucks.

The more of these tricks you know, the more likely you are to notice them, and the less likely you are to get tricked by them.

Propaganda techniques are like mythological demons: once you know their names, they don’t have any power over you any more.

Have you seen an example of Fightin Words in real life? Post it to our Facebook page or tag us on Twitter or Instagram.

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See an error in our work? Please let us know and include the source of your info. We’ll update or correct as appropriate.


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