Sadly, and basically true many false generalizations stalk our land, making no distinctions whatsoever between diverse people and institutions, lumping them instead into one steaming mass. Naturally, we all generalize to some degree, it certainly makes life simpler. There is no need to examine every cow to be confident that cows produce milk. As debate taught me in University, such is the nature of inductive argument.
Notwithstanding, the type of which I am discussing is of the sort that saves us from having to think about who or what is staring us in the eyes. Yes, the type that leans much too heavily on the ready-made template in the mind, the one which neatly inserts itself between ourselves and the world out there. The template that takes whatever streams through, and kneads and massages it until it conforms to what we already “know,” however far from reality that may be.
Tell us that the guy over there is a politician, and all politicians are crooked, that this guy here is a reporter, and all reporters are lying bums, etc.
Nevertheless, at this moment in our national life, it is critical that we place our old grey matter into the ring once again and actually engage with what we hear, and read and are told, and not lazily front it with our existing preconceived notions.
That we immediately ask ourselves, how do I know this is right? Where did I get this? Is this a reliable source? And, critically, could I be wrong?
With no effort to appear as the portender of doom , but these are questions that we fail to ask ourselves, as much as we should these days. We prefer to meet the uncomfortable information flowing in with old, shopworn ideas and twist and turn and bend until the resulting pretzel meets the desired shape. Yes, it is good to be skeptical of what we hear and read and see. But to scream, “it’s all a pack of media lies” at a story because you just do not like it is as dumb as it gets. It is lazy. It is the knee-jerk reaction at its knee-jerkiest.
WE can see it happening in real time. A terrible event occurs, and people scramble to lay the blame at the feet of the other guys. The possibility that the blamers themselves may have something to do with it in some way is not possible. The event itself immediately becomes almost forgotten in the din of political bickering.
I know of too many clever people who have assembled false narratives — people who may wish to draw us into their orbit and present a version of an event tailored to meet the leanings of their demographic, instead of simply telling us what actually happened.
How does that serve anybody? Yes, we all know that the press is held in lower esteem these days than fresh cow’s pat. No denying, much of the criticism of the press today is justified. How often do we hear “the media” delivered with a sneer?
But turning away from certain issues to push a firehose of misinformation down one’s throat is no answer. Can we not see where alternative facts are leading us all?
The reaction to the recent attack on the Prime Minister of Canada is a case in point. Shortly after the story of his separation broke, I watched in dismay as a swarm of haters rushed to begin the twisting process. In a flash, it was about “a gay tryst”, gone bad., “pink shirt boy”. Those Liberals had ginned it up to garner sympathy before the election blah blah blah.
People on systems like Facebook are increasingly forming into ‘echo chambers’ of those who think alike. They will keep unfriending those who fail / refuse to thinklike them , and passing on rumors and fake news that agrees with their point of view. Too many groups gain power through the proliferation of inaccurate or misleading information. When there is value in misinformation, it will rule.
The battle between information and disinformation is causing enormous harm to our nation. Streams of disinformation on all sorts of mass media and social media outlets have amplified social divisions and polarization owing to political wars of attrition.
Truth is not always comfortable. Truth is not the property of any one faction. However, I cannot automatically dirk a story in the ribs and call it “fake news” because it came from x news outlet, and fails to comport with my world view.
And neither should any thinking person. Remember if you utter sense to a fool he will call you foolish.
Aleuta continua — The struggle continues.