[email protected]
Episode 116 May 8, 2018 | 31min

Understanding Deception: Rex Sorgatz on Misinformation

Paul Ford welcomes back Rex Sorgatz, author of The Encyclopedia of Misinformation.

Show Notes

Häagen-Dazs is from the Bronx; Umami is from LA: This week, Paul Ford sits down with Encyclopedia of Misinformation author Rex Sorgatz. We discuss his new book, the ways marketers, newsrooms, and scientists use deception to their advantage, and the diffusion of misinformation. We talk about our role as consumers and how we’re changing the media literacy movement to revolve around systems of thought, rather than presenting everything as opposition. Rex also shares a list of supermyths (Spoiler: Colombus knew the Earth was round before he set sail).

Paul Ford Here we learn that Häagen-Dazs is from the Bronx [RS laughs]. So it’s more like [attempts Bronx accent] Haaaagan Dah! No — I’m — phew boy. It’s a rough one today [laughter]. Shouldn’t try a Bronx accent [laughter] [music fades in, plays alone for 14 seconds, ramps down]. Hi, everybody! This is Paul Ford. I’m the co-founder of Postlight, a digital products studio at 101 5th Avenue in New York City and my guest today is Rex Sorgatz. And as an interviewer I’m flying solo, all my regular collaborators are out busy with clients which [music fades out] I can’t really complain about because that helps us grow our business. So it’s just me today. Me and Rex. So, Rex, we’ve talked to you before but we should catch people up. So you are a media and internet person.

Rex Sorgatz [Chuckles] Sure. I’ll take — I’ll take that.

PF Uh you know. You’re a little tough to quantify. I mean because you’re part media strategist [mm hmm], you’re an entrepreneur, but you’re also sort of right now it seems that you’re focusing on writing.

RS Yeah, the last couple of years I’ve decided that uh I really wanted to take on a big project. That this would be my new startup, in a sense [mm hmm]. At least in its kind of scope of occupation of time. Like I’m gonna focus on one thing and this is the book: a collection of myths, and ideas, tactics, and strategies that people have deployed through history for misinforming people, and hopefully we expose these in the book so that people have a better understanding of how this stuff has worked historically.

PF Let’s — let’s — what is misinformation?

RS Well I use the term in a ridiculously broad sense. The social scientists tend to divide it up into three specific things: misinformation, disinformation, and a relatively new term: malinformation.

PF Mal!

RS Misinformation is data that is incorrect, effectively. Disinformation is intentionally spreading that information [ok]. Something that — that is done with bad intent. And malinformation which is relatively new is really interesting. It’s not actually incorrect information, it’s information that is correct but spread with the intent of abuse. And we see some of this with the Russian Facebook stuff that’s happening right now where the Russians have been accused of amplifying messages that are actually probably true but are using it to rile up certain communities and get their —

PF You know this is the critique that people have of Fox News a lot which is that people on the left will be like, “Fox News it’s evil and bad.” And then you’re like, “Well they — but they don’t really lie. Actually.” They just emphasize certain stories like if a migrant worker, an illegal immigrant, kills somebody that might be mentioned on other news programs but Fox News that’s an important story. They’ll do it 20 times.

[2:56]

RS Yes. So —

PF So Fox would say, “We’re covering the things that people wanna hear about,” and other people would say, “That’s malinformation.”

RS Yes.

PF So what — what got you to write about misinformation? I think you were working on this when we last saw you. Heard you. On the podcast.

RS Yeah so I came on a couple — over two years ago and uh I talked about a piece I had written about going back to my home town in North Dakota [mm hmm]. And out of that, that piece did really well, and I got agents calling me and saying, “Do you wanna write a book?” And I said, “Whyyyy sure? I don’t really wanna write that book but I could probably come up with a proposal.”

PF Oh they wanted like a delicate memoir of your Nebraska years.

RS Yeah and I might — I might still do that someday [sure!] but I didn’t wanna write that book right then. Um although it probably would have done good in the era of Trump if that —

PF Maybe or it could’ve sold 14 hundred copies.

RS Who knows? Who knows?

PF Yeah, that’s how these things go.

