A short course on peaceful but determined activism
Before engaging in activism or setting up a campaign it’s important to be clear on security and privacy. If you are personally identifiable as an activist a wide range of difficulties could crop up. These include attacks on your reputation, business boycotts and assaults. Equally, putting a face to your campaigns demonstrates transparency and lends your cause credibility. As a result, it’s important to think things through and assess both potential risks and options for risk management. Options you may wish to consider include:
- Avoiding using personal email accounts when setting up social media profiles.
- Using secure passwords for all accounts and email addresses.
- Creating a fresh, new Facebook profile before creating a Facebook page for a campaign. Adopt the same approach on other platforms.
- Never responding to comments and responses using your personal accounts.
- Hiding the ownership of any domain and related ‘Who is’ information. (This often involves a small extra charge).
- Switching-off any geo-location or geo-tagging settings on all the platforms you use.
- Leaving all locations out of information placed on social media accounts and websites.
- Using a VPN to reroute your connections to servers through multiple servers. The Opera browser has a built in VPN.
- Getting help if things get out of hand or the law is broken.
- Familiarising yourself with each platform’s security and privacy options, including reporting and blocking trolls.
- If in doubt about an argument check it out for yourself using a range of sources offering different opinions - and not all of them from mainstream media.
- Watch out for emotional escalators, such as ‘super numbers’ where figures are bundled together over many years and across many sources to make everything sound ‘off the scale’.
- Skip on outrage and anger posts designed to get you to reply in kind.
- Watch out for misleading by-lines where the title of the story shown to you skips on parts of what the full article covers.
- We often stick to what we know on autopilot. Trying a new approach or reviewing existing approaches regularly helps to make you aware of bias.
- False attribution is a bias involving attaching responsibility to individuals instead of the systems they connect to. This is worth bearing in mind if things start to get personal.
- Skip on falling into the tit-for-tat trap of making false memes and passing them round.
- Despite your best efforts you’ll get a fact or a number wrong. Own up, but keep an eye out for your error being used to dodge the original concern that caught your eye.
- A troll’s aim, whether for a distorted sense of fun or for other motives, is to reduce you to their level, so you can either work on how to deal with them or hand them what they’re after.
- If you’re surrounded by trolls or spending time with trolls on a regular basis - take proper breaks and switch to other social activities to refresh.
- Stand up, step away from the computer and just leave a thread in the middle of a heated debate or argument.
- Post fact-based memes in reply to heated arguments.
- Stop in the middle of an on-going thread, take a break and go back later to see how others dealt with it.
- Start a thread of your own on a topic of your choice instead of discussing what a troll wants to go on about.
- Find out how to take a screenshot on your phone or PC and try out saving a screenshot. If a troll gets unpleasant take a screenshot and tell the troll you’ve saved it. Don’t show them the screenshot and ignore them if they mock you.
- Keep an eye out for trolls trying to issue orders and controlling statements. There’s nothing they like more than sending you on the run around.
In troubled times it maybe can’t do any harm to stay calm enough to step back from arguments and open to looking for fresh options. Psychologists reckon the following activities lower stress and anxiety.
The following creative activities also show some scientific evidence of relaxing and can help out with activism at the same time:
- Creative writing
- Graphic and digital design
- Knitting and crochet
- Making new recipes
- Musical performance
- Painting, drawing and sketching
- Song writing
Lies without Limit
We now come across lies on daily basis that are so extravagant and wildly unrealistic they’re less convincing than the Tooth Fairy. And they’re delivered not with hesitancy or qualification, but with self-congratulation and bragging. Getting one over on people for personal greed is something some people celebrate.
So how do these politicians and media bullies get from representing voters or journalism to pouring out blatant propaganda, which they seem or claim to have come to believe?
It turns out part of the self-deception is through short circuiting the sense of responsibility or upset most people would have when telling harmful lies. The brains of those who start telling small, malicious lies become desensitised to lying and so makes it easier and easier to tell ever more ridiculous lies without feeling at all bad.
Dr Tali Sharot, who led a recent study based on brain scans, looked at how negative emotions or guilt are discarded out of personal greed. When lying for personal gain the amygdala induces a negative feeling, which limits how much of a lie we are prepared to tell. With continued lying the negative effect weakens and the lies get more expansive and exaggerated. So frequent lying results in a reduced emotional reaction.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience (Garrett et al., 2016).
Perhaps obviously, we need to call out lies aka post-truths and not fall for the way in which these unfortunate people escalate to the ever more absurd. All that does is to keep on moving the goalposts, usually with claims their previous outrageous positions are mild by comparison and so hardly worth questioning. Which, as the science indicates, looks like a route to lies without limit.
If everyone was without empathy there’d be no antibiotics, no nurses, few hospitals and no Internet for starters, as these were or are all reliant on grasping the need to deal with other people’s suffering. In other words, those who lack empathy are the exceptions to the standard human response.
Narcissists are among those without concern for other people’s feelings, but it turns out they’re not without the capacity for empathy. It’s just been set aside and can be reinstated. A study by Hepper et al. notes that narcissists are self-orientated and automatically largely unconcerned with their impacts on others. Nevertheless, they can be coaxed into feeling empathy by encouraging them to consider others’ point-of-view. In other words, if you bring their attention to putting themselves into someone else’s shoes empathy kicks in.
The Science of Persuasion
Some of the ins and outs of winning people over and avoiding deception.