There is something that keeps gnawing at me. At first I couldn’t define it. But it was important enough, at least to me, to put it on paper, hoping I would be led to the answer. When I saw this particular headline, although I knew that I was going to write about this particular subject, the impetus grew to speak on this.
There is something dangerously afoot among us. It’s tasteless, odorless, you can’t really see it. But it’s there. Maybe it’s just in our heads. Maybe just in mine. I wonder how we got here. Here is where we spend more time writing our thoughts in electronic short hand, using one hundred forty character sound bytes. Here is where we rather look at a tiny screen than up at each other. Here is where more and more we each see ourselves as the only person in the universe; our thoughts as the singular important source of what the truth is and any information we receive must assimilate to that truth or be destroyed. Here is where we think meanness, bullying or violence is a must-have element when we hawk toilet tissue, candy or cell phone service during television prime time…or play games using that little tiny screen of our hand-held universe. Here is where we are bombarded with a cacophony of information, misinformation, calculated opinion shaped to look like information, non-reality reality, outright lies and straight-faced deception. Here is where we look to a comedian on the comedy channel for news, while a commentator – who tells his viewers they are idiots if they take what he says as gospel – is a purveyor of misinformation to a willing mass of U.S. citizens.
It is said that if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. Or at least that’s what someone(s) wants you to think.
We buy into it. We do. We seek the shortcut to the latest news, the most popular opinion, the latest public train wreck in entertainment…or politics. We type, tweet, talk in typed code, no longer caring if words are spelled with any accuracy or used in context. A friend told me that one day he overheard kids asking each other what a dictionary was. (I’m assuming your kids know, right?) If you convey a thought in writing, you have to summarize it in two or three sentences or readers will skip to the next comment. Immediate images that entertain or horrify us show up on the internet and go viral. More and more people take to using the social medias as a mechanism through which they taunt, attack, bully and/or ridicule the beliefs, opinions, and physical characteristics of public figures and absolute strangers, while hiding in cowardly anonymity behind the computer screen. We pass along what we think is information, or at least looks like something we agree with, with the click of a button, not bothering to read the link we just passed along, completely trusting in the person or group who sent us the message. After all, they think as you or I do, right? Right? The reality is, with the barrage of information we’ve become mentally catatonic, neglecting the nurturing of our core beliefs and values. We are literally losing our minds, relinquishing them to those who have other plans for their control, use and maintenance. Think this is an extreme theory? Keep reading.
We, each of us, have general or specific biases influencing how we process information and retain or reject ideologies. No one has an identical prism through which he or she sees things the way another person does. That’s why siblings can grow up in the same household, yet have very different perspectives of what that experience was like and how it affected them. According to changingminds.org “People will tend to accept any and all conclusions that fit in with their systems of belief, without challenge or any deep consideration of what they are actually agreeing with. The reverse is also true, and people will tend to reject assertions that do not fit in with their belief systems, even though these statements may be perfectly logical and arguably possible. This is particularly true when people ignore the premises and focus solely on the conclusions being drawn. It is even truer of people who are not educated in logic and argumentation, as such people reason by experience and not at all by logic. When trying to influence the belief set of others, don’t try to persuade them with pure logic, when you are talking about things that are outside their beliefs. The converse is also true: If you argue within their belief system then you can persuade them of things that are not strictly true.”
Politicians and pundits. Corporate media and moguls. People with access to public microphones and publications. All wanting to influence the minds of the masses in order to fulfill one agenda or another. Seemingly innocuous comment here, singular insinuation there. A constant influx of commentary, commercials and castigating vitriol, like water dripping on a stone, wearing us down, drop by drop. The worry I have is that today’s technology together with our humanness is the perfect storm for mind control through propaganda. If you think propaganda and mind control/brainwashing isn’t probable in the twenty-first century, think again. It’s time to wake up.
When most think of propaganda, they think of China, Gaddafi, or Hitler and the notion of history repeating itself, especially in the land of the free. is scary. Most believe the possibility is far-fetched, tin-foil hat paranoia. But what is propaganda, really? The dictionary defines propaganda as:
“1.information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. 2.the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc. 3.the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement. 4.Roman Catholic Church: a) a committee of cardinals, established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, having supervision over foreign missions and the training of priests for these missions. b) a school (College of Propaganda) established by Pope Urban VIII for the education of priests for foreign missions.”
There is a psychological theory called cognitive dissonance. We each have beliefs that we accept because they were taught from childhood; an unquestioned legacy, from experience, or from open-minded education — which is a conscious effort to reevaluate and test existing paradigms. When we believe something, whether it’s about ourselves or other people, and something occurs that is the opposite of those beliefs, we become uncomfortable experiencing anything that conflicts with those beliefs. “The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action, thus, to release the tension we take one of three actions:
- Change our behavior.
- Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting thought.
- Justify our behavior by adding new thoughts.
Cognitive dissonance is central to many forms of persuasion to change beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors. The tension can be injected suddenly or allowed to build up over time. People can be moved in many small jumps or one large one.” (source: www.changingminds.org)
Here’s a real time example: President Obama is an African American, Christian, highly intelligent man with a law degree from Harvard, graduating magna cum laude and was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Many people in the United States believe the stereotypical views of what defines an African American, i.e., stupid, lazy, evil, angry, corrupt, et al. Therefore President Obama is not an African American, in spite of the facts and credible evidence. Hence we have the Birthers who are obsessed with proving what’s not provable because there is nothing to change the facts. If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, or so they believe.
