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Conspireality: Is It Time For A Serious Conversation?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The mainstream and traditional media seem to be failing to have important conversations that are controversial, while at the same time perhaps there isn't enough rigor and critical thinking in alternative media communities.

  • Reflect On:

    Given we are deeply feeling the need to make sense of our world, is it time we begin to look at developing the inner faculties necessary to move beyond ideology, limited thinking patterns and truly begin looking at what evidence around us says?

Before you begin...

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One thing I’m noticing now more than ever before in my experience as a journalist and researcher, and as a human in general, is that people are hungry for information that is deeper than what they are getting through the mainstream media. It feels as though people are beginning to recognize that there is a degree of corruption involved in our world and that politicians and traditional media outlets have been compromised in the process.

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How can you weed through the confusion? What media can you trust? What is the truth? These are all big questions many are now asking. We are also seeing a general lack of trust in many professional or societal experts due to a felt sense that they have been compromised as well. Compromised by who? I guess it depends on the situation – and it can also be tough to know. To get answers to these questions, people have been looking for alternative information or perspectives about many current events in an attempt to make sense of the world.

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I’ve worked for 12 years in independent media now. I don’t see myself as a journalist, but that being a journalist is simply a hat I wear at times. My general passion is more philosophical, exploring culture, current events and human consciousness to determine why things are the way they are, and how we can bring new information and experience to the forefront to deeply shift our individual and collective worldviews to change our reality.

I founded Collective Evolution in 2009 for the purposes of having conversations I felt were important but perhaps not widely available. Initially beginning as a platform for exploring consciousness, CE ventured into current events, as I felt they often reflect the inner aspect of who we are as people – and as a collective. What happens out there is a reflection of the beliefs, values and ideals we hold. That said, for most of the time CE has been around, we’ve covered some sort of alternative perspective on current events as part of our mission. Our commitment was to do this in a way that was as open, transparent, and unbiased as possible, not being afraid to venture into ‘controversial subjects.’ Improving in our style and quality over the years, we often get feedback from a wide audience feeling that we do a pretty good job of staying neutral and open to various possibilities, while still covering what might be considered controversial subjects – things people call ‘conspiracies.’ This is where the focus of this piece is crucial.

Calling these sometimes controversial subjects ‘conspiracy theories’ is a bit unfortunate as it’s a loaded term that brings about many connotations and a general lack of clarity. Does ‘conspiracy theory’ mean there is no evidence? It is not probable? It is not to be believed? Does it mean only crazy people who don’t think critically look at them? Was the fact that the NSA spied on US citizens illegally a conspiracy theory before Edward Snowden revealed the truth about that to the world? It was. The idea that ‘big brother’ is watching or spying was considered a paranoid delusion by many, yet they were in fact watching and recording almost everything people in the US did – and even in other countries from that matter.

Thus, the title of this piece includes the term ‘conspire’-reality as it is my feeling that some things we often call conspiracy theories are in fact true, we just don’t know it yet or haven’t accepted it. Usually due to our lack of realizing the available evidence, or our unwillingness to challenge our worldviews. In the same breath, there is an observation I’m seeing, and have for years now, within the space of ‘conspiracies’ that is truly important to discuss and reflect on.

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The Rise of The Alternative

For decades people have felt that there is more to mainstream media narratives when it comes to current events. The JFK assassination, UFOs, MK Ultra, the real cause of wars, powerful people who control aspects of society, etc. Typically, much of these conversations remained on the fringe and were had on late night radio shows or unpopular books few knew about. But the advent of the internet and its subsequent popularity birthed an opportunity for these ideas and conversations to spread more easily. As time went on, people began to feel ‘alternative’ history or facts about events that happen in our world were increasingly important. While it might be common for some to chalk this up to some form of mental illness or misstep in logical thought, there are actually a large number of intelligent and well-read people who are actively exploring very credible information that tells a different, and credible, story about widely accepted mainstream narratives. A recent podcast on The Joe Rogan Experience with guest Tom O’Neil is a perfect example. Tom has spent the last 20 years of his life investigating and writing a book called Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties which was published by Little, Brown in the summer of 2019.

As the description of his book reads:

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

As I listened to the podcast episode, many of the subjects discussed, including the United States government mind control program MK Ultra, and the JFK Assassination were explored with undeniable evidence and important lines of questioning. Contrary to the belief that many of these subjects are mere ‘conspiracy theories’ brought on by people who only deal in circumstantial evidence and who believe anything that sounds like an entertaining theory, we’re seeing some real truth here. Truth that would completely change the public’s perspective on government and the intelligence community. The implications are huge when you really start to look at it and what the evidence clearly indicates.

This is not the only event that evidently shows coverups. Recent admissions by the US Navy has clearly indicated that government and intelligence communities have been keeping the public in the dark about UFOs for a long time. Looking at government documents and whistleblowers that have been available for decades, you can find out very quickly that much more is going on behind the scenes than people realize, and the discussion of UFOs is really nothing to be gawked at as it often is. Before public admission of the reality of UFOs, the media and many academics made fun of people who believed in UFOs as if they were crazy. Look at the 2008 TED talk of Skeptics Magazine founder Michael Shermer, he takes a comedic approach in discussing the topic of UFOs and concludes that if he could create a fake UFO picture, it likely meant that all are fake and people only believe in UFOs because they are crazy or have an undesirable proclivity to believe in weird things. This type of poor subject matter research has infected academia and the science community for decades, and it has informed a mainstream culture so deeply that people no longer know how to look at information objectively. Their emotions often decide whether they can even take a subject seriously.

