Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Make and Spread a Juicy Rumor

Guidance for the Production of Rumors

1. Planning

The first essential of a rumour is that it should serve a definite purpose. It may seem frivolous to emphasise this point at the beginning, but, experience has shown that there is always a great tendency in composing rumours to select or accept stories simply because they are brilliant improvisations as stories. The attitude of "Wouldn't it be a good idea to spread such and such a rumour?" is a dangerous one and the inventors of rumours should discipline themselves to decide first what effect they wish to produce, and then begin working out rumours which will produce it.

Rumours for general consumption (and this blog post does not deal with rumours intended to deceive an enemy intelligence service), may be intended either to produce definite action by the general populace, or a modification in its mental outlook which will produce appropriate action at some later moment.

More than 225 Facebook shares - Donald Trump Album

2. Qualities of a good Rumour

A rumour must be such that it will spread. Essentially this means that it must be such that anyone to whom it is told will almost certainly repeat it not once but several times. It must therefore give pleasure to the teller. It is not necessary here to go into a detailed exposition in modern psychological language, since the main factors which give pleasure to the teller of rumours have been the common stock in trade of comic writers.

In general the teller derives this pleasure from the sense of power which repeating the story gives him. This indeed is the basis of all careless talk. Specific subjects which will make a rumour pleasurable to repeat are enumerated below.

a) Self aggrandisement. i.e. "I am in the know, you are not". 

b) Horror. People will always enjoy making their listeners flesh creep, and also their own.

c) Sex. Those who have little opportunity for sexual experience consistently enjoy talking about it. Good sexy rumours also have the advantage that they are told and listened to in a more emotional frame of mind than many people realise, and they have therefore a deeper effect.

d) The amazing coincidence. Any story linked to such semi-occult events has a very good chance of spreading. This is the advantage of all astrological, prophetical, mysteric-religious rumours.

e) Wishful thinking. This always carries, but is dangerous. (see paragraph 3)

f) A scandal about the great. Rumours are mainly disseminated by people in low positions. Anything that bolsters up their pride by telling them that those in high positions are no better than they ought to be will always be popular.

g) Jokes. A good joke will usually travel, but it has the disadvantage that unless it is a very bitter joke it is repeated in a frivolous state of mind and has little or no proper effect. 

From the Minister of Misinformation

3. Some disputable points

a) Credibility. The balance of evidence seems to show that though it is better for a rumour to have some basis in fact, this is not absolutely necessary. It should however have what I may term an emotional basis in fact, i.e. it should fit in with the sort of thing which people believe likely or want to happen.

b) Wishful thinking. There is an obvious danger in disseminating stories about our own strength and intentions, if the reaction caused when they are found out not to be true is too immediate. It is therefore better in such stories to refer to events comparatively far distant in time or space and when speaking of what is near at hand to emphasise rather that we are heroic than successful. The technique of spreading hyper-optimistic rumours about their own success among the enemy in order to cause ultimate dismay by disappointment is one which may occasionally prove useful.

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c) Horror stories. It should be remembered that atrocity stories are extremely dangerous. Among a people determined to resist or among a people oblivious of their danger they may be very valuable, but where morale is already shaky atrocity stories sometimes only contribute to a paralysing fear.

d) SexAny marketing person will tell you that sex sells. However, sex doesn’t sell; sex simply gets your attention. Everyone must gauge for themselves how dirty a sexual story can be. There is a danger of making stories so revolting that a large proportion of the hearers will never repeat them. On the other hand in certain classes you can go very far, and it should be remembered that the more lurid the setting the more firmly the rumour conveyed will stick.


Throughout the early 1940s, a host of rumors relating to the Second World War began to circulate, leading the government to establish various committees and undertake multiple projects intended to counteract rumors that were believed to threaten civilian morale and compromise national security. 

Simultaneously, social scientists also began taking measures to study and combat rumor. Such efforts included the institution of several community groups, deemed "rumor clinics," that aimed to decrease the prevalence of wartime rumor by educating the general public. 

Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content

Rather than acting as a source of accurate information, online media frequently promote misinformation in an attempt to drive traffic and social engagement. The result is a situation where lies spread much farther than the truth, and news organizations play a powerful role in making this happen.

Many news sites apply little or no basic verification to the claims they pass on. Instead, they rely on linking-out to other media reports, which themselves often only cite other media reports as well.

Among other problems, this lack of verification makes journalists easy marks for hoaxsters and others who seek to gain credibility and traffic by getting the press to cite their claims and content.

News organizations reporting rumors and unverified claims often do so in ways that bias the reader toward thinking the claim is true. The data collected using the Emergent database revealed that many news organizations pair an article about a rumor or unverified claim with a headline that declares it to be true

News organizations utilize a range of hedging language and attribution formulations (“reportedly,”“claims,”etc.) to convey that information they are passing on is unverified. They frequently use headlines that express the unverified claim as a question. However, research shows these subtleties result in misinformed audiences.

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