Since we think with stories, everyone communicates with them. They’re necessary for influencing others, the basis for how we feel about things, and why we ever start changing.

Stories that are grounded in reality (or, at least, when we believe them to be reality) have far more influence over us than fiction. A fictional story is strictly the domain of imagination, but a real story implies that consequences will likely repeat themselves.

To effectively convey a story, a storyteller must have a value they’re trying to prove, and their effectiveness is in how much they can get their audience to believe them.

Not Present

Gossiping is talking about someone else when they’re not present. It usually has a negative implication to it, mostly because it’s sharing information power without permission, but many cultures consider it an acceptable form of punishment for breaking social rules.

Since people can’t know precisely what the subject of their gossip is doing at that moment, gossip typically describes what another person has done, but can also include what they plan to do or are likely doing.

We gossip for various reasons:

  • We can gain power through additional knowledge of someone.
  • We’re afraid of someone’s reaction if we told them something or did something.
  • We want to do things without someone knowing.
  • We have more interest in the people we’re referring to than the people we’re with.
  • We specifically care more about our connection with the people we’re with than the people we discuss.


Each person is sharing a story through the medium of their speaking or recordings, so their story is at least one degree removed from the facts than if we had perceived it firsthand. Typically, the more simple the story, the less true it was.

Some people or groups make a career of sharing these stories. They can do this from one of several avenues:

  1. The authority in charge wants someone to spread information, sometimes as if it were an independent perspective.
  2. Enough people are willing to pay someone who will deliver gossip.

In the case of both, they often have a good reason to be influential. A dull restatement of the facts typically doesn’t resonate as heavily as a sensational story, so there’s always a spin to the story that oversimplifies the truth and dramatizes certain elements of reality.

In a fast-paced society, one of the easiest methods to create the greatest marketing results is to employ A/B testing. By sending two alternating versions of the same headline to people who encounter it and measuring responses, creators can keep testing which information creates the greatest emotional reaction.

Unfortunately, the most intense emotional reaction is usually wrong because it’s also simple. Revising facts to provoke feelings (frequently to gain power from a large organization or from large demographic groups via popularity) can also falsely defame or venerate someone. When used correctly, language can redirect the image of power to intentionally favor or shame specific people.

Further, even by simply stating facts, the proportion of stated information can still distort what things look like. Making 100 articles about an incident and only 1 about the events leading up to the incident, for example, can make the incident feel more severe without the context of its surrounding events. Even when they say they’re stating the truth and the statements they make are true, the production values often embellish the truth or avoid saying other things that are just as relevant.

Naturally, a masterful image manager can make themselves look more authoritative. The natural trust people give large groups makes large-scale “news outlets” sound reputable, even when they haven’t proven their reputation’s trustworthiness. This maintains itself because they build stories designed to confirm the audience’s bias.


Irrespective of their factual truth, stories can give meaning, so their characters have a tendency to appear “living”. A creator with few to no constraints (e.g., unlimited license to express, unlimited budget) will create a predictable trend:

  1. The story will significantly expand itself to the point that the main character is lost in a much larger world.
  2. Derivative and parallel works will arise that expand smaller characters’ roles into altogether new content.
  3. Eventually, “nonfiction” fiction will arise to authoritatively clarify certain plot elements that may risk shifting (from either fan interpretation or multiple creators).
  4. The work will continue until it’s a disjointed mess of content across many media, and it becomes needlessly burdensome to watch/read/play all of it.

As a story develops from a tale into a saga, it will grow to disinterest people as they see discrepancies in logic (i.e., plot holes) and that it’ll never technically end.

If spoken frequently enough and long enough, stories about real things tend to become the “truth“, even if they never happened.

Legendary People

When a person becomes a story, they’re officially a “celebrity”. At that point, they’re simply a well-groomed image designed to evoke strong feelings and beliefs.

Anytime we only hear about someone but don’t have a personal connection with them, they’re nothing but a story. While a person ages, changes, and is prone to errors and silly behaviors, but the myth transcends that person and will often persist long after that person has died.

Every large group leader is some form of celebrity. Successful leaders must always maintain some aspect of their celebrity status to have long-distance influence with their group.

Often, if a creation becomes extremely popular, the creator becomes a separate legend entirely, especially if they have a unique personality. Clever creators keep their creations close to their natural identity (e.g., by calling their character’s name their given name) to prevent themselves from becoming a stereotype.

A large group can often work very hard at maintaining a myth of a person. While an organization is an unfeeling combination of relatively similar people, a dramatic performer is easier to tailor and market as a “mascot”, which can imply they lead and direct that organization.

Old Tales

The people who define the world’s style are between their 30s and 50s. Since they weren’t cynical about things when they were adolescents but old enough to recognize what they were experiencing, they remember that media as the “best”. For that reason, the style of just about every mainstream media employs a wave of nostalgic style based on trends that hit about 20 years prior.

Today’s news, after enough time, becomes a historical record. Historians in a free society have less reason to skew the story, but they still advance religious or political causes just as frequently, and they frequently miss the context of the original creation.

Often, old information drifts back into public awareness, but with less context about the original culture. Sometimes it’s a lack of information, but other times revisionists will adapt the story to fit the fashions of the present time:

  • The American story of Thanksgiving was originally an anti-leftist message, not simply an act of generosity on the Native American’s part.
  • Christmas traditions are borrowed from dozens of sources across the last few thousand years, and most of the traditions’ origins are not Christian.
  • People have not believed the Earth was flat since ancient Greece, with the notable exception of a political push during the Protestant Reformation, so Christopher Columbus didn’t prove it to anyone.
  • Across most written history, the average lifespan of 30 included infant mortality, so everyone who lived past their 5th birthday typically lived until about 65.