Now those same ‘credible’ people and mainstream media are telling the public that UFOs are real. While they aren’t necessarily saying who is manning these UFOs, the conversation is quickly turning towards admitting to many of the things ‘conspiracy theorists’ have discussed for decades. One could say that UFOs, ‘the conspiracy theory,’ became reality when the NAVY admitted to the validity of the video evidence that emerged. Does this mean we know exactly what is going on with UFOs? No, but we know a lot more than what is being discussed publicly. Likewise, with the NSA’s ‘big brother spying’ program – it’s no longer a conspiracy theory thanks to Edward Snowden. In that sense, you can see where I’m getting my ‘conspireality’ term from – conspiracies that have become reality.

The question now is, how do we have conversations about remaining ‘conspiracies’ seriously? Where we look at the evidence with an open mind and truly see what it says.

Alternative media has been covering these topics for years prior to mainstream media even opening up to the idea. Alt media has been filling a void in media that aligns with a correct intuition people have that there is more to what we’re being told – and it involves some highly controversial topics. Hence the rise in alternative media. Popularity grew because it was feeding something deep within people that they felt but could not get from the mainstream. In return, the mainstream culture seems to have taken issue with the rise of alternative media as it represents a loss of having a monopoly on narratives.

Time For A Serious Conversation?

Before I continue I want to be clear that this is a complex and nuanced conversation, and the themes I’m going to discuss don’t apply to all people, but seem to be a big part of ‘alternative’ thinking culture.

As mainstream or traditional media continues to fail to ask the ‘right’ questions about what is going on in our world (whether it was due to a lack of interest on the part of journalists, direction from media directors, or perhaps a gag order from someone ‘higher up’), it can be said that alternative media may not always carry the necessary standards in reporting and conversation to be taken seriously. Yet these emerging conversations are incredibly important and needed. What I mean by this is, while the vast majority of those in alt media mean well, sometimes the standards for ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ can be quite low. When this ‘evidence’ is presented to other people and they don’t believe it, there seems to be confusion on the parter of the presenter as they don’t understand why the ‘asleep’ person can’t seem to see the evidence they see.

In some cases, sure, we may see an outright denial of information, but in other cases, it truly is the case that the evidence is poor, but that some have a proclivity to simply believe every conspiracy – hence the need for a more serious conversation.

One other aspect of this I want to mention, that can be found in both mainstream/traditional media and some alternative media, is the lack of ‘spiritual’ context within current events. Meaning, there are deeper questions about who we are, why we’re here and what life is about that many who are starting to re-question and even experience. Yet mainstream media often doesn’t have the context to understand this nor empathetically report on it. It can be said that most of alternative media fits in this boat as well.

Just to summarize, there are two ingredients here.

  1. Fear of Controversy – A lack of covering controversial topics with an open mind.
  2. Foundational Worldview Context –  The lack of ‘deeper’ context pertaining to how we apply emerging understandings to deeper questions about who we are, why we’re here and what type of world we want to create. i.e. seeing current events as a reflection of an underlying human worldview/narrative/story.

Lately, I’ve been grappling with this difficult topic, and I sometimes find it a bit tough to even put into words. It is something I’ve loosely discussed for years now, but am now really moving to open up a dialogue about it more publicly as I believe we’ve reached an absolutely critical juncture in time where we must begin to explore themes I’m about to present. Themes that involve anything from free speech to societal decline, division, and our potential to create a world where we can thrive. I believe much of what we’ll discuss here is critical to all that and more.

I’m honestly reluctant to share this next short anecdote because I don’t want it to come off wrong, but I believe it lends very well to the overall point of this essay. The mere fact that I have taken the inspired position of discussing controversial subjects and the underlying human story (consciousness) that supports these events, all while focusing on hard evidence, has been a tough one professionally. Regardless of our huge platform reaching millions, we don’t get invited to events, talks or asked to present. Even though many organizers know who we are, claim to like our work and respect us, our perspective doesn’t seem or feel welcome. With no bad blood between anyone, we often wonder if it’s because some aspect of our work doesn’t fit into the box of any given event. Our ‘conspiracy beliefs’ are not wild enough for the conspiracy events, and our discussions of consciousness not accepted because we talk about ‘controversial stuff.’

The sentiment I’m sharing with this anecdote is, these two worlds cannot merge if we aren’t willing to have an honest, grounded, and serious conversation about both.

Moving on.

More specifically here, the topic I’ve struggled with lately is that I feel many people in the ‘alternative’ or ‘conspiracy’ community, defined contextually for this article as those who are often well-intended in seeking alternative narratives the mainstream does not offer, seem to have become very ideological, absolute, and extreme about their positions. The conversations being had often jump to conclusions even without evidence, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them as being ‘sheeple’ or brain dead. It’s creating huge divides, yet very few want to admit it. Most importantly, it’s making it very hard to have these important conversations about controversial topics that need to be had at this moment. Further, and as I foresaw years ago, it’s also inviting censorship.

Let’s get clear here. You might see a meme that shows a picture with Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein, and thus it automatically means we now have proof Gates is a pedophile. Or this type of stuff “The Deep State mass arrests are coming any day now…” just as they have been for the last 10 years. Yet still, “if you don’t understand that these mass arrests are coming, you’re asleep.”

The key distinction here is the sense of certainty, the sense that it’s all so obvious, even when it’s not. The use of poor evidence, circumstantial evidence, or none at all, to ‘prove’ what’s going on has overtaken critical thinking. It almost seems like people have become more interested in the entertainment value of this controversial information as opposed to how true it actually might be or how much evidence there truly is. It begs the question: “What’s the end goal? What is the point of alternative media really?”

