It’s hard to really know things these days. We are getting information from every direction and it turns out that much of it is manipulative, designed to make our opinions swing one or the other way. But it’s not only information that is manipulating us, but also opinions from other users in networks, that turn out to be no real persons at all, but bots that are designed to make it appear as if a certain opinion is wide spread.

But how can we know ourselves when we encounter manipulative information or opinions? Of course we can research real facts, consult various news outlets, talk to more people. But this is very time consuming and demanding.

There is a simple way.

I have looked at the biggest known organized manipulations of the recent years and I have found a trait in all of them that is very easy to identify: Division.

Most organized manipulations were designed to divide people or groups of people and were trying to enforce political exponents who were advertising division. Most common examples are the influencing of opinions in the US before the Trump-Election, before the Brexit in the UK and just recently in Spain where now there is more and more evidence that Social Media bots were used to swing opinions in Catalonia for separation of Spain. Also in Germany, the right wing opinions have been reinforced by armies of Social-bots leading to a right wing party raising to power which is in favor of division between people of different races. In all these examples, the influencing itself is proven. It’s not clear who did it but Russia is suspected in all cases.

But why?

I’m not completely sure, but my theory would be: Divided people are weaker than united people. Together we are strong. We all know that. A united USA is stronger than a divided one. A united EU is stronger than a divided one. A united Spain is stronger than a divided one, and Spain is part of the EU. Division between people always weakens communities. Humanity has strived through unity.

This is what we need to be on the look out for: Someone wants division.
Whenever your encounter opinions or information which advocate division or present, obviously or hidden, division as a solution you need to be careful. It has a high chance of being manipulation.

See also: How to suspect an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.