Jan 18, 2022
The history of Satanism is bedeviled by misinformation, and in
the age of social media, a lie can travel to Hell and back to avoid
correction. As hopefully savvy digital consumers, how can we better
train ourselves to separate fact from affliction?
Misinformation vs disinformation
bad information spread by mistake
bad information spread on purpose
- Bad actors need more people to
amplify their message -- they may try to persuade an influencer to
spread their disinformation as-is -- or as a “debunking.” Simply
repeating a rumor can perpetuate it, add fuel to the fire, and even
content: Using the names,
logos of well-known, reputable outlets to steal
- Content can be used out of context
- Old content is reshared as new, with new
Why do people fall for
disinformation? Because they want
to. People like things that confirm what they
already believe, and reject information that challenges
Critical reading of the news
credulity – if it sounds
too good to be true, it probably is.
- This goes double for anything to do with money
or products you see online. (Do not buy shit from Facebook
- Is it realistic? Would someone
really say or do what the article is saying? Would you
do that thing yourself? Would any reasonable person?
- Understand how
headlines are written –
usually by someone else, not the article writer, and therefore
doesn't always encapsulate what the article actually says. It's
meant to grab your attention – whether for good or bad.
- Opinion vs
news – sometimes
editorials look a lot like reporting.
down! Articles (and
certainly their headlines) are meant to provoke emotion and a
knee-jerk response. Ask yourself, why am I being made to feel this
way? What reaction does the writer want me to have? What reaction do I actually have,
once I have more time to process the information?
- Who owns
what? Consider who really
owns the website or publication you’re reading.
- Who wrote the
article? Have you heard of
them before (do they even exist?), or read their other work? What
do their previous stories tell you about them and their point of
- When was it
written? This is one of
the easiest to miss, especially on social media. Make sure the
article isn’t out of date – and if there’s no date at all, be
- Who is the
target audience? Was this
written to appeal to a certain kind of person?
- Verify with
other independent sources. Does the information fit with what you already
know, or what you’ve read elsewhere? If you can only find one
article that says something, that’s a red flag. (And it doesn’t
count if all the other sources you find lead back to only the first
- Read the
original. This is
especially important when it comes to science writing. News
articles try to summarize super-long scientific studies in just a
paragraph or two – they could be cherry-picking what the study
says, or miss the point entirely. When you can, click through to
the original study and check it out – and again, if there are no
links to sources… that’s a bad sign.
isn’t being said?
Not citing sources is the big one.
But you have to ask questions of what you’re reading. Most
mainstream news sites at least try to offer a different perspective
/ counterpoint to the main narrative of their piece. For example,
if a politician really said something inflammatory, there would be
a reaction from an opposing party.
The wild west of unsourced shit on social
- Social media is great for communicating with
people you actually know – but be wary of accounts from people
you’ve never heard of. If someone has shared what looks to be
original content (i.e., not a link to an article on another
publication), check their account to see if they seem
- Who’s doing
the sharing? Is it a reporter? A politician? Some random
person? A celebrity? Just because
it’s a big account or a famous person doesn’t mean they’re legit.
There are lots of famous dummies out there.
- When was the
account made? Brand-new
accounts with no profile / cover pictures or friends / followers
might be bots or sock puppet accounts.
- What’s their
location? Are they
geographically located close enough to what’s said in the post /
shown in the photo?
- There is a private group on Facebook for
Satanic Bay Area that is for locals only (for privacy and planning
reasons). People will request to join the group, and answer the
question of whether they’re local as “yes” – but their location on
Facebook says otherwise. Or they don’t have a location at all.
That’s when I go to their accounts and look at things like their
place of work (maybe it has a location), the Pages they follow (if
they like a lot of restaurants in Chicago, maybe that’s where
they’re actually located), and even their photos (if they say
they’re from San Jose but they’re posting pics of snow in their
backyard… they ain’t in San Jose).
- Is the photo
altered? Even a skillful
cropping can change the meaning of an image. Look for signs of
Photoshopping. Use Google reverse image search / TinEye to find the
pictures elsewhere on the web.
Cross-reference Google Maps / Instagram location tags for visual
- Check things like street signs, their colors,
their fonts, etc. Does it match up with what you know of the city’s
- Look for seasonal cues. Are the leaves the
right color for that part of the year? What does the terrain,
plants look like for a particular area?
degradation: if you
suspect the photo’s not the original, see if there’s blurriness,
pixelation that indicates it was screenshotted and
Stop the cycle
- Don’t share a story that might be
untrue (duh). If you accidentally do, go ahead and delete
it. If you want, maybe make a post discussing how you were fooled –
but best not to leave the bad article up.
- If you see someone else sharing a story
you know to be untrue, speak up (but don’t be a
- It is extreeeeeeeeemely difficult to
dissuade someone from believing something.
- When someone has internalized a belief and made
it part of their identity, attacking that belief
feels to them
like you’re attacking them
personally. They become defensive and work even harder to justify
that belief to themselves.
- The debunker becomes the bad guy, and any facts
you present are written off as coming from biased
- Instead, try asking questions.
Where did you hear this information? Do you know the person who
shared it? How did it make you feel when you read it or saw it?
Have you ever heard of that happening before? Why do you think it’s
interesting or believable?
- Don’t publicly humiliate them.
Send them a private message or better yet, speak in
- Consider what else is going on in their
life. Is there trouble at home or at work? These may be
sources of anxiety they’re unknowingly trying to soothe with
conspiracies as a distraction.
- If you need to go low- or no-contact with
someone, do what is best for yourself.
- But also consider that conspiracy believers are
often socially isolated, and their conspiracy
groups give them a sense of community. Perhaps engage on
neutral topics – go ahead and comment on Aunt Shirley’s
cat pictures, but do not engage when she starts talking about the
- Encourage them to spend less time
online. Just taking a break from social media can loosen
the grip it has over them. Spend time with them in person, away
from triggers like television. Remind them of the hobbies and
pastimes they used to enjoy before becoming entrenched in
- Set a good example. Sharing
real, verifiable news – and mentioning why you know it’s true – on social media can expose
people to another point of view. But don’t target your posts at
anyone, or engage in arguments in the comments.
- People who like to say they do “research” are
more likely to believe an article they find themselves, as opposed
to something sent to them. It’s a kind of gamification of
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