Take the X22 report for example. He pulls together a ton of circumstantial evidence, matches it with Q posts and then offers an analysis. Many believe his work clearly shows facts in drawing conclusions, but in reality, it’s mere speculation. This is perfectly fine, but people are getting lost in seeing this as unequivocal fact, as opposed to mere speculation. X22 has suggested for example that Julian Assange is safe and sound and his arrest is nothing but ‘part of the plan’ by the Q patriots to save America from the Deep State. In his video, you can follow all of the evidence he proposes, why Assange had a book in his hand, what that book meant, and how it was a code for people to look deeper. This, while those close to Assange, including independent reporters and family, have been saying he is being tortured and suffering deeply in prison. So on one hand you have ‘truthers’ saying he’s fine, don’t worry, part of the plan. And then you have those who actually know him and have access to him saying the situation is bad and people need to help do something about it. Those same truthers have then said “don’t worry, those reporters and family are part of the plan too… it’s all optics.” You can see the issue here.

What I’m getting at is many popular voices in alternative media approach ‘conspiracy theories’ in a way that turns circumstantial evidence into unquestionable truth. Delivered with a sense of certainty or sweeping generalizations. They can often lack critical thinking because they match their circumstantial evidence with the overarching story they have chosen to believe as fact. In turn, many viewers of alternative media seem to have begun believing these ideas as pure truth, without applying the same critical thinking and rigor to alt narratives as they would have to mainstream narratives.

This by no means is everyone who watches alternative media. In fact, I have often stated and observed that many who do view alternative media do so because they have developed great critical thinking skills and have realized that there is not much value these days in watching mainstream or traditional media. That said, there is still a large group of presenters and viewers who make up a culture within the alternative space that does contribute to undermining these conversations. Take Jeffrey Epstein for example. A huge case that began to connect underage sex/pedophile rings to powerful people in the world. An idea that has been around for a long time thanks to survivors and whistleblowers who have told their story. The mainstream media has never done a good job of covering this, and traditional journalists have often shied away from it. Now though, this conversation is huge and ready to be had – people are listening.

Now again comes the part I’m trying to raise awareness about here: some people in the alternative community will undermine these conversations by aggressively positing that every politician pictured with Epstein is automatically a pedophile and involved. This among other assertions that are easy to debunk of course. This makes it easy for mainstream media or fact-checkers to begin easily debunking ‘conspiracy theories’ related to Jeffrey Epstein as bogus – and in a lot of cases, they are right. Yet, there is actually a meaningful conversation to be had here, there is truth to explore, but if people are not more careful, these conversations won’t be had because their lack of critical thinking and completely certain positions close the door for other onlookers. It ultimately makes it easy to bury this information as unfounded, delusional and baseless conspiracy theories. After all, a quick Google search will return plenty of mainstream media positions analyzing the psychological nature of ‘those who believe in conspiracy theories’ as if there is no real truth to any of them, and that people are just ‘out of their minds’ of sorts.

For myself personally, in doing this work for the last 11 years, it is extremely common to have our work lumped in all other “baseless conspiracy theories” due to the fact that we’re often covering the same topics that are considered baseless conspiracy theories because they were covered poorly by others or simply because they sound similar. We become guilty by association and part of a culture of people who seem to simply believe everything without any real evidence, this, regardless of the fact that we approach these important conversations with evidence and rigor. I know this because every time I meet one on one with people who think I’m a conspiracy theorist they realize very quickly I’m not, and see the bigger picture of our work. When I ask them where they get the idea from, it’s often because they just saw ONE headline that looked like some other conspiracy theory, so they shut it all out. This is the crux of my point, for a community so keen on getting truth out, the end result of the current approach is that serious dialogue is not being had. And no, it’s not always due to cognitive dissonance. We have to be more willing to look at the implications of our approach.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience where you suggest in conversation “I don’t feel Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.” And right away a friend says “oh, you sound like a conspiracy theorist.” One might assume it’s because that friend is not open-minded or was convinced by mainstream media it’s all a conspiracy, when in reality that friend may have witnessed a ton of laughable and paranoid content with weak evidence and harshly stated ‘facts’ that when researched, returned no real results. Thus the question becomes, is the ‘conspiracy’ community actually digging their own grave and just blaming mainstream media for why people don’t listen?

How Can We Adjust?

11 years ago I had a vision of creating media that approaches understanding our world in a different way. As our About Us page on CE states:

We live in a time where virtually every aspect of our society is changing or crumbling. Power is shifting and old ways of looking at and understanding our world are no longer working. New voices and ideas are emerging that encourage us to look more deeply at why our world is the way it is, and what about us creates it to be this way.

Collective Evolution is a news-media and education company that creates content to explore how humanity can shift our consciousness and way of being to evolve beyond the personal and global challenges we face. We help encourage the development of inner faculties to explore more about how we can arrive at truth as opposed to just saying what truth is. Our work encourages a greater connection to self, an increase of self-awareness and being aware of what’s around us. We encourage others to let information be as opposed to it defining who we are and developing ideology. 

What do our current events say about how we operate as people? What do our societal structures and common issues say about our level of thinking (consciousness) and what type of ideas we’re bringing to the table? What if the solution to the many challenges we feel we face today is actually in changing how we think, relate to one another, and even relate to our world?

We feel this is one of the key missing factors in mainstream media, alternative media and traditional societal discussions today, and therefore we create our content to inspire personal transformation and the expansion of collective consciousness through two key avenues: news media and personal transformation content.”

We’ve always felt that bringing the inner work, inner transformation aspect into making sense of our world was key as it is empowering and actually allows each person to take responsibility for what they are creating in their life and in the world. By developing inner faculties like critical thinking, presence, self-awareness, and intuition, we can better understand our world and why it is the way it is. We can also begin to become aware of an expanded state of who we are, which may choose to create society from a completely different mindset than simply believing we are a cog in the wheel with beliefs and ideologies that are outdated and don’t resonate with us.

