The Ayurvedic Angle on Fake News

New research shows that the more confident you are in determining what is fake, the more likely you are to be duped. Here, Ayurvedic principles to help you navigate divisive media.

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Can You Tell Fake News From Real News?

Most Americans believe fake news is a real thing, but most don’t think they themselves have seen or read fake news, according to research published in the prestigious Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers set out to determine if the average American could distinguish between real and fake news. They wanted to know if the public is susceptible to false news and, if so, is this susceptibility due to the public’s inability to recognize their own shortcomings when it comes to distinguishing the real from the non-real?

The study, conducted at the University of Utah, polled more than 8,000 people through two major national survey companies. Study participants were asked to evaluate the accuracy of a series of Facebook post headlines and then rate their own ability to determine the false information from the real.

The results were concerning! The researchers found that most may not be skilled at determining what is actually real or fake. About 90 percent of the public surveyed reported that they were above average at their ability to distinguish between real and fake news, when in fact most of them were unable to make that distinction.

Seventy-five percent of study participants perceived their accuracy to be 22 percentage points higher than it actual was and 20 % rated themselves 50 percentage points higher than their actual score.

Upon further investigation into the online behavior of respondents, researchers found that those who overrated their ability to discern fake news from real news more commonly visited websites known to publish misleading information. The overconfident group was also more likely and willing to share the false content, particularly when that news aligned with their political beliefs.

Earlier research has found that even though many folks believe they are a good judge of real or fake news, they are swayed by browsing habits that re-enforces their pre-conditioned beliefs. While this is true, the current study makes the case that being overconfident that you are a good judge of news content makes you more susceptible to consuming and sharing fake news.

See also The Purusharthas: Ayurveda’s Road Map for Finding the Meaning of Life

The Ayurvedic Perspective on Fake News

According to Ayurveda’s primary textbook, the Caraka Samhita, the cause of disease, epidemics, drought, pollution, crop failure, and even climate change (to a degree) is corruption at the highest levels of government. Corruption, lies, fake news, and propaganda feed greed, which then infects society—and the earth:

“When the Heads of country, city, guild, and community have transgressed the virtuous path and deal unrighteously with the people, their officers and subordinates, the people of the city and community, and merchants carry this unrighteousness further.

Thus, the unrighteousness puts pressure on and forces righteousness to disappear. Then the people with righteousness, having disappeared, are abandoned even by the Gods. Consequently, when righteousness has disappeared, unrighteousness has the upper hand and the Gods have deserted the place, the seasons get affected and, because of this, it does not rain on time or at all. There is abnormal rainfall, winds do not blow properly, the land is affected, water reservoirs are dried up, and herbs, giving up their natural properties, acquire morbidity or die. Then epidemics break out due to polluted environment and food. (Ch. 3. Verse 20)

The Caraka Samhita was written 2,500 years ago—but no doubt serves as a warning for our time!

This study gives us pause! Most of us are likely convinced that the news we are receiving is real, but science tells us that the more you believe that more we should be questioning our beliefs.

One possible strategy to help us unite and vet news better is to expose ourselves to the news on the other side of the belief system. The best way to know your enemy is to listen and understand why the other side believes what they do. It might be a challenge, but if you are a CNN watcher, try watching some Fox News, and visa-versa. If you listen to conservative radio, try opening up to being exposed to how the liberal side thinks and tune into a liberal station. You may find that we all want much of the same, or, at the very least, that there is more that unites us in our beliefs than divides us.

See also Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom on Epidemics

15 thoughts on “The Ayurvedic Angle on Fake News”

  1. Thank you for this perspective on what is happening! I have often wondered what the Ayurvedic understanding of current world events might be. The wisdom of Ayurveda blows me away every time. I pray for humans to return to our place in/with/as the rhythm and cycles of Nature.

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  2. At the height of the pandemic in 2020 when I was at home because of the lockdown, I had time to watch the president’s daily briefing. After the LIVE briefing I purposely checked CNN vs FOX to compare how they reported it. Fake news is real!