RS So I — I had kept a document for over a decade that was just lists of ideas of things that I want to write about [mm hmm]. Aaand you’re kind of like me. Like you like writing but you have other things that you’re working on all the time [yeah] and I try to write one big piece a year [yeah]. So my document looks like hundreds of things added all the time. That are like [in gruff voice], “Oh I’d love to write about that! I’ll never get to it.” I kept this document for so long and it went from a text file to a Google Doc, to eventually a Wonderlist [mm hmm]. And it had literally 800 entries in it. And I would look at that document and said, “Are they any books in here?” Like which [mm hmm] of these 800 things — and then I decided, “I know! Is there a commonality here?” And I was like, “These are all sort of about deception [mm hmm] and trickery, and fakery.” So the original proposal for the book was The Encyclopedia of Fakery. I wasn’t going to write about one of those things; I was gonna write about every one of them.

PF Well and the — your — you have some roots here too. Before you became like an internet media person, you were an editor of Fate Magazine. Is that right?

[4:52]

RS Oh wow you remember that. Yeah.

PF Yeah, I’m not gonna forget that. [laughs] Well you know there’s a specific thing from our cohort which is that you’re kind of a — you were late adolescent in the 90s, right?

RS Mm hmm.

PF And sort of college-y that was your [yup] — m RS y time too. There was a — a theme of disinformation and, you know, the Church of the Subgenius. There were sort of all [yeah]. It was in the air and then it — there was a sense of cults and weird male art and that — that was the weird and strange undercurrent of American society.

RS Yeah. I mean that era was fascinating. It started late 90s, early 2000s, I edited this magazine called Fate which really was a — a — it was on the side of the true believers of conspiracies [right] and —

PF A lot of JFK, right?

RS JFK and also sasquatch and uh —

PF Where did you come down on sasquatch, Rex?

RS [Laughing] Well when I was editing I said we are not going — I made a dictum that was like, “We have certain rules: we are not going to cover the Lochness Monster.” [Right] And then somebody sent in, into the slush pile, a story about Loch Ness that was about Scottish colonialism and that it really was a — an attempt to foist an ideology by the English onto the Scots. And I was like, “Alright! I changed my dictum. We’re running that! We’re gonna go with this!”

PF Right, right. What are you gonna do?

RS Um aaaand uh so yeah that was a fascinating time and there was so much in pop culture that was going on. The X Files was going on but even like [that’s right that’s right] but even the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and hip hop was really obsessed with outer space and conspiracies at the time.

PF You still see some of it when people talk about the illuminati and stuff like that but it’s almost like gotten branded and big.

RS It moved out of pop culture onto the internet which I guess we could say is pop culture now.

[6:34]

PF Right.

RS Um and uh and I think back then it was a playful thing. And now in the age of Infowars I don’t — I don’t know what to call it anymore. It’s like some other completely different thing.

PF Oh I think back then too it was like you’d go some — you’d go to the laundromat and somebody would’ve left a Chick Comics Tract about how you were going to hell. And it was a fascinating document. What — what — whatever you believed, you were just like, “What is this?!” This little tiny comic book. And I sent away. I got all the Chick comics at one point. I was just like [RS giggles] I need to see all of them. And that [stammers] — it was a part of culture that was sometimes really associated with religion, sometimes associated with believing in aliens, and — and it — it was always there and it didn’t really get covered. Like I think it felt very of a piece with hip hop, indie rock, like there was a scene to it and you could connect to that scene and kind of get a kick out of it.

RS Yeah and I think that’s still the big question today is how much of Infowars is something that we . . . people are watching because they believe or they get some sort of thrill out of it.

PF Well I mean I’ve watched Infowars and Alex Jones for entertainment.

RS Yeah and I — and I think that that’s ok.

PF I think he’s — I think what he does is pretty evil and damaging, personally, but I also get like why you would — you could watch that and enjoy it.

RS Yeah and the problem is we can’t see the audience.

PF Yeah.

RS And there is kind of a weird arrogance to saying, [in aggro voice] “Well I get it but other people out there don’t get it.” And —

PF No I think that’s right. I think that they — and I think a lot of people want like they might be in on the joke. I think it’s just that moment where they go, “Yeah but you know . . .” [Chuckles][yeah] “Maybe — maybe Michelle Obama is an alien.”