Thus I’m putting forth a call here, firstly, perhaps it’s time we move on from this whole idea of calling things a “conspiracy theory.” We have learned by now that if we apply critical thinking and proper journalism to many of these controversial ideas, what’s worth exploring further becomes clear quickly. I discuss these ideas much more deeply in a video I produced on this subject in relation to a few early statements made by David Icke during a London Real interview about COVID-19. David assertively states that “COVID-19 does not exist” and then proceeds to make a strong link between COVID-19 and 5G. I’m not saying David is a bad researcher or anything of that fashion, on the contrary, I believe some of his work is solid, and asks some great questions. But what I’m saying is, if you look at the aftermath of that conversation, whereby assertions are made that are certainly nothing more than speculation but not presented as such, we can clearly see what shifts need to be made in how these conversations are approached so we can do a better job of having them seriously and uniting people.

5G as a conversation was deeply undermined as mainstream media had an easy time stating there is no evidence linking 5G to COVID, and now those who look into 5G safety might be highly skeptical because the ‘crazy conspiracy’ was that 5G created COVID. Further, there are serious discussions to be had around the origins of COVID-19 and whether or not the authoritarian measures are truly necessary, yet how can we easily have those conversations when such a large portion of the community is simply saying COVID is a hoax and that it doesn’t exist? This isn’t to say that these ideas should not be explored, this is the piece many seem to miss. They want it to be a black and white conversation – who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Should I do this, or that? When in reality, this is a conversation about making sense of a situation that is extremely complex, and if we try and put forth one all-encompassing theory that is certain about what’s going on right now, we can’t possibly be accurate in that as we simply don’t know everything. So why assert it as such?  It is virtually impossible. Yet those who don’t agree with this all-encompassing and obvious agenda…. asleep.

We recently produced a 5 week course for our CE members called “Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.” This course is designed to help us increase our self awareness so we can better examine our thinking and bias. If we are to make sense of our reality more effectively, we have re-wire our thinking and build a deeper sense of connection to how we’re perceiving information. This course is a combination of video content and powerful exercises that effectively bring to light the way we think. You can learn more about this course here.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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Essay

How Corporations Influence You & Control Your Actions

Franklin Okanu

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7 minute read
By metamorworks

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio and his team work by placing thoughts and ideas into influential people. Have you ever had a idea suddenly pop up in your head? If so, you might be a influential person.

Think back to when you’re going through your day, and boom — a crazy, completely random idea enters your mind. It’s frustrating and completely throws off your routine. You’re not alone. The worst part is that the thought seems to linger before disappearing — the inception.

We all have thoughts that come in out of left field and throw off everything. Whether you’re trying to study, or trying to focus, the IG post you saw yesterday or the article you just read, randomly comes to mind that  doesn’t have anything to do with you.

These “inceptions” are the effects of what’s known as propaganda. Propaganda is “telling people what to think.” The act of thinking happens in the brain, which is made up of three separate brains:

  1. Human Brain: This is the only part of your brain that’s you consciously control. It oversees all logical thought process.
  2. Mammalian Brain: This is the first half of your subconscious. It oversees all emotional attachments. This is the largest brain.
  3. Lizard Brain: This is the second half of your subconscious. It oversees survival and reproduction.

And that’s why propaganda is so dangerous — it doesn’t appeal to your logical mind; it appeals to your feelings, the language of your subconscious, the driver of 90% of the actions you take. By doing this, propaganda influences you to have certain thoughts that it placed there. These thoughts lead to actions like impulse buys, and before you know, you have new shoes everywhere.

The good news is that these aren’t your thoughts, and since they’re not, you can use this piece of information to form a solution. Identifying these thoughts and evaluating them stops the propaganda before it takes place.

The first step is understanding what propaganda, or inception looks like.

The Creator of the Propaganda Machine

To grasp propaganda, you need to know the man who made it famous: Edward Bernays.

Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud — the father of modern psychology — understood psychology and the working of the human mind, but more significantly, what made them tick.

If you want to go full-blown conspiracy, Bernays happens to be the grand-uncle of Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix. Talk about a first-class ticket to people’s subconscious.

Bernays effectively used propaganda to help companies sell products by appealing to the consumer’s wants and desires. How did cigarettes become so profitable? Thank Bernays. JC Penny, Sears, and other major retail giants. Thank Bernays. “You don’t need a new dress — you want a new dress because you know it’ll make you look good.” By using psychology techniques to appeal to the subconscious, Bernays and companies have been influencing consumers for years.

As with Bernays, Netflix has been keen on influencing the masses as well. Two examples include the R. Kelly trial and the orcas at SeaWorld. Both movements were driven by Netflix documentaries. After numerous years, R. Kelly went to jail, and SeaWorld had to change its policies. This shows the power of the propaganda machine, not just to increase sales but also to start a revolution.

Now that you know the history and have examples, let’s see how it affects you.

Propaganda, Propaganda, all that matters is Propaganda

You’ve encountered propaganda today, and had no idea. If you look at your favorite TV shows or music, you’ll see that some kind of product is being pushed. And it doesn’t have to be a physical product — it can be a narrative, a lifestyle, a way to look at the world.

We identify with certain celebrities, actors, politicians, and we see ourselves in them. So when they take stances or make statements, that leads you to take a similar perspective. Everything in our society has some form of propaganda because propaganda is very rewarding, especially to companies, industries, and countries.

What makes propaganda so dangerous is that when it’s properly executed (which is often), you, the target, think those thoughts as if they were yours, and then transform them into actions. “Yes, I want to buy a new purse.” “I should get a new car.

