Fake News, Fake Safety and Fake Christmas

by Dr Rob Long on December 10, 2016

in Psychology of Safety and Risk,Robert Long,Safety Leadership,Zero Harm



Fake News, Fake Safety and Fake Christmas

Christmas SafetyThe craft of misinformation has been about for millennia but more recently with the problems of social media has become much more pronounced. The Cult of the Amateur (Keen, 2008) and the world of The Shallows (Carr, 2011) has brought a whole new era of ‘fake news’. This was highlighted this week when a guy took a gun to a pizza shop to investigate a porn ring. Fake news is information that endeavours to look like news (using social media) but is fabricated (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news_website ). This is surely a time when we require discernment more than ever, to be able to discern Real Risk.

Recently the safety crusaders have been about creating fake fear, fake news and fake safety. Nothing like stirring up some good old fear at Christmas, Scrooge would be delighted, bah humbug! No fun, no play and no joy for you this Christmas. Christmas is a time to preach safety, not joy to the world. Christmas is a time for fear of injury not fun. Christmas is all about Zero Harm (don’t be a statistic is the language), no bumps or knocks for you with water pistols or a slip and slide. The last thing a crusader wants you to think about at Christmas is fun, they want you to only think of your PCBU Duty of Care (http://www.activeohs.com.au/planning-priorities/10-tips-to-ensure-pcbus-duty-of-care-at-company-christmas-party). Nothing like ruining Christmas than to have some crusader ‘preaching’ and ‘telling’ safety, because everyone else is an idiot and lacks ‘common sense’ other than them. More fake news and more fake safety. The safety propaganda machine always runs hot at Christmas. Christmas is dangerous (http://www.worksafenews.com.au/component/k2/item/529-take-care-or-risk-becoming-a-christmas-statistic.html).

The propagandists (Ellul free download- https://www.ratical.org/ratville/AoS/Propaganda.pdf) know that misinformation (spin) serves many purposes. One doesn’t have to tell a real story to destabilize and disrupt the gullible. Indeed, those who lack the ability and skills to discern (think critically) simply have to be put into doubt. What is most important in misinformation is to write stories that are already attractive to popular myths and biases in a culture. This is what feeds conspiracy theories and false belief. There are many examples of the success of misinformation and the lack of discernment. The documentary Merchants of Doubt is a good start (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD2zixRoBP8 ). This is how the tobacco industry, anti-vaxers and climate skeptics have been working for years. There is nothing so effective as fake news and fake safety.

There are several (cumulative) rules for creating good misinformation and fake safety and Safety has been one of the best at it.

  1. The first rule for misinformation is to turn everything into ‘opinion’. It doesn’t matter whether one has 40 years of research or specialist knowledge, all this must be made equal to the amateur on the street. There is nothing so demoralizing as the viciousness, toxicity and ignorance as a Linkedin safety group. A key to this process is to privilege the regulations of safety as knowledge above all others. In this way safety can bully others, because they are only trying to keep people safe.
  2. The second rule for misinformation is to blur sources. One of the most effective set of questions to use in discerning misinformation is to ask: In whose interest is this story? Where is the power in this information? For whom? Whose politics are being served by this ‘news’? Have a good look behind who is spreading the fear in safety (regulators, safety bureaucrats, unions etc) and see if the scaremongering has a political or financial benefit, for whom?

  3. The third rule of misinformation is to take the study of critical thinking out of the education system so that people don’t learn about evidence and critical thinking. The key to discernment is the skills of historiography. The last thing a propagandist wants is some one with skills in historiography.

  4. The fourth rule of misinformation is to dumb down a population. Safety has turned this into an art form over the last 30 years. Make sure there is nothing in the WHS curriculum that resembles critical thinking or transdisciplinary thinking (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/). A $300 Cert 4 in compliance and checklisting is just what is needed.

  5. The fifth rule is to create a cohort of zombies (https://safetyrisk.net/trifr-safety-zombies/) that venerate compliance thinking. Let’s all do TRIFR because everyone else is doing it, don’t worry that it is meaningless.

  6. The sixth rule of misinformation is to maintain the mythology of ‘common sense’. The idea that one doesn’t need specialist knowledge or education to be efficient or proficient in anything is a specialist construct of Safety. We all know the only reason for injury is that people are ‘stupid and lack common sense’, that is why Safety has to ‘tell’ people what to do. We can’t trust grown adults with a sharp object or leads not tapped down.

  7. The seventh rule of misinformation is to suppress questioning. Questions and interrogation of evidence and truth claims are the last thing safety learns. Safety needs checklists and conformity to templates, not free open thinkers.

  8. The eighth rule of misinformation is the attribution of value to numeric and measurement. The last thing safety needs is the idea that all numerics are attributed/interpreted and that higher level goals cannot be measured. Measure injury statistics and tell them that LTIs is a measure of safety.

  9. The ninth rule of misinformation is to add fuel to myths eg. ‘paperwork will cover your arse in court’. Apparently, the last thing Safety needs is less paperwork (https://vimeo.com/162034157).

  10. The tenth (but not the last) rule of misinformation is to perpetuate fear on fear. How strange that we make good politics by putting more police on the street (http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/more-police-on-the-beat-keeping-victorians-safe/). There is a ‘crime tsunami (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/victorian-crime-rate-spikes-as-opposition-warns-of-crime-tsunami/7890832  ) when the crime rate is decreasing??? (http://www.smartjustice.org.au/cb_pages/files/SMART_CrimeStat%20FINAL%20revised%202014.pdf  ). Safety just loves fear (https://vimeo.com/166935963)

Last week my grandkids were playing in the back yard, they were having fun with sticks. (The safety crusader says ‘Oh my god, sticks!) The parents and visitors were sitting well out of sight at the front yard BBQ area enjoying the daylight saving weather (sorry Queensland) and relaxing. ‘What are the kids doing?’ someone asked, their mother said ‘I don’t know but probably some sort of fun in the backyard’. As I went inside to get some more drinks I could see they had assembled sticks against a tree and made a cave for a nativity scene. They had climbed the tree to secure some of the sticks to the side and grabbed some rope to tie bits together. I could see they had taken some tinsel off the Christmas tree inside to decorate the cave and had used some of their dolls and characters to set up the cave. They also found some sticks shaped like boomerangs and so threw them about having fun. They were so happy in play, imaging, creating, discovering and learning.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

Latest posts by Dr Rob Long (see all)

Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.
  • Bernard Corden

    Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann would have been good safety managers.

    • Rob long

      Of course. Both could think critically and discern with wisdom.

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