RS [Laughs] Yeah. And back in Fate it was like that too. I — we had a slush pile that came in with all of these crazy stories and you really got a different tenor of what America might be believing. And I think the biggest question is like how much of this stuff is play acting and performance, um, when — even when somebody puts onto Facebook a Alex Jones rant. How much are they kind of enjoying embodying the idea? And so another thing I try to explain in the book is um a weird tangent but you remember The Blair Witch Project came out and there was all of this conversation about people being tricked about going into the movie theatre thinking it was a documentary.

[9:03]

PF Right.

RS And there was kind of a moral panic about it. Like these kids they’re doing this thing and they’re being deceived in some way [mm hmm] and I look back and I go, “I don’t think anyone actually ever fall for it.” [No] Did anyone actually think that? Were they tricked by the website that looked like a documentary website?

PF Well there’s an adolescent pleasure in believing, right? Like being 14 and going like, “Oh maybe yeah.” Where you haven’t fully formed all of the connections that define reality or not.

RS Yeah.

PF I see that with my kids. Like my kids will believe anything, they’re six. Right?

RS Yeah.

PF And so there’s this point where your brain — I feel that there is this point and I think it really — for me I remember like this in my teenage years. Like I would in — in high school you could give me something that would be like, “There are 400 people who run the world,” and that was my early experience of the internet was a lot of like conspiracy theory stuff. And you really do enjoy turning it over in your head and you believe it for a day.

RS Right.

PF And then you’re like, “Mm nah. That’s not good.” [Chuckles] [RS laughs] I got that — I remember there was this thing called The Holy Graphic Universe where it was like, “Pasta will suddenly manifest and fall from the sky” [yes yes] and it’s like — and a friend — a very smart friend recommended this to me, and I was like, “Oh, well, you know, if he thinks it’s serious, I better check it out.” And like for a half hour it was like, “Oh you can spontaneously manifest pasta from another dimension.” And then I was like, “No, you can’t. You can’t do that.” [RS laughs] Right? But my brain at between like 15 to maybe 19 was willing to hold onto that stuff and didn’t — it was very lightly held.

RS There’s a playfulness of the fairy tale mind where I think we’re supposed to be entertaining those ideas and exploring them. I [stammers] —

[10:42]

PF You know the way we work and the things that we do like especially as a writer that’s very risky, right? So I had to make [yes] — I made decisions that I would be a far more kind of clinical human being as to how I approach the world because I felt that that would probably just because I thought that would help me. But if I didn’t have that motivation, I might enjoying all kinds of things.

RS I grew up in a small town before the internet and I still remember having access to information that just didn’t seem right. I remember picking up Time Magazine having a — it was an old issue from the 70s that I found in the archives at the high school library. It had um a collection of ideas around Hitler that were since debunked. It was around the Hitler diaries [mm hmm] and I remember being briefly fascinated by this character [right] and I look back on that with kind of repulsion. I don’t think I even saw the word gas chamber or anything like that. I — I — I don’t remember exactly but I remember like, “Oh the cult of this guy looks so interesting,” and for a week I was like kind of fascinated by this guy, trying to find more information about him.

PF Well you and David Bowie, right? I mean it’s just sort of like [yeah] bad ideas spread. You know they get in there and sometimes it’s playing. It is. Like you know what I remember? I remember one of the British royal family kids. I think it was Harry like dressed as a Nazi.

RS Oh yeah yeah yeah.

PF And you’re just like, “Ugh,” I think you know there was the outrage, and the press, and there was sort of — there’s almost like a cultural formal reaction [right] and then there’s also everybody going like, [in deep voice], “What an idiot.” [RS laughs] Like it’s just — you’re just like, “Of course he would dress as a Nazi. He like that — that’s exactly the sort of the thing an idiot like 16 year old or 18 year old would do.”

RS Yeah. And I feel like there’s no — there’s no good reason to that like —

PF He’s gonna have a talking to.

RS Right.