Lastly, all propaganda has elements of truth in it. If it was an outright lie, you would automatically dismiss it. But with that truth, it bypasses your logic brain and enters into the emotional brain. When you take everything that propaganda does, you have:

  1. Propaganda shapes your views on factual events taking place in the world
  2. Propaganda convinces you the thoughts you have are yours
  3. Propaganda persuades you towards one direct path

By now, you know the history of propaganda, how it affects you, and what makes it so dangerous. Now, we’ll discuss how to arm yourself against it.

Propaganda Protection

You should’ve realized that Netflix isn’t the only propaganda machine out there. Every company with a marketing department is using propaganda techniques to capture you as a potential customer. But, as we said before, it’s not just companies. For generations, rulers, shamans, and politicians have been telling you what to think. The technology is a lot better now.

The first step to break this cycle is to step back. Whether it’s the news or a social media post, before responding or engaging, take a step back and ask yourself “how well informed are you on the particular subject?” This forces you to address what you know and don’t know. If you can’t speak to the counterargument, then you’ve been exposed to propaganda by one side and face a bias that makes you more likely to be swayed one way versus another. So it’s important to take a step back.

The second step to overcoming propaganda is to pay attention to the message being delivered. You may or may not know everything about the topic being shared, but you should expect whoever is sharing the topic to present a thorough argument. When attentive, you pick up on what angle the messenger is coming from. The more you’re actively engaged, the clearer you see the direction that the messenger is trying to take you.

The final step is to evaluate yourself. Remember, propaganda is here to move you towards a goal that it wants for you. So ask yourself, is this a goal that you want for yourself? Have you previously thought about this? If not, then you can easily flag that thought as a propagandist idea.

As the poem goes, “I am the master of my ship — the Captain of my soul,” by constantly stopping to pause, think and evaluate yourself, you ensure that you stay in control of your mental ship rather than relinquishing control.

Closing Remarks

Propaganda is all around us. Unfortunately, not many in the general population are aware of this age-old trick. But now you are. You’ve been informed against it, and you know that at the end of the day, propaganda wants to you to do its bidding. The question is, will you?

Once you realize that everyone is trying to get you to think how they want you to, you realize how truly influential you are. You then have two choices: blindly act and let your body take the wheel — or take a minute, ask yourself, “why am I doing this?

That small moment to pause, breathe and reassess, ensures that you stay in control of your actions — and your life.

In my adventures, I’ve come to see that life is a great game, and we too can develop strategies to ensure that we come out on top. I’m developing an E-Book that will unveil the world’s mysteries, how it applies to us, and how we can better our lot in life. If interested, please follow my handles (IG/Twitter) for more information to come.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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Essay

The Unseen Damages Fact Checking Has On Public Discourse

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CE Staff Writer 13 minute read

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By now the discussion around the potential lab leak origins of COVID-19 is where it should be – in a space where we can admit we don’t know exactly what the truth is, but that there is in fact evidence of lab origins that should be investigated. This evidence was widely available to public health officials and the public as far back as February of 2020 when the pandemic began hitting Western countries and the origins battle began. Yet here we are in disarray, wondering how mainstream media and science labelled this story a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the first place.

We’ve covered the question of lab origins in depth through multiple pieces we’ve published since the pandemic began. A more recent article we published in March 2021, by Dr. Madhava Setty, pointed to the validity of lab origins even before the famous,  Nicholas Wade investigative piece. Due to public sentiment at the time, Dr. Setty’s article was met with criticism of course.

Back in September of 2020, I published a piece exploring the claims of a Chinese virologist named Dr. Li-Meng Yan who said she had proof that COVID was made in a Wuhan lab. Interestingly, our coverage was met with a fact check from PolitiFact claiming that our piece was false because her claims have been widely debunked. And it’s here where I want to turn your attention to how fact checking works and also discuss the unseen damages it causes to not only independent media public also public discourse. Inevitably, we’ll also have to discuss a truth I feel is emerging: fact checkers seems to be glorified journalists that re-enforce mainstream perspectives, as opposed to fact checking content.

How Fact Checking Happens

The way it works is, we painstakingly work on a piece, fact check it, edit it, and then publish. We then start disseminating our content to our networks via email and social media. If we’ve made a mistake, we usually catch it within hours as inevitably someone brings it to our attention. While this is not common, it happens, and it is a normal part of running a news/media publication. We then issue a correction and make it clear in the article. But when a fact checker gets involved it’s a bit different. We receive the dreaded email in our inbox claiming that an independent fact checker has rated our content posted on Facebook as false. We know what this means, and it’s rare that it’s actually a mistake.

It’s important to understand what happens next.

A notice is placed over top of our content on Facebook newsfeeds. Someone on Facebook would see something like this:

Readers are then given the option to read why it was considered “false” or “misleading” by reading an article written by a fact checker. In some cases, the fact checker is correctly ‘debunking’ poor claims made in an article. But in many cases, this isn’t quite what is going on. Sometimes, the fact checker merely disagrees with the objectivity of the article in question.

Before we continue, this “False Information” notice doesn’t just look bad on brand who produced the content, who’s logo appears next to the post in millions of newsfeeds, it also affects the content reach of the brand and thus their ad revenue.

From our data, which admittedly isn’t perfect, we typically see about a 75% reduction in traffic from Facebook when we are hit with a ‘fake news’ claim. That equates to a 75% reduction in our ad revenue as well considering that traffic is now gone. What’s worse is that Facebook seems to keep a log of how many fact checks a brand gets over time, and they claim that repeated false news strikes will result in long term reach reduction .

According to a 2021 article in Adweek,

Facebook will begin showing prompts to users who are about to follow a page that has repeatedly shared content deemed to be false by its independent fact-checking partners.

