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Trust Me, I’m Lying


Personal Thoughts

Trust Me, I’m Lying (2012) is an in-depth exposé of today’s news culture, which is primarily channeled through online media sites called blogs. By detailing his experiences with multimillion-dollar public relations campaigns, the author takes us behind the scenes of today’s most popular and influential blogs to paint an unsettling picture of why we shouldn’t believe everything that is labeled as news.

Summary Notes

  • Katie Couric claims she gets many story ideas from her Twitter followers, which means that getting a few tweets out of the seven hundred or so people she follows is all it takes to get a shot at the nightly national news.
  • It’s a simple illusion: Create the perception that the meme already exists and all the reporter (or the music supervisor or celebrity stylist) is doing is popularizing it. They rarely bother to look past the first impressions.
  • I would register a handful of fake e-mail addresses on Gmail or Yahoo and send e-mails with a collection of all the links gathered so far and say, “How have you not done a story about this yet?” Reporters rarely get substantial tips or alerts from their readers, so to get two or even three legitimate tips about an issue is a strong
  • (I posted some comments under fake names to get people riled up, but looking at them now I can’t tell which ones are fake and which are real). From the fake came real action.
  • Behind the scenes I work to crank up the valence of articles, relying on scandal, conflict, triviality, titillation, and dogmatism. Whatever will ensure transmission.
  • Things must be negative but not too negative. Hopelessness, despair—these drive us to do nothing. Pity, empathy—those drive us to do something, like get up from our computers to act. But anger, fear, excitement, or laughter—these drive us to spread.
  • “Humiliation should not be suppressed. It should be monetized.”
  • As Chris Hedges, the philosopher and journalist, wrote, “In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion.”
  • When examining a claim, even a dubious claim, don’t dismiss with a skeptical headline before getting to your main argument. Because nobody will get to your main argument. You might as well not bother…. You set up a mystery—and explain it after the link. Some analysis shows a good question brings twice the response of an emphatic exclamation.
  • I got all sorts of great inspiration (and ideas) for the job by reading old books like The Harder They Fall and All the King’s Men, which are about press agents and media fixers for powerful politicians and criminals of many years ago.
  • These rules allow one journalist to use the facts brought forth by another, hopefully with attribution. This assumption makes researching much easier for reporters, since they can build on the work of those who came before them, instead of starting from the beginning of a story. It’s a process known as the “delegation of trust.”

Trust Me, I’m Lying


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