PF He knows. Like the minute that hit the papers they — it was like, “Harry, come in here.” [RS laughing] Like and I literally called on the carpet, right? And just like —

[12:36]

RS Yeah and I make — I think . . . we look at moments like the Parkland shooter uh recently, and we look at that kid. I don’t actually even know his name off hand.

PF No, me neither.

RS And I’m actually kind of glad. I think that’s a good thing that the media has done. You don’t see his picture. You didn’t see it for a long time and —

PF No and actually the kids by being activists, the Parkland kids gave a narrative to cover that wasn’t about the killer.

RS Yeah it wasn’t — I had — a whole moment was fascinating, right? All these kids suddenly appearing — like we were talking about how silly and stupid we were when we were teenagers. You see these kids on TV or even just on Twitter so articulate —

PF I know but what worries me is they’re just as silly and stupid in their off hours, right? [RS laughs] Like if one of them goes and gets drunk at a party, that shouldn’t [it’s over] — it shouldn’t, that’s a thing. It will be used to negate the points that they’re making. Like which are fair and belong — like those points should be listened to because they’re victims of a crime.

RS Right.

PF And then but they’re gonna be teenagers too.

RS Yeah.

PF And that — like we’re not good at that. That’s — that’s the part that like the media isn’t gonna know what to do with that. Sorry this is a corporate podcast [laughs] [RS laughs] um let’s be uh [music fades in] and corporate podcast aside like . . . [music ramps up and plays for five seconds, ramps down]. Lemme just interject for a second [music fades out] and tell you about what Postlight does. Now normally there’s two people doing the interview so I’m just gonna ask myself a few questions. Paul, what does Poslight do? Well [chuckles sarcastically] that’s a good question. Oh boy, we do a lot of things. We build platforms and we build the products on top of them. Digital platforms that is. Uh you come to us with your complicated technologies problems, legacy systems that you need to upgrade so that they can work across the web and mobile, things that are slow, big ideas that your large organization needs to get built, small startups that you wanna make sure are gonna run well, and we help you figure it out. Get a plan, get it built, and get it out [music fades in]. We’re as full stack as can be. So that’s what Poslight does. Let’s get back to Rex [music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds]. Lemme just open up the page, right? [Music fades out] Cuz what people should know — so this book: The Encyclopedia of Misinformation. Encyclopedia is actually accurate. Not misinformation in that this is a set of entries, alphabetically organ — or arranged. What’s an entry I should be looking at?

[15:01]

RS I don’t know. What are you interested in? Uh sports? Politics? Society?

PF Oh I’m a big sports guy, Rex. [Laughter] No um [I’ll give you — ] No, no. I found a great page. Page 64. You ready?

RS K.

PF 64 is the conman glossary.

RS It’s a very pretty book, by the way.

PF What’s going on here? Do you like it?

RS There are moments where I decide, “Alright, this actually is an encyclopedia,” and so I have do some informative stuff.

PF Yeah it’s just got lots of little graphs. [Crosstalk]

RS There’s a lot of like definition making here.

PF It looks like an encyclopedia of misinformation.

RS So if you know what prices actors are or dark propaganda or false flag operations. Terms that are really in vogue right now and [mm hmm] you might not quite know what they are and I try to set those definitions.

PF So this is a practical guide to the nightmare mediascape in which we find ourself.

RS I think it starts off by presenting itself like that and then once you start getting into it, you go, “Oh, this guy’s kinda trying to fiddle around with those ideas.”

PF Well sure. Sure.

RS And —

PF So this is a collection of weird little essays [it’s]. And an encyclopedia that defines things.

RS Yeah it — it changes form from entry to entry. There are things that look like straight up encyclopedia entries but there’s also stuff that’s like — there’s a couple short stories in there [mm hmm], there’s a play, it ends with the Platonic dialogue. There’s lots of — there’s lot of jokes.

[16:09]

PF I love this when there’s a —

RS Charts, tables.

PF There’s a book I found when I was 15 years old that I’ve never found anything quite like it and this book reminds me of it. It’s called the Doomsday Dictionary and it — it’s — nobody knows about it. It’s just this oddity. Um and it was like a — a psychologist and somebody else, these two people got together and it’s just definitions of everything terrible. Like, you know, a lot of it’s about nuclear war [right] and — and so — and it’s poetry and it’s weird quotes and it’s completely like your brain is just rattled after you read about five definitions.