Facebook has also said that repeated sharing of misleading information could result in page deletion as well. Of course, no one knows just how much reach is taken away or how many strikes a brand needs for their page will be removed, but I can tell you we’ve gone from doing about 20 million page views a month in web traffic to about 3 million a month.

Evidence of our traffic loss over time. Source: Google Analytics

Almost all of our traffic loss is from the Facebook side, with about 15% coming from Google search after they systematically removed us from their search results in 2020.

Google’s systematic removal of our content from their search results. Source: Google Search Console.

Looking specifically at the Facebook side, ‘false news’ claims have huge implications on independent media companies, and it directly affects the bottomline. And what we’re about to get into explains how it’s not as though in all cases fact checkers are cleaning up fake stories, they are actually dead wrong – a lot. This attack on objective journalism can literally put a news company out of business. And no one is holding fact checkers accountable when they are flat out wrong.

Let’s take our story of the Chinese virologist that PolitiFact claimed was false back in September 2020. As of May 17, 2021, PolitiFact retracted their claim saying:

When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact’s sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated. That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by evidence and in dispute. The original fact-check in its entirety is preserved below for transparency and archival purposes. Read our May 2021 report for more on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

I struggled to include this next bit in this piece because I truly don’t want to become petty here, but I don’t know how else to bring attention to how serious this situation truly is. Having been so intimately connected to this particular example since last year, I feel PolitiFact needs to be more honest and say something like:

“Here at PolitiFact we ignored sources of information that provided evidence that COVID may have originated in a lab. We only looked at evidence we thought was trustworthy from establishment sources. We did not spend enough time truly digging and applying objectivity, as journalists would, and thus we made unfounded assertions. We have since updated our story now that mainstream discourse has opened up to the idea of lab origins and now that our parents, mainstream media, told us it is OK to talk about it.”

However, this is obviously not what they wrote, because why would they? Instead, they are passing off their lack of objective research and blaming the “researchers” they sourced. For reference, here is what an objective look into this story would have produced, and why an obvious conflict of interest that ‘debunked’ the lab origins theory would have been found.

Recently, I’ve heard many people come to the defense of mainstream media and fact checkers when it comes to this ‘new’ information about COVID’s origins. Many have said things like “this is what science and journalism is, we update ideas. When new information comes forward and we see we are wrong we admit it, and move forward – updating our understandings. You should be congratulating people for changing their mind.”

But that’s not what happened. It’s not like no one knew what was going on with this information, they were just too busy hating Trump. Mainstream journalists ignored the evidence – and fact checkers followed right behind mainstream media and did the same. They did an objectively bad job of investigating this story and are now trying to celebrate their mind changing, all while continually attacking the sources that got it right from the start – independent media.

The position we took in our piece in September 2020 was simple: we don’t know enough about the origins of this virus and we need a call for further research. This was met with “this is a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked.” And now those debunkers are admitting “we don’t know enough about the origins of this virus and we need a call for further research.”

So where is our compensation for lost revenues from Facebook or PolitiFact? Where is an apology and notification to people of Facebook that clears our name of wrong doing? There won’t be one and I’m OK with that. Could we really expect otherwise? At the same time, I feel we need to learn from the choices we’re making right now.

Learning From Cultural Mistakes

The sad part is, this is not the first time this has happened to us. To our tally of ‘fact checks’ since the start of Facebook’s campaign, only 2 of 15 have been correct, and they were more so about providing a bit of deeper context as opposed to incorrect facts.  Multiple times we have received ‘fact checks’ that stay on our page for a couple of days, only to be removed by fact checkers a day later claiming “oops this was a mistake” or even sometimes they sit in dead silence. Of course, the damage has already been done by the time they remove their mistaken fact check.

An email we received from Politifact for a fact check they wrongly applied to a piece of content we put out in 2020.

One recent fact check we received was from the small outfit called Lead Stories. They applied a fact check to one of our articles, but they cited an article that wasn’t ours. When we asked to discuss what was wrong our piece in particular they said they would look into it. They took over a month to respond, and they still have not provided any clarity as to why our piece is “missing context.” This too might be a case where pride is getting in the way and admitting there is nothing wrong with our piece is just too much – we don’t know, and that’s the problem. We won’t know if this bogus strike will be added to the pile of strikes we receive on Facebook that could one day lead to facebook terminating our account due to ‘repeated publishing of fake news.’

Another company called Science Feedback has a division called Health Feedback. They are who we deal with most. Typically Health Feedback handles health related stories that are usually the most relevant in culture at any given time. Think of things like COVID-19 or vaccine hesitancy. We’ve had multiple interactions with Health Feedback where they fact check our work and use straw-man arguments, that we do not make in our pieces, so they can debunk the straw-man claim and pretend they’ve debunked our piece. Communication with this organization typically goes nowhere productive as they hold strong to their opinions. Since they hold all the power, they wait for you to concede so you can get your business revenue back. This single fact is probably what the public does not understand about fact checking: they have the power to hold your ad revenue hostage by means of holding your social media traffic hostage.

How This Affects Public Discourse

Mainstream media often sends out a pretty common narrative across the board. Alternative or independent media often provide more information, another perspective, or even a counter perspective. Yet fact checking seems to have come along and ‘debunked’ that alternative perspective by using the same sources the mainstream uses – and in a lot of cases they are downright false. This makes fact checkers an apparently objective re-enforcement of mainstream narratives. This effectively negates the point of independent media.

Look at the COVID lab origins story as just one example of literally hundreds. People gave up on the idea, even called it downright crazy, just because mainstream media and fact checkers wrongly labelled the story a ‘conspiracy theory.’ For over a year, people argued, fought over this story. Companies who stuck with the truth saw their revenues and social media reach cut – only to be vindicated a year later, but with no real benefit to that vindication other than a personal pat on the back.

Fact checking does well to debunk obviously and verifiably false claims, but it is not always objective and thus shutting down meaningful discourse in public policy and science. Both important factors to creating a thriving society.

People have speculated that fact checking is just a way for powerful corporate interests to further police factually based dissenting ideas – they might be right. After all, look at the people behind some of these organizations.

Another way to look at it is, perhaps people began to notice that objectivity in journalism was dying. Fact checking then was a way to bring objectivity back to journalism by being a third party. Only, what’s happening doesn’t seem to support that idea as it appears fact checkers and mainstream media push their narratives in lockstep.

There are real problems in media too that aren’t just about facts. The political slanting in most mainstream and alternative media is obvious. Does that cloud the facts of a story? Does it manipulate the viewer? Does an organization choose to cover what supports its view as opposed to what is in the best interest of people? Sure, news organizations have to make money. And in many cases the first step to that is finding out who your target market is and tailor your message towards them. And in most cases, mainstream and alternative organizations are doing just that; usually aligning their content to the political views of their audience.

But in the case of mainstream media, they are also aligning with corporate interests or their main TV network sponsors, which is likely why when it comes to health and Pharma, one can’t expect to get ‘the whole story’ from mainstream news. It would be a direct conflict of interest. A conflict of interest that is not widely disclosed to you, the viewer, during every broadcast about these products, which it should be.

Now, in June 2021, with the Wuhan lab origins story of COVID being taken seriously by mainstream media, in stead of coming out and admitting they had it wrong from the start because they ignored facts an published improper journalism, they continue to weave a narrative of protection – further confusing the mass populace. Which is why, I hope, you read our news and watch our media, because we have consistently been ahead of the curve over the last 12 years.

This won’t be the last time.

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Essay

If You Want To “Trust The Science” Don’t Read The Washington Post

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    When we trust media sources to explain the science, we are trusting the media source, not the science. The Washington Post's explanation of the risk the unvaccinated face is based on assumptions but presented as measurable fact.

  • Reflect On:

    So called fact checkers rarely challenge narratives coming from the MSM but unfairly attack the dissenting opinion. Who can we rely upon to fact check the fact checkers? In this piece, I demonstrate what is required of a reader to "know for oneself."

Before you begin...

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It is being proclaimed on lawn signs and social media memes, on T-shirts and in PSAs. From sea to shining sea, the message is clear: Trust the Science! This is the mantra chanted by pro-vaccine portions of the population to encourage us to do our part. Getting the jab is no longer a matter of debate. There is only one sensible choice: vaccinate or be condemned to the anti-science movement that denies the horrors of polio and remains entrenched in a flat-earth delusion.

Scientists Do Not “Trust The Science”

I have a message for all you “science trusters”: scientists don’t trust the science. Scientists are the most skeptical of the science because they know that science is always changing. That is why our understanding evolves, and why we trust the scientists to begin with.

Scientists trust the scientific method, which is an entirely different thing. In order to do the systematic measurement, experimentation, observation and reformulation of hypotheses, the scientific method demands that we approach what is happening with an open mind, so that all possibilities are on the table to begin with. It is their unbiased approach to examining what is that instills credibility to their opinion.

Unless you are a scientist yourself, it is very hard to understand what the scientists are actually saying. Trusting the science is not the same thing as trusting what the media is telling you what the science says. This is becoming more and more evident as MSM sources continue to distort and oversimplify nuanced and complicated subjects into sound bites, tweets and headlines. In this article I attempt to explain how to critically examine content published in Mainstream Media that attempts to explain “the science”.

“Lab Origins” Was Always The Scientific Position

Perhaps the biggest example of the enormous amount of Mainstream media distortion around scientific matters is the recent acknowledgement that the SARS-COV2 virus was most likely engineered in a laboratory. Of course no new evidence emerged recently. The evidence pointing to lab origins was available 15 months ago, but it was portrayed as an absurd notion unworthy of any consideration by any legitimate news source. Nevertheless, Collective Evolution covered it here nearly three months ago.

How Do We Know If The Vaccine Is Proving Effective ?

The arguments for universal vaccination have been starting to shift now that hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated. Is the vaccine making an impact on the spread of Covid-19? That is an extremely difficult question to answer. Unless we have access to clear data that demonstrates the rate of infection in the unvaccinated compared to the vaccinated we can only guess. Why don’t we have those numbers now? It’s because we haven’t completed Phase III trials of the first vaccines that were formulated. That’s why we do the trials and why we generally wait for them to be completed before giving the vaccine to anyone.

The best data I have seen has come from Israel and published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 24, 2021. They matched nearly 600,000 vaccinated individuals with unvaccinated ones and observed them over 42 days. At the end of that period approximately 10,000 documented cases of Covid-19 resulted, the unvaccinated outnumbered the vaccinated by about 5 to 4. To be precise, 57% of the people who got documented Covid-19 in this examination were not vaccinated. What this means is that vaccine efficacy over the entire period of observation is:

(57-43)/57=24.6%

On the other hand, the vaccine seemed to be more effective (over 91%) as time went on. This is of course encouraging and is more representative of what the vaccine’s efficacy really is. However, if we compare the incidence of the disease in the unvaccinated to the vaccinated after 35 days we are now dealing with a much smaller pool of subjects. At that point there were 47 unvaccinated people that contracted the disease compared to 4 that were vaccinated. The vaccines may prove to be that effective as time goes on.

