Beware of crowd manipulators!

Know the methods to free yourself from them.

25 May 1913, Pré Saint-Gervais, speech by Jean Jaurès against the law of 3 years of military service in front of 150,000 people. Photo: Maurice-Louis Branger / Roger-Viollet

Everything starts with a seducing story that seems to be true.

Every misinformation, manipulation or plot is based on a story that its authors and promoters claim is authentic. Even if the demonstration is null and void, the belief in this hypothetical story, beautiful or terrible, seduces the public who sees a promise: that of an uncovered truth, an unmasked explanation or the confidences of an insider's secret. The trick is even more effective when it falls on an ordinary person's ear. Someone has trusted him when nothing prepared him to be the recipient of such an indiscretion. This honour flatters his pride to be elevated to the rank of the well-informed. Later, the confidant believes that he is qualified to analyse and assess the news, and that his “independent” opinion will be authoritative among his friends and family. The rumour is spread, the reason is trapped, blinded by the charm of a misleading story. The lie in all its splendour, propagated by people of good faith!

Because he wants the revelation to be true — and refuses to believe that he has been deceived — he is ready to deny all logic to satisfy his conviction. Are the clues false or are they just coincidences? Either way, we'll look for more satisfying ones. What if they don't exist? That's proof we're being kept in the dark! As a result, he starts upside down: he follows the path of fantasy instead of reason, questioning and dissent.

The truth is not fanciful.

When the truth doesn't go his way, he degrades it to a mere opinion. Since he devalues it to the same level as his ideology, he can fight it. And if the truth offends his belief or his particularity, he presents himself as a victim of an outrage, demands censorship and sentencing of those who uphold a truth that is not appropriate! He is easily recognizable because he exists only through quarrelling. He is always the first to start the controversy. He manipulates language in order to shape a parallel reality free of this embarrassing truth. Despots and fanatics find the justification to push through their dogmas, their one-track thinking, their essentialism and to oppress the spread of knowledge and progress.

Another lie is simple to unmask and it is easy to turn away from it. It persecutes any well-accepted truth on the pretext that everything must be questioned and all trust or honest conduct is ambiguous — except its own! —. This is not doubt, but smoky dogma. Because its struggle is not guided by the defence of freedom, justice or a great and respectable principle that uplifts the human spirit. On the contrary, it revels in everything that demeans, provokes, defiles, humiliates, dishonours. It blurs our lucidity because it knows our instinctive fascination for scandal, violence and evil. It draws us down, towards the ignorance and obscurantism from which humanity has had such difficulty in emancipating itself. It is a way of exercising totalitarian control through suspicion, of enjoying revenge through malicious publicity or of expressing suppressed anger.

There are facts, there are opinions and there are lies.

All these situations reflect the faces of a lie that stains the truth. Yet scientific fact must prevail over opinion. But when there is a mix-up between truth and ideology, discussion is impossible. The resulting violent opposition has nothing to do with debate and expression of ideas since facts and opinions do not compare. By extension, freedom of speech — of all words — must be expressed unconditionally, without censorship or fear. I have the right to be right, just as I have the right to be wrong. Likewise, witticisms, humour, irony, caricature… are a sign of the intelligence and education of those who recognize them for what they are, i.e. neither a truth nor an opinion, and far from any contempt. The schemers do not tolerate this language diversity, preferring to sow confusion and trouble. This is a strategy of power and domination through deception. They retaliate by gagging freedom, the only antidote to their scandals.

If some political ideas still seduce the citizen despite the power of contrary facts and harsh reality, then we must look at the story told by the demagogue. He likes to twist together truth and plausibility in such a way that a fiction will fascinate the public more than a dull truth.

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