RS Right.

PF And that’s — that’s fun and, you know —

RS Yeah and so it’s — I tell people it’s barely a book. My publisher has said said to stop saying that but —

PF Yeah I love these because it’s like I might just read three or four pages but I’ve had a wonderful experience with this book.

RS Each entry ends with a “see also, look at these entries.”

PF Yeah.

RS And so you kinda can put together an interactive essay out of it. So if you’re interested in false flag operations, you’re like, “Oh, where does this little — ” It [stammers] it really has a wiki hole kind of quality to it.

PF “Crisis actors are real professional thespians hired to play victims during fake military training exercises however in the hands of conspiracy theorists, crisis actors play a more sinister role.” That’s what we’re talking about with the Parkland kids. Some of the conspiracy people have been talking about crisis actors.

RS Yes.

PF And uh or saying that the kids that — the kids who are standing up and talking about the Parkland shooting are crisis actors and so, “See also: astroturfing, clack”? What’s clack?

[17:40]

RS They’re paid participants in an event. So it came back into the news recently when a certain demigod was coming down from an escalator in his hotel to announce his presidency [mm hmm], the people that were organized to cheer for him was a clack. It is an actual —

PF Ooooh ok!

RS Paid audiences.

PF Um —

RS So you learned something, like this is —

PF I did. I really did. Clack. Uh false flag operations, internet troll, we know what those are but it’s good that people actually have a resource.

RS Yes.

PF LARP which is a wonderful term. Live Action Role Playing game. Yeah.

RS And there’s a good indication of like it — it moves around between like super serious like [mm hmm] like, oh false flag operations, but also like cosplay is in there, right?

PF Oh see now I’m getting into it though cuz you’ve got the method, pareidolia?

RS Yeah pareidolia is the — the innate ability of humans to recognize patterns often times in ways that they shouldn’t So, for instance, seeing the face of Jesus uh inside of a potato [mm hmm]. Pareidolia is the — is what scientists call that.

PF We got the Rosenhan effect, sock puppet, and Trojan horse. Alright so it goes pretty deep.

RS I think maybe my favorite entry is flat earth theory and the reason I like that so much is — there is a surge right now going on where we believe that there are people out there who actually think the world is flat. And this goes to something we were talking about earlier. How much do they really believe that? I don’t know.

PF I mean it’s also it’s such good press.

RS Yes.

PF And then there’s these products like the flat earth like globe or whatever. It’s not a globe, it’s a map.

[19:13]

RS Right. Yes.

PF But like yeah it does feel — the whole thing feels put on.

RS Yeah and so I could — I go back and forth in writing these entries in way like, “Alright do I have to like teach people that the earth is round?” And that sounds boring. No one wants to read that but there are some examples where, “Ok we gotta set our facts straight here.” One entry that’s really serious is the anti vaxxers one where like that’s just annoying. I gotta lay this out here. But um the flat earth I take this tact that, “Well, let’s look at this a little bit deeper: is there actually a whole bunch of people historically who have said the earth is flat?” And when you look at it — cuz that’s — that’s sort of what we were taught in high school is this idea that, “Columbus didn’t know it was flat until he’d circled around the world.” And that’s been mostly corrected but it still exists out there that, “People in the middle ages thought that the earth was flat.” [Sure] And it turns out that’s not really true.

PF Ok. Ok. Ok.

RS And that was a — it was actually a thing that was invented by people, scientists, and thinkers, intellectuals invented it in the 19th century as a method to get people to think more critically about — about the past.

PF So that whole childhood myth of like Columbus . . .

RS Well Plato knows — knew that the earth was round. Ptolemy knew that the earth was round. Dante knew the earth was round because he — he put uh uh The Inferno in the centre of the planet and he had pictures of people coming out the other side. Thomas Aquinas knew the earth was round. So I look at a lot of that stuff too. Like what are the moments that we foist our — our biases about thinking onto them.

PF So when Columbus set sail, he knew it was a round — I mean what the hell was that? I remember they told us like Columbus didn’t know.

