When Amazon Prime Video inexplicably banned Hoaxed, a documentary about fake news by journalist Mike Cernovich, Hoaxed blasted off in popularity, becoming the top-selling documentary in the world across all platforms and reaching 3rd on the Associated Press independent film bestseller list.
In this video, we’re going to look at 3 mind-shagging strategies that the corporate press uses to manufacture fake news. Cernovich explores these and other examples of fake news in the movie and also in his companion book by the same title.
I suggest you grab your copy of the Hoaxed book on Amazon and stream the movie on iTunes before they come for it.
Rather than just say, “Hey, good movie, go watch it,” I’m taking a different angle with this video—the same way I reviewed Loserthink, the New York Times bestseller by Dilbert creator Scott Adams.
We’re going to draw powerful lessons from Hoaxed that you as an aspiring author can use to write better, fact-check-proof your book, and get your message to stick in readers’ minds long after they’ve turned the last page.
That’s where Hoaxed comes in. Let’s look at three types of fake news that media on both sides push so you, as a person of integrity, can use these insights to write a powerfully persuasive book that positively impacts the planet. Because, in the words of Mike Cernovich, “It’s not OK to spread fake news.”
In Hoaxed, Cernovich dismantles a type of fake news called Wikiality. This is simply changing the facts to fit the story you want to push, in the same way that any ole anon can go into Wikipedia and edit reality. And they say you can’t change the past.
Susan Rice, former director of the National Security Agency, used her tremendous powers to spy on American people. The process, known as “unmasking,” was the biggest spying scandal of 2017. Rice deined that she unmasked American citizens, and then was forced to admit it after I broke the story.
The Wikipedia page on me doesn’t even mention the Susan Rice unmasking story…
Wikiality gets personal for Cernovich because his Wikipedia page has been locked from editing. What’s there now says little to nothing about his accomplishments as a journalist exposing the corruption of the highest levels of government. As a result, the Mike you read about on Wikipedia doesn’t actually exist.
So what does Wikiality have to do with authors like you? So often in the publishing industry, I meet aspiring authors who come to a conclusion, and then ask their ghostwriter or editor to carefully curate only evidence that backs up their claim. Essentially inventing their own little version of reality. There’s nothing wrong with backing up what you write, of course. But here’s the issue. It’s not persuasive. When you push one side of an argument or an idea—yours—you lose people. Because it’s obvious that’s what you’re doing. Let’s do better. I recommend you take challenges and objections to your book seriously. Tackle them head-on to build up your credibility. In some books I ghostwrite, we actually include a frequently asked questions section in the opening chapter, or we dedicate an entire chapter to busting myths about the author’s expertise. When you do this, you show your readers that you’re arguing in good faith, something fake news pushers are not.
Another type of fake news that Hoaxed shatters is what Mike Cernovich calls Hacked Like Joy Reid. MSNBC host Joy Reid made a different kind of headline for allegedly writing offensive, homophobic articles on her blog several years ago. But it all went away when she claimed that she had been hacked. Yes, hacked. Those terribly inappropriate insults published on her blog under her name? Woops, not I, said the journalist! Joy Reid took her denial so far as to claim without evidence that the FBI was investigating the hacking of her website. How did she get away with this? Because fact checkers don’t fact check their friends, as Cernovich says.
Rather than apologize . . . [Joy] Reid lie. She claimed her blog had been hacked!
Time travelers, perhaps from Russia, planted offensive content on her blog. Yet her hacking tale quickly fell apart.
In life, your wins can be your losses. In Reid’s case, the Library of Congress had made the decision to archive her blog years ago. This was a high honor, and also a back-up of her blog.
For Reid’s story to be true, the Library of Congress would have had to have been hacked.
Bestselling author Scott Adams has a useful little principle that applies here. In a complex situation where there’s a huge upside to lying or otherwise taking advantage of a situation and little chance of getting caught, almost one hundred percent of the time, people lie.
The lesson authors can draw from Hacked Like Joy Reid fake news is that we need to fact check our own manuscripts, not rely on an editor, literary agent, or publishing house editor to do it for us. And if for any reason it turns out you were wrong about something, own it. It’s the right thing to do. Don’t claim someone hacked you like Joy Reid.
A third form of fake news that Hoaxed torpedos is the “Credibly Accused” frame. Journalists use this technique when they want the public to feel a certain way about a story before presenting any of the facts. It’s classic Pre-suasion, the Robert Cialdini term for getting people to agree with your message before it’s been sent. Pretty clever. Think about the “credibly accused” United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh or the “credibly accused” former Vice President Joe Biden, both of whom have grappled with #MeToo accusations.
When news broke of an accusation of misconduct made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, so-called journalists all seemed to use the same language patterns and talking points.
You can find thousands of instances where this same [“credibly accused”] talked point is repeated over and over again.
Can I credibly accuse the media of colluding with each other to get their talking points in order?
What does that label “credibly accused” do? It pre-suades you to conclude they’re probably guilty before you know anything else about the accuser, the event, or the accused’s response. The story is framed, and the conclusion all but settled. The facts are an afterthought.
So what’s the application for authors? The corporate press uses the Credibly Accused persuasion cheat code to defend the version of a story they’ve decided is true. But you can use this trick for good, even if you’re writing about health, personal development, or business instead of about news. You can set up how you want readers to think, feel, and act on what you’re about to say in your book before you say it.
Let me give you an example of effective pre-suasion from one of my client’s books. Mass Persuasion Method by Bushra Azhar was ranked by Book Authority voters including Warren Buffett, Tim Ferriss, and Jim Collins as the number-three best persuasion book of all time.
The reason this book works so well to convert readers into paying customers for the author is that people make it all the way through the book. And we got her audience of super-busy entrepreneurs to actually finish the book with this killer example of Pre-suasion:
. . . this little book is written with you in mind—or more specifically, that unspoken “Do Not Waste My Time Or I Will Cut You” policy most of us wish we could implement. That’s why I kept this book as short as I could. The content is laid out so it’s all easy to read. . .
If you’re used to reading business books that go on and on and take 847 pages to get to the point, you read these lines and think, Woah . . . this lady respects my time. So I’m going to respect hers—and read the whole damn book.
How can you use your new knowledge of these three forms of fake news to pull readers into your book, back up your claims, persuade them to adopt your ideas, and propel them to take massive, decisive action? Let me know in the comments below.
Then check out my interview with Bushra Azhar, where we go behind the scenes and talk about how we drafted Mass Persuasion Method to become the acclaimed book it is today.
And, of course, grab your copy of Hoaxed by Mike Cernovich. Choose your version here: