I try to avoid politics in this blog, because it is so divisive. The days of two politicians fighting it out on the floors of their respective houses, and sharing dinner and drinks afterward are long gone. Today, we watch two political parties (in America), eviscerate one another on television, radio, the print, and digital media.
Today, trusting the news you receive is a fool’s bet. One side says the other is evil; the other side reciprocates. Today, we need fact checking on our social media so we can feel good about the information we get on our social media feeds.
Are eggs good for us? Are carbs bad? Are fats bad? Is there climate change? Are the police racists? Is there such a thing as systemic racism? Use any of these sentences for a google search and you will read many arguments claiming one side or another. There are no definitive sources of information anymore. There is nowhere you can go to that can be considered the final authority on anything.
If you are in the U.S. or not, it is likely you have read about the riots, the police brutality, the racism, present in America. You can read about statues being torn down, people being killed, businesses burned, whole sections of towns being taken over by radicals, all while politicians watch and do nothing, leaving the helpless citizenry to fend for themselves.
You can read about strategically placed pallets of bricks, metal bars, and other “weapons” in areas where “peaceful” protests are being conducted. You can read about local governments pursuing campaigns to defund the police. You can watch radicals burn and loot businesses, destroy historic statues and monuments, all while the police watch or are “magically” not available. Insane?
What can you trust? Who can you believe? Is there any information source you can trust? Unfortunately, no. Today, you have to dig a lot deeper to get at the truth. If you lack the time or patience to seek out truth, you’ll be fooled on a daily basis. Because that is what it is about today. Fooling you to push a narrative. Deceiving you to support one political plank over another.
You can watch a video of a policeman brutalizing a citizen, only to find out later, that the original video was doctored. You can read about a particular cause you have, only to find out later that the supporters of that cause, paid off the scientists to get a result they wanted. You can follow a movement, thinking you are doing the right thing, only to find out that the money you donated is not going toward the cause, but toward political races that have nothing to do with your cause AT ALL.
There is a quote in George Orwell’s 1984. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Many folks who have never read 1984, don’t understand these quotes until they are put into context. These quotes are slogans for the totalitarian government Orwell describes.
Pay attention to the last quote and think about what I’ve described. Ignorance is strength. When you overwhelm the public with seemingly contradictory information, you gain strength over them. You gain strength because you divide them. The United States is the most divided I’ve seen in my lifetime.
How do you solve this problem? Read books. Read philosophy. Read history. Read all of it broadly. Follow arguments that are supported by facts, not feelings. Go to the source. Do not depend on anything labeled “News”. There is no news anymore. People’s opinions are not news.
This article leads me back to my post about critical thinking. Think. Read. Think. Read some more. Go to the source. Find out who supports that source. If you read an article that states that eggs are wonderful for you, find out if it was a scientific study supported by the egg industry. If someone says sugar is no problem for your health, find out if it is supported by the sugar manufacturers. You see? You can do this with any topic, be it racism, climate change, nutritional benefits of eggs, sugar, etc.
Every scientific study is supported by donations and grants. Who provided the money? What stake do they have in a given study’s results? Who gains from one result over another? Where is it published? What is their editorial process?
If you do watch the news (I don’t anymore, I only scan the news now in digital form), do your homework. Watch multiple sources of the news from both right-leaning and left-leaning sources. Typically, the truth is in the middle