RS He thought — he thought he was giving to — to — to the West Indies.

PF Or he — he believed because he like held up an orange. You know I think as I’m saying this I may not know what I’m talking about.

RS [Laughs] You should read the book.

PF I really should. Really. [RS laughing] It’s good they got you — you’re on brand message, Rex, you’re doing good. Alright so let’s go back to the con men for one sec, right?

[21:20]

RS Yeah and that — that entry is — it’s about the language of conmen and about how they’ve developed their own vocabulary, and this little lexicon that they all use amongst themselves. You see it in the Orange movies. Orange 11, Orange 12 —

PF Right. Can we skip ahead to page 90?

RS Alright.

PF Because here we learn that Häagen-Dazs is from the Bronx [RS laughs]. We also learn that Au Bon Pain is from Boston. That is almost more disappointing.

RS Right so the —

PF Cuz Häagen-Dazs with all that — with that umlaut and now you’re like, “Yeah, no, they’re trying too hard. That makes sense.”

RS So the section is about how marketers will invent and terms and brands that sounds like they’re from someplace but really are not from there. So uh Pret a Manger sounds French of course. Invented in London. Um umami sounds Japanese, of course, but is of course an LA product. Uh and then the — the page ends with Motley Crue which sounds like it’s Old English.

PF Again umlauts right? Like you just throw a couple of umlauts in. Alright so you’re researching this thing. What blew your mind? What made you go, “Oh my god. I can’t believe I believed that.”

RS So, have you heard that iron is readily in spinach?

PF Yeah.

RS And then you heard this story that, “Well that’s actually not true.”

PF Mm hmm.

RS And then there was a story that had been passed around a long for — that skeptics really enjoyed. Scientifically, skeptically minded people really enjoyed that there was err made in the hundred years ago, in looking at the analysis of spinach and it led to this myth that spinach had iron and in fact there have been — it was a decimal place err. It had been two spaces to the left and for forever we have believed that spinach has iron and we don’t. So this was an idea that had been spread around and is supposed to encourage skepticism [right]. It turns out, in fact, that whole story is in fact a myth. Of course spinach has iron [mm hmm] and this idea had been passed around and I put it in the context in the book of Super Myths. These ideas that people — scientists especially propogate so that they can encourage skeptical thinking and, in fact, they are themselves myths. And so it’s about scientists are also capable of inventing these things.

[23:34]

PF What can we believe?

RS I — I — I think that’s a hard question in these times, right? We’re being told to encourage media literacy constantly and uh we’re asking kids to be more critical about their thinking and everything, and I’m — I’m becoming deeply suspicious those kids are already deeply skeptical of their information, and I don’t think they need to be told anymore [chuckles] that everything is up for grabs because it feels like we’re entering a moment where every potential fact is a debatable fact.

PF It does feel that way. I mean it’s — it’s a peculiar time [RS laughs through his nose]. I’ve always felt that like I wish we would teach middleschoolers how to make commercials.

RS Right.

PF Just get them the literacy to — to create and make this stuff so that it doesn’t have any superpower over them.

RS Yeah I think that a lot of the media literacy movement is really looking at how stuff is created. There’s an alternative, a counter to that idea though which is like kids already get this stuff, they’re making memes constantly [true], um the Parkland shooter’s kids uh have sort of proven that they’re very saavy, at least these specific kids are very saavy with media creation. And even gaining news cycles. So, what ultimately are we? How do we get kids to think more critically about the information they’re receiving while still believing in some of the basic courses of history is I think like a big question right now.

PF There’s no answer, right?

RS Well. Corey Doctoro had an essay recently, he talked about this idea of um it’s not — it’s not a time of facts versus opinions. It’s not about what we think, it’s about how we think. And I think that that’s right. I think that we should be teaching the idea that there are not just opposing viewpoints. Not just CNN versus Fox, not just Maddow versus Han — Hannity. That instead we should try to think about how other people are coming to the conclusions that they’re coming to, aaaand it’s not a matter of what, it’s a matter of how. And uh I think that there’s a lesson in there about media literacy for kids that we work toward letting them understand systems of thought. Not presenting everything as just like opposition. Cuz like the media literacy movement starts with saying, “Well, take a look at Breitbart and it’s backed by Banon and who is backed by Mercer and all of these people are bad but look at this counter over here: you have the Washington Post that’s backed by Bezos and then at least to some sort of moral equivalency among — amongst people that these two things are equal in some way aaand I think that that’s — that’s the effect that’s happening right now.