Often, those misconceptions become popular culture upon other media that reference it:

  • Greek statues were brightly colored, but the paint chipped off.
  • The dinosaurs may have had feathers or fur.
  • Elaborate clothing like feathered hats, buckled shoes, decorative uniforms, long dresses, and bright ornaments were only for special occasions. Most of the time, everyone except royalty wore standard clothes.

However, we enjoy the spectacle and tend to like what we feel more than reality, so the myths will always propagate.

Often, we’ll venerate an old story (e.g., John D. Rockefeller) and condemn a currently developing one (e.g., Donald J. Trump).

People frequently revisit old stories and old ideas, but rebuild them using different words (e.g., “grit” vs. “character” vs. “integrity”). Its practical result is that every society ends up saying pretty much the same thing while believing it’s a revolutionary new idea.


We want a story to have meaning on a grander scale, so we tend to connect stories together based on patterns we’ve experienced.

There is a political reason to add specific types of meaning and omit other types, especially in a democracy/republic political system. There are several major ways to do this:

  • When a single event happens:
    • If it matches existing prejudices, that event confirms the existing prejudice.
    • If it contradicts existing prejudices, it’s an isolated anomaly.
    • As a further step, those who draw attention to that contradiction can be portrayed as bad people.
  • When a scandal happens:
    • For an ideological opponent, the scandal is non-negotiable and requires punishment.
    • For an ideological ally, there’s constant questioning over the source of the information.
  • If an extremist of an idea exists (often to the point of violence):
    • For an ideological opponent, highlight and focus heavily on them.
    • For an ideological ally, ignore their existence.
    • As a further step, curate the environment to prevent that information from arising.


The image-based form of how we perceive means half-truths are very easy to spread and excessively difficult to disprove. Every culture has to wrestle with this reality by taking pre-emptive action.

Our intuition may oppose the distribution of shameless lies, and preventing the free publication of false information seems like a morally good action.

Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to detect which things are lies, especially since many statements have portions of truth contained within them. Far too often, extremists will say unfashionable truths that begin radical social changes.

Stifling the free expression of false stories is always a bad idea because the people who censor are essentially given full dictatorial control over the flow of ideas. The power is so significant that it’s far too tempting to abuse that power for self-interest. Given enough time, any culturally accepted censorship will lead to propaganda for a certain value system, which will eventually unbalance the culture enough to create a bad system.

At the same time, by giving the worst members of society (around 3%) the exact same room to anonymously speak as much as everyone else, they will abuse their power and tyrannically control the conversations and dialogue.

Thankfully, we’re all relatively bad at predicting how much others can be influenced (“third-person effect“). Thus, most people are quietly taking in information, but people sharing the information imply that others are way more swayed by the information than reality.


The means to communicate 1 idea powerfully is critical to conveying ideas and influencing others. If someone isn’t certain about their ideas, they’ll speak vaguely. Adding more ideas complicates others’ understanding.

News coverage and history are never exempt from political manipulation, since the ability to craft convincing stories is a tremendous form of power.

While we can gain a tiny bit of power via publicly protesting, boycotting, and writing letters, it’s rarely as much power as communicating to the public with a form of mass media (e.g., social media).

Since the news of information isn’t the information itself, a story and its implications can change very rapidly, and without notice. In retrospect, it’s clearly evident what caused it (typically through what people felt strongly about but didn’t have words to say), but it’s impossible to predict it.

The best way to discover the historical and journalistic facts are to read both sides of the story and conclude for yourself. However, it’s difficult to share those conclusions (or not share) without your own political manipulation!

The most reliable way to convey a message is through embellishing the truth. By converting the story into a mythological tale, it travels farther because it hits the emotions more. Plus, if the reality of the story is also absurd, the “fact-checkers” who oppose the story will give more weight to that story’s credibility.

We must be critical of what we hear, but also why people are saying things. Observe closely what you’re not hearing.

Most of the tales and creative works of the distant past that have survived were propaganda, parody, and designed for unsophisticated people. We lose that in translation (especially with the people who teach it), so we assume there was something more dignified about the past than there really was.

Since stories are a relatively straightforward mechanism, they’re easy to duplicate when you make a popular one. Barring the artist devoted to creating meaning, most storytellers will simply reproduce the same tired framework over and over.

If someone gains enough power telling the news, they will actually make future news events. By claiming things about public opinion or informing people about specific details, a news outlet has the power to bend the opinions of sometimes millions with a few choice words.

If you want to know what will be popular 5 years from now, it’ll probably incorporate whatever was overwhelmingly popular about 15 years ago from today.

The internet has broken the media/listener wall. Now, everyone can become a media personality with enough people interested in following it. This trend has transformed news and education forever.

If people are given power to censor, they gain tremendous power. Unless those people are held fully accountable for each censorship activity they perform, a benevolent situation will become oppressive very quickly.

Advertising mascots are an attempt to create a human face on an otherwise emotionless legal organization. People fall for the false image because it appeals to whatever sentiment a demographic prefers to associate with.

One of the advantages of exploring the cultures of the past (i.e., history) is that you have an easy viewpoint to see how they behaved and what happened from it. Though you can’t speak with them directly, you can still use your imagination to connect how they likely lived and thought. It’s easy to believe yourself superior or removed from them in some way, but never forget they were as human as you and others will see you the same way.