Perhaps what is more telling is that at the end of the study period only about 1% of the people got Covid-19. Of those, 43% were vaccinated. This means the absolute risk reduction of vaccination is just over 0.1%. In other words, in order to prevent 1 case, 1000 people need to be vaccinated. If the vaccine continues to demonstrate a 91% efficacy then 110 vaccinations would prevent a single case in the long run. The point here is that unless one is willing to look more closely it is very easy to come to unsound conclusions, especially around the true impact of the vaccine.

The Washington Post Used Circular Reasoning To Make False Claims

The Washington Post has built an interactive Covid-19 data tracking page called “The Unseen Covid-19 Risk for Unvaccinated People” on May 21, 2021. This page was cited by a member of my social media community as proof that the vaccines were very effective and, based on the title of their page, the unvaccinated were facing a risk “unseen”. This person was quite convinced that remaining unvaccinated was irrational if not unconscionable and the data proved it. After all, it was in the Washington Post, a publication with a long history of balanced and rigorous inquiry.

The page demonstrates rates of infection among unvaccinated compared to the total population over time. From the day that vaccines began, it seemed (from the dozens of graphs presented) that the rate of infection in the total population began to drop faster than that of the unvaccinated. This was demonstrated in a number of selected states and not the country as a whole. Could they be cherry picking data? Of course. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see such a marked effect of the vaccines in any given population, cherry picked or not.

However, upon closer inspection something was missing. Where was the plot showing the rate of infection among the vaccinated? It wasn’t shown. The graphs only plotted total rates compared to unvaccinated rates. The mystery deepens…

Numbers of unvaccinated and vaccinated people with infection were not counted

If you searched for the raw data (the numbers of people who got covid who were vaccinated and unvaccinated), you won’t find it. So how are they able to tell us the rate of infection in the unvaccinated? They weren’t telling us that at all. Instead they created a variable which they call “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated”. To see how they arrive at this “rate” you must read their methodology section at the bottom. In it they demonstrate their deception. They assume that 85% of all people vaccinated could not contribute to the total number of cases. They make that assumption based on a small study from the CDC involving about 4,000 people (one tenth that of the Pfizer study). They then apply this to all the states in their plots. 

This is a big assumption. Although the authors cite the study upon which this assumption is made in at the bottom of the article in the “methodology” section, the assumed efficacy of the vaccine (85%) is never explicitly stated in the body of the article. Perhaps the vaccine will turn out to be that good. The point here is that there is no consensus on what the vaccine efficacy is (Phase III trials are yet to be completed), and they buried their assumptions in the methodology section.

Let’s go back to the basics. These are the proper scientific definitions:

Total Case rate = Total Number of Cases/Total Population

Vaccinated rate = Number of Cases in Vaccinated/Number of Vaccinated 

Unvaccinated rate = Number of Cases in Unvaccinated/Number of Unvaccinated

Hopefully that was straightforward and logical. The Washington Post then introduces this term:

Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated = Total Cases/(Total Population – 0.85 x Vaccinated)

What is wrong with this? Nothing–as long as they know that only 15% of the vaccinated are contributing to the number of cases. But they don’t know this, they are assuming this in order to make their graphs. To casual Washington Post readers (numbering in the millions), it would be easy to look at the graphs and believe that that is what is being reported while in fact that is what the graphs would look like if their assumption were true. 

They are taking out 85% of the vaccinated people from the total population to calculate the new “rate” and calling that the Rate of Unvaccinated. This would in fact be true if they actually measured every population in each plot and confirmed that 85% of the vaccinated people were not contributing to the case count. But that is not what they did. They assumed that was the case, drew their plots and “demonstrated” that the rates in unvaccinated people were much worse than the vaccinated. This is pure circular reasoning.

Notice that in their formula for “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated” the denominator is the difference between the Total Population and 85% of the vaccinated. What do you suppose happens to the adjusted unvaccinated rate as more people get vaccinated? Before answering, “it gets bigger!” notice that it depends. It depends on “Total Cases” which had also been dropping day after day. However in every graph they compare Total Case rate and Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated. A quick glance at the formulas above should lead you to the conclusion that “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated” will always be larger than Total Case rate as more and more people get vaccinated. That is what every graph they published demonstrated. They are not introducing another artifact; it is the direct result of their assumption that in every geographical area plotted 85% of the vaccinated are protected.

They deepen the deception by subsequently referring to their “Rate adjusted for the unvaccinated” as “case rate for the unvaccinated” by subtly removing the word “adjusted”. As explained and defined above, the unvaccinated case rate requires that the actual number of unvaccinated individuals who are infected were counted. This is pure manipulation. What happened to the fact checkers?

They conclude the article by quoting Umair A. Shah, Washington State Secretary of health who makes this audacious claim:

“The people who are not vaccinated are the ones who are not wearing a mask or washing their hands. Those are the very people who oftentimes will socialize and be around similar like-minded people. You’re going to have the pandemic continue in those clusters.”

I wonder how Dr. Shah, an MD and epidemiologist was able to make this measurement? Did he survey unvaccinated people to see if they were wearing masks or washing their hands? Did he surveil them? This level of propaganda coming from the Washington Post or any other media platform is unconscionable yet continues to go unchecked.

The Takeaway

The Washington Post is not the only culprit in this kind of manipulation. In this piece from CE, similar kinds of spin were apparent in the NYTimes in their effort to paint 5G naysayers as Russian apologists and citing articles that contradicted their own position. Are established, corporate funded publications given an enormous amount of latitude because of their reputation? Or is it because they contribute to a narrative that is accepted by their sponsors and “independent” fact-checkers? I believe it is both.

(This article was corrected on June 7, 2021 to clarify the efficacy results from the NEJM paper submitted 2/24/21)

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