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Reciprocal Citation to Turn Lies into Socially Constructed “Truths” (which are still lies, no matter how often repeated)

November 10, 2010

Following up on yesterday’s posting, today I want to discuss a phenomenon resulting from the postmodernist notion that “truth” is socially constructed. The problem with that, of course, is that the truth remains the truth, no matter how many times lies are repeated, but repeating lies and what Nancy Polikoff is calling reciprocal citation is a variation on a classic propaganda tactic of repeating lies to the point where they become believed.

Reciprocal citation is a tactic that is frequently used in internet smear campaigns and Google bombing. A blatantly false article is published somewhere in the internet. This could be on a blog or on some other website that posts articles by anyone who submits them. The article is then repeatedly linked to in various places throughout the internet — it really doesn’t matter where it is posted, if it is done often enough the lie will rise in Google’s rankings to the point where it can appear on the first page of a Google search in the target’s name. This tactic has been used to repeat numerous lies about me, that I am being sued when in fact I have not been served with any legal papers and have yet to see any evidence of this (I am a victim of internet defamation, not a perpetrator), the lie that I was fired from FSU when, in fact, I graduated and left in good standing in every way. Even though I can prove the truth, the lie gets repeated so often that it has an influence on people.  Once the article is posted, it gets “cited” by links being posted on various public newsgroups. One of the main newsgroup hosts is Google Groups and this gets the lie to come up on Google searches of a person’s name. What happens is that anonymous people post under various pseudonyms (called sock puppets) to create the impression of widespread agreement, when it is really a few individuals with a vendetta and possibly cyber thugs they have hired. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support the lies, the fact they are repeated so often leads people, especially people who lack good critical thinking skills to conclude that where there is smoke, there must be fire.

This same tactic can also be used to promote novel unsupported therapies. In the October, 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology, psychologists Gerald Rosen and Gerald Davidson dubbed this phenomenon, echo attributions. The issue featured studies on Thought Field Therapy that were published under special circumstances and had not been peer reviewed. The studies were published with critical reviews alongside them that indicated that had they been peer reviewed, it is highly unlikely they would ever have been accepted for publication in a reputable peer reviewed journal. Nevertheless, this opened the door for TFT proponents to now cite their “research” that was “published” in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Yes, it was published but readers would erroneously assume that this means peer reviewed when they were not and when the articles were listed in databases such as PsychInfo, unless the person doing the search obtained the actual article, they would have no way of knowing of the special circumstances under which the articles were published.

Although in the case of TFT, Googling the terms “Thought Field Therapy” and “Journal of Clinical Psychology” does, thanks to the diligence of critics, bring out the truth about this special issue of the journal, one can also see websites here and here (this one states it was a “special issue” but neglects to mention that this means they were not peer reviewed and neglects to mention that the reviews that accompanied each article were highly negative and critical saying they would not have been published under ordinary peer review) and that fail to describe these special circumstances, leading people to believe that these studies were published under normal, peer reviewed circumstances, which would be the default assumption most people would make, were they not informed of the nature of the special issue.

Here we see that this tactic of repetition of lies or half truths can be used both for positive promotion and propaganda.

The lesson to be learned here is that with the advent of the internet, this repetition of lies, although not a new tactic, becomes something that can be spread much more quickly and it is a tactic that people need to be made aware of. Just because something is repeated often, does not make it true. It seems obvious but because the postmodernist philosophy of no objective reality and only social construction, the truth has come to be meaningless in some circles. The antidote is a philosophy based on reality, reason and science.

Truth remains the truth, regardless of how many times lies are repeated and it is my belief that lies will eventually backfire and reality will come back to bite the liars as nature and its consequences take their course.

P.S.: My cybersmearers have jumped to yet another unwarranted conclusion, that I am unemployed, another endlessly repeated lie about me, but then again this is hardly surprising given the all the unwarranted conclusions they have jumped to with regard to the unsupported therapies they promote.

Hint: The fact that I have not yet found a tenure track position does not mean that I am unemployed. There are plenty of other ways someone with my background and skill sets can legally earn a living. There are many people who are employed and blog frequently. Just look at Orac.

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