The Firehose of Falsehood

The firehose of falsehood, or firehosing, is a propaganda technique in which a large number of messages are broadcast rapidly, repetitively, and continuously over multiple channels (such as news and social media) without regard for truth or consistency.

Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews offer a few reasons, which include the Spacing effect (that information is better recalled if exposure to it is repeated over a long span of time rather than a short one), in this RAND Corporation article.

A couple more biases I’ve noticed are implicated in firehosing include:

  • Availability cascade – a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).
  • Attentional bias – the tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts.

If you like to learn via video or can’t see to read the article above, Carlos Maza of Vox’s StrikeThrough will tell you about firehosing:

One aspect of firehosing stands out to me, though… the use of reporting and recording methods cuts both ways: it can help disseminate lies en masse, but it also gets them down for posterity.

That allows for opposition, even prosecution.

It creates evidence of the lies & inconsistencies.

Therein lies an opening for the liar to be confronted with their lies & given a chance to either make amends, be confirmed as a liar, or look foolishly obstinate.

I wonder, though… what else can be done to combat the firehose of falsehood?