Fake News Project Idea

Faking the News

10 Sep 2018

Background: After the class discussion about what Fake News is and its role as a vehicle for political disruption, I was quite interested in its commercial usage - specifically how companies leverage fake news to sell products. While advertising has been a part of the public sphere for a couple of centuries, fake news rose to greater prominence within this function in the past century with the influence of Edward Bernays, an Austrian-American propagandist. Bernays was a pioneer of public-relations by applying political propaganda principles for companies.

Edward Bernay is notable for his work in the tobacco industry where he created campaigns to target women. He promoted the ideal of thinness and the social necessity of keeping cigarettes on hand. Bernay used a scientific approach to adwork, coining the term engineering of consent:

This phrase quite simply means the use of an engineering approach—that is, action based only on thorough knowledge of the situation and on the application of scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programs.

While Bernay has long passed away, his work continues to play a huge role in the public relations world as well as in the tobacco industry. Notably, the tobacco industry continue to dispute the scientific consensus of the health risks attributed to smoking. They continue a legal and scientific disinformation campaign to disrupt the public response to health risks posed by cigarettes.

Proposal: Using Bernay’s work in engineering of consent and the work tobacco industry’s advertising as a model, I would like to create a Kickstarter campaign for a product that is widely accepted as socially unacceptable, unhealthy, or technologically inaccurate. To achieve this public foolery, I would like to design a believable product and create marketing materials. Materials will include pseudo-scientific papers inspired by Dr. Emoto’s My Positive Water.

In addition to scientific papers I will create news articles to further substantiate and legitimize the product. This is a riff of Power Balance’s claim that Former US President Bill Clinton wears a Power Bracelet.

Through this project I hope to highlight the methods companies use to falsely promote their products as well as how receptive the public is to media messaging. I specifically would like to use a platform such as Kickstarter to demonstrate how the public will fund their own trickery.