Are people really that easily misled and is that why fake news is king?

Today’s lesson has been watching my post on how misleading the PLP’s tourism chart was drive a ton of traffic and discussion based upon an over sensationalized headline that was intended to be sarcastic.  My aim was to demonstrate how the PLP’s chart and “back to average” headline was an equally misleading chart based upon the same data and an equally terrible sensationalized headline.  What I didn’t really plan for was the number of people who took a title like “This ridiculous chart shows how the PLP clearly destroyed tourism” seriously, somehow missed the “ridiculous” part and not actually bothering to read the piece.

No wonder fake news is king and traditional blogging and media is dead.  In the old days it was possible to just write half decent content regularly to get a reasonable following. That was back when there was no commenting on news articles and people barely knew about facebook.  Now there’s an overload of content, cat photos, jokes, and stupid videos. We’re inundated with it.

Many people just don’t really care to actively go out, read and verify things for themselves anymore.  It seems like its easier to pull-refresh-react on facebook or twitter. Really, my traffic has been dead despite a return to regular blogging vs. the old days where it was rather easy to build up a regular readership.  Now, large social media driven spikes are the norm with a flatline for the rest.  Get a few shares and traffic spikes but otherwise people don’t come back.

 

Why am I even still blogging?  I want to understand how things have changed.  Given that I work in tourism I need to understand how social media marketing works, how to advertise on facebook and drive interest in products and services.  Sure I can read articles, but it isn’t practical experience.  I know google analytics inside and out enough to explain a compelling story of traffic already going to a site but I don’t really know how to create viral content and drive traffic.  So, hack together some half witted articles, throw some headlines on it and see what sticks.

For  example, here’s what facebook shows you about shares on  a page in terms of reach vs. engagement.  It’s actually quite interesting stuff.

Apparently highly sensationalized misleading headlines, even when they’re intended to be clearly sarcastic, drive traffic.  They also drive up a firestorm of interest from people keen to express their opinion based upon a headline.  All this without having actually read any of the content while readily ignoring key words like “ridiculous” that are supposed to offer a clue that I’m not actually being serious here.  I’m still reeling from it as I’ve watched people whom I wholly expected to take a deeper view into things react before evaluating.  It really helps illustrate why fake news seems to be so successful these days.

In the age of an abundance of content that is being pushed at us through mediums like facebook, people seem to ignore a sense of getting to the truth and just accept the narrative presented.  This is a large reason why I’m so frustrated with the PLP’s misleading chart.  Politicians are all too ready and willing to take advantage of people rather than focusing on moving the island forwards.  Is that all we’ve descended to? Shallow headlines and terrible charts that mislead people to evoke a response?  That’s what works these days?

 

This ridiculous chart shows how the PLP clearly destroyed tourism

Note: the chart and headline was intended as sarcasm to make a point about how charts and headlines can be misleading of the real story, not imply the PLP actually destroyed tourism.  In no way was it meant to be taken as fact as the chart only represents a small snapshot of a much larger decline (shown in the chart at the bottom) and the y-axis is set at 200,000 to make the decline seem more extreme.  It was only created in an attempt to illustrate my frustration with the PLP’s chart that also took only a snapshot and adjusted the y-axis to 200,000

The above chart clearly shows how the PLP destroyed tourism.  Note the heavy decline from 1998 and the flatline from 2009.  Obviously this chart makes it clear just how massive a decline there was from the UBP days to the PLP’s with 2006-2008 barely registering a blip over what the levels used to be.

Ridiculous misleading charts make me laugh.  For example, here’s the PLP’s version:

Of course the axis is set at 200,000 to emphasize the difference between 2007’s level and 2015’s.

Jahmal Simmons proclaims ‘Numbers Are A Return To Being Average’.  Sure they are.

Let’s be frank here.  When compared to historical figures, the OBA’s tourism numbers suck and the PLP’s numbers sucked.  They’re a shadow of what they once were.

The real question is:  What was the tourism budget and the corresponding visitor expenditure figure for each year?  Now that’d tell a real story.

Oh, and the BTA provided a much more comprehensive 0-based axis chart in their 2016 report that gives a much better picture of the long term failure of tourism.

OBA reenergizes some of its base

The recent poll results suggest an uptick in OBA support, though it comes in the fashion of undecideds becoming more certain rather than any sort of conversion from the PLP support base.

This poll was conducted between February 7th and 9th, before former Premier Brown’s businesses were raided and the government launched a lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic.  It was also before excerpts of emails were published in the paper that allege there was a conspiracy to drive up health care costs.  That won’t bode well politically for the PLP because a former PLP Premier is implicated.  Worst of all, rising health care costs have impacted every Bermudian and this weighs on that important voter question “how does this impact me?”.

Before this poll, we surmised the PLP had lost the momentum they’d built up thanks to the Genevieve-Tweed crusade.  Now it looks like they may not just lose their momentum, but re-energize OBA supporters while disillusioning their own.  If a poll were held today, would we see a decline in PLP support and a rise in undecideds or is it possible that we’d also see a decline in PLP support, a decline in undecideds and a corresponding rise in OBA support?

This is quite a hole to dig out of, though the same would have been said of the OBA back in November when police pulled out the pepper spray.  It certainly could still be recovered from, however the timing is pretty bad.

The sad truth is that the PLP has spent far too much time trying to be “not the OBA” and not enough time being a credible alternative.  They were elected to govern for many years to provide opportunity to those who were disadvantaged and yet increasingly it doesn’t look like that really happened.  Only a select few seem to have prospered. When people look deep down and ask themselves “how does this impact me?” associating rising health insurance costs with the PLP is a pretty horrible combination.  What have they really done to demonstrate they’ve learned from being voted out?

Thus the PLP’s prospects aren’t looking very good.  Things are already starting to ramp up for the America’s Cup.  Jobs, the big headline item, are being created.  Money is starting to flow.  It will mostly all be temporary and will dry up come July but the hype, euphoria and joy of having money in one’s pocket won’t be so quick to fade.

It looks like this time around the OBA won’t need to make pie in the sky promises of being a new party that promotes good governance that they have no intention of fulfilling.  It seems quite likely that we’ll see an election called for mid to late July if things stay the course.  That would be the most likely time for the OBA to capitalize on their momentum, broken promises or not.