It is equally fascinating to read how there was a brief effort, after President Obama’s inauguration, to prove that he was actually an Anglo, how in spite of the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to support the myth, the same people think the President is of the Muslim faith, and therefore is a terrorist, because all Muslims are terrorists. Here is a hint for those not understanding the Muslim faith: If one is Muslim, one cannot and does not claim to be of any other religious faith.
Adjunct to cognitive dissonance is counter attitudinal advocacy. Sometimes people will state an opinion or otherwise support a point of view that is actually against their own beliefs. Especially when they can benefit from it. A covert manipulation tactic. An example: you get people to agree with you, perhaps on a small point, about something with which you want to persuade them. Ensure there is no significant external justification. Continue to gain agreement on subsequent points. After a while, their beliefs will change. Think frog on a hot plate.
Another real time example: A woman decides to build an online publication to sell at a huge profit. In order to sell the publication, she creates the perception that she is liberal and it is a liberal-leaning publication where people can comment on the events of the presidential campaign and other newsworthy articles, growing its readership into the millions, with advertisers forming a long line with checkbooks in hand. Post-election, the voice of the publication slowly begins to change, shifting decidedly to the right. Commenting bloggers find their daily/hourly entries are being moderated and eliminated when they didn’t fit the new meme. The dissonance was internalized. I was, in fact, relieved to find out other bloggers felt the same way. Soon after, it was announced that the publication was sold to a conservative right wing corporation with a penchant for publishing articles that instigated comments from their base that were openly radical and racist. Further, deeper investigation showed that prior to the presidential election, she was always a conservative. While the publication’s readership is shifting, as many realize what the publication is becoming and who is being hired to write for it, some of us haven’t made the leap yet, still believing the publication will return to what it once was. The reality? We were punked and she profits. It will be no surprise to see the publication veer decidedly to the right, offering more journalism provocateur in exchange for more clicks on its articles.
African Americans. defined as people of color and African descent whose ancestry includes those brought into the United States as slaves, have other enemies to fight in the form of propaganda. We have been both complacent and complicit as we sit on the sidelines, just inside the parameters of our mental plantations. For, well, ever, we have asked for permission to choose what we believe, how we think, what we should or shouldn’t buy, where we should or shouldn’t go, how we should or shouldn’t define ourselves. When the many African Americans chose to vote for Barack Hussein Obama as U.S. President, that decision was the talk of corporate media and political pundits. Blacks came off their social/mental plantation and made a decision without permission. Our choice was dismissed and denigrated as being “an emotional decision” or as one as though we were nothing more than silly children who didn’t know any better than to choose someone based on the color of his skin. Never mind the fact that many didn’t vote for Jesse Jackson when he ran for president, or that African Americans comprise only thirteen percent of the U.S. population. Never mind the fact that the use of social media gave us direct, even immediate, access to more information outside of the usual sources provided by news shows and networks. Never mind that in spite of the stereotypes that are consistently emphasized, caricatured, demonized in the media, the majority of African Americans are educated, intelligent, hard-working, creative, moral people. The inherent and repeated message is that we made a mistake, we were wrong, we were brainwashed, that we needed to be defined; we are not qualified to make good choices in important matters and most importantly we made the decision without their permission.
In the years after the President Obama’s inauguration, main street was bombarded with insinuations, unfounded allegations, a protracted temper tantrum that was designed to wear down the masses, including you and me. Wearied, we became apathetic. Like parents who give in to the screaming tantrums of spoiled children just to stop the noise, we stayed on the sidelines during the 2010 elections, not voting, assuming the usual passive position, just to get a temporary moment of peace. And here we are. Unbelievably, I just received a Facebook comment an hour ago in which a person said the following in response to the subject of debate: “…if that’s the case perhaps it’s best to just leave things well enough alone. People may not be interested in change, nothing anyone or any letter can do about that…“ Yes, let’s continue to ignore critical matters that affect our communities and country, while we worry over the latest occurrence on the non-reality reality shows or what some above-the-law actor is doing to feed his or her addiction to media attention.
Now I get what’s bugging me. If we, as individuals, don’t put down the remote and the joysticks for a few minutes and pay attention to what’s really going on around us, then we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome when it’s too late to do anything about it. If you are willing to consider the notion that I might be on to something, do this:
1. When you are being covertly or overtly defined by others and/or you are asked to do things about which you have no clear view, ask yourself what they could gain by your believing something about yourself in this particular situation.
2. When you are listening to or reading the debates between opposing entities – whether you side with one or the other — think not only whether something ‘makes sense’, objectively consider whether it is possible or true. It either side cannot come to the table with facts to support their point of view, you have to ask yourself why you would believe it’s true?
3. Pay attention to evidence. Avoid ignoring what you see, just because you’ve already made up your mind. Irrefutable facts are hard to deny, even when they make you uncomfortable.
4. When you feel conflicted or uncomfortable about a choice you’ve made, ask yourself is it because someone else has created that conflict for you? Is that what always happens when you aren’t compliant? Then the likelihood is that the problem isn’t you, it’s the person or persons defining you on their terms.
5. When you reach a conclusion that is irrefutably the truth, have the courage to stand up for it, don’t stand by waiting…on the sidelines…for someone else to do it. No one else is coming. “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” — Albert Einstein
TRUTH: “Often the truth is looking us dead in the face, yet we look the other 0way for what we want, as opposed to what we need. We sit, settle and soak in the company of self pity and misery for too long, inevitably peddling that safety and security towards an untimely doom and demise. Nothing more dangerous than a lie than the ones who “lie” around and close their eyes in it.” ~ Kerry E. Wagner, author
Enough said. The next move is yours.