    At that time I had a friend who only watched CNN so her opinions were based on that channel’s report, believing it to be true. I had seen the LIVE event, the CNN report and the FOX report so I knew that she was basing her opinions on false information … it’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.

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    • Remember – the more confident a person is at spotting fake news, the more likely they are to be duped. The fact that you “knew her opinions were false is filtered through your own bias. From the way you initially perceived the briefings to the way you saw them interpreted is filtered through what you already believe to be true – therefore biased.

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  3. Great article and thank you. The key point that stood out to me was “unite,” because to me it seems that most of what may be “fake news” appears to be made up of some truth and some lies, which of course is the function of propaganda but at the heart of them seem to be focused on division. The strong suggestion that you make is a great anti-fake-news-weapon, which is to communicate with one another and look at both sides of an issue. By listening and analyzing both sides, we can truthfully close the chasm that results from any agenda that seeks to divide us from one another. We may not like what someone has to say but if we truly, want to love one another then we have a responsibility to hear what their hearts want to say. I guess it’s really about mutual respect for one another and if we lose that, then we have lost ourselves.

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  4. Fake news isn’t just the people reporting it. It’s the people in our highest government offices saying it because there is always an alterior motive. They tell us whatever they want to get us to do what they want. Master manipulators.

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  5. Great topic and article! Independent researches offer critical perspective contrasting tsunami of corporate (left & right) propaganda flooding all mainstream news outlets.
    The Last American Vagabond – Ryan Christian and Unlimited Hangout – Whitney Webb can both be found on Rokfin.

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  6. How do we know the researchers knew what was fake or not? All mainstream media news is littered with false or misleading information to push an agenda. Journalists on TV don’t actually practice journalism anymore. They either read what they’re told to read, spin the story or editorialize.

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    • If you read the article, the 8300 participants were responding to Facebook headlines. It’s ridiculously easy to obtain false headlines on Facebook. It’s also easy to research whether headlines are factual or not. If nothing else, Snopes and Factcheck are available resources.

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  7. My 7 rules for surviving the craziness that is the Internet now. It’s a mix of critical thinking, statistics and knowledge of software/user experience practices:

    1. Read boring news sites like Wall Street Journal or Reuters. You want to shoot for headlines that create very little emotional reaction. It’s not perfect or without some bias. But just compare the hyped up content you get from CNN, Google News or Fox’s home pages to the calm presentation of WSJ.
    2. Understand the difference between causation and correlation, and basic statistics.
    3. Understand the limits and strengths of the scientific method, and modern medical approaches. Any side that completely denounces the other is naive and cannot be reasoned with or hold an honest conversation.
    4. Do not confuse incompetence with malice – many people in government and industry are trying their best but they make mistakes or have their own biases. No one ever sets out to be the villain, and the road to hell is often paved with good intentions from both political sides. I think this is a key to patience and listening.
    5. Be gracious to anyone who, with limited technical ability, thinks they can use Google to uncover conspiracies and government secrets. They are most likely scared or need a real-life friend. You could be that lifeline pulling them out of the darkness and reminding them of rule 4.
    6. Stay as far away from Facebook, Google News, and Apple News as possible. They are designed to be a dopamine trap filled with fear-mongering junk.
    7. Remember the news has always been ridiculously ripe for bias. Go back to political ads in the 1700s and 1800s. They were hilariously skewed and filled with outright lies and personal accusations. Nothing new now except the broader and faster distribution – and the illusion that our information is “better” now.

    I don’t think it’s possible for us to be purely rational beings, but removing unnecessary emotional stimulus seems to be a common thread in these. I hope this helps someone else too!

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  8. Good article!
    I agree. The powers that be, are working very hard to divide us. I believe I have heard the phrase divide and conquer.
    We need to listen and come together. We may not all agree, but if we are Civilly communicating
    we have hope to fix whatever comes..

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