[26:22]

PF I think there’s another thing which going back to some of the things we were talking about earlier people — first of all we consume so much media, so much. All day. Right? Like it’s very easy to have . . . we’re on Twitter or we’re digitally connected, there’s us. And then there’s people who are kind of have the TV on in the background and we’re here watching like, you know, CNN or Fox all day. People are willing to kind of lightly hold and connect to all kinds of ideas as they suck media down their media holes in their brains, right? And like part of the literacy is giving people the credit as discerning consumers who accept and reject the things that they’re hearing [yes] and that some of the things that we’re going like, “Oh man Infowars! Alex Jones!” That’s just that threat has always been there. He did not — Alex Jones did not invent the kind of conspiracy thinking that he promotes. That’s been there for a hundred plus years. [Mm hmm] It’s kind of the hand maiden of the rest of the media. It’s always there. And he just tapped into it and is doing it very well right now. And people are, you know, absorbing that, taking it in, rejecting some, having some — but it’s not — it’s not this simple thing where people are sitting at home just soaking up bad ideas.

RS Yeah and I think — I think ultimately what we need to encourage is people on the left and the right that they — they look at different sources. Not so that they can see like other opinions necessarily. Like I have friends in New York who just refuse to ever look at the front page of Breitbart [sure] or refuse to ever turn on Hannity. And they’ll ask me why I — every night I try to turn on Tucker Carlson for at least five minutes —

PF Oof.

RS I know.

PF I would take Hannity over Carlson — Carlson is just —

RS My wife walks out the room when it happens. Um —

PF Yeah I mean it’s just at least Hannity is entertaining —

RS And my reasoning isn’t that I wanna have like my knowledge tested or anything like that. I’m pretty firm in my beliefs [yeah]. It’s more like I wanna understand their ways of thinking [mm hmm] and I think that that’s important that we teach um kind of methodologies and that learning is systems more than it is um facts. Cuz that was the old way of teaching like history is this chronology of events and you memorize these things, and instead if we look toward um frames of ways of understanding. I think that that gets us a long way toward uh some of the traps we fall into.

[28:52]

PF So look: let’s — let’s tell the people about the book. The Encyclopedia of Misinformation [mm hmm] A Compendium of Imitations, Spoofs, Delusions, Simulations, Counterfeits, Imposters, Illusions, Confabulations, Skullduggery, Fraud Pseudoscience, Propaganda, Hoaxes, Flim Flam Flanks, Hornswoggle, Conspiracies, and Miscellaneous Fakery, it’s by Rex Sorgatz. It’s published by Abram’s Image. So you can buy this book I’m assuming on Amazon.

RS Buy it everywhere, at your local st — it’ll be uh I think it’s getting a placement at Barnes & Noble. So.

PF Are they ever gonna be able to do a digital version? It’s very encyclopedia-y.

RS Yeah there — there is a uh Kindle version of it.

PF Alright. Alright. Well. That’s it. That’s all. Everyone has to buy your book. That’s how this ends.

RS Thank you. Don’t be deceived.

PF Well, look, I have a copy of this book and it is pretty cool. It’s very satisfying, it’s got a lot of colour on the cover, got a lot of . . . images, got a lot of pictures, got a lot of words. All the things that good books have but also [music fades in] a good book, and Rex is a good writer, and it’s about a very, very relevant topic and, who knows? It’ll be a classic. You should go get a copy. You should go have one in your hands right now. You should’ve already ordered it. It’s almost too late. But not too late. Get a book. Get The Encyclopedia of Misinformation. Now! I’m Paul Ford, the co-founder of Postlight. Postlight is our company here and we build web platforms but, honestly, we’re just happy you’re out there listening. Anything you need, just let us know: [email protected] [music ramps up, plays alone for five seconds, fades out to end].