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AC/DC "Thunderstruck" malware strikes Iran nuclear facility? The birth of an illusory fact
As marketers, PR specialists and psychologists have long known, people have a tendency to believe a claim is true, simply because it is repeated often. People confuse truth with familiarity. In fact, the less they pay attention to the claims, the more likely they are to believe them (This is why tv commercials are so repetitive - classic "low involvement learning")
And much of what is "known" about Iran really consists of nothing more than bullshit that's been repeated over and over, stripped of any nuance, and asserted as truth so often that it is simply assumed to be true.
There are too many examples to list but I'm having an interesting time tracking the latest of these illusory "facts" about Iran: that Iranian nuclear sites suffered a computer virus attack which caused their computers to suddenly start playing AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" song on high volume.
The whole thing apparently started from a single email, supposedly received by a computer security expert. The expert himself wrote about this: "I'm not sure what to think about this. We can't confirm any of the details" but the media certainly wasn't going to bother with any such nuances or questions. Within a matter of a couple of hours, the new articles had dropped any sort of hedging language -- "may be" or "reportedly" etc. -- and have started asserting this "fact" as an unquestionable truth. At best, the articles contain a single throw-away sentence about the unproven status of the claims, lost amongst the following 10 paragraphs promoting speculation which is based on nothing more than the assumption that the claim is true. This report will now be with us for years and years, even if there is never any sort of confirmation.
Another recent example of this sort of media-created hype: the claim that Iranian president Ahmadinejad "bragged" about the Bulgaria bombing. That story started out with a very poorly written article in the Times of Israel, and went viral.
We also see how refutations and debunking of these sorts of claims really have no effect. By the time Nima Shirazi had debunked the claim, and shamed the Times of Israel into "correcting" the report, it was far too late. The claim had assumed fact status, through nothing but media repetition. And the same marketers, PR specialists and psychologists know that once people make up their mind about something -- particularly if they're emotionally invested in it -- they will resist any contradictory information. This is known as cognitive dissonance.
So now we see tha pattern that emerges: everyday, someone cooks up some BS about Iran, and by the time the record is "corrected" (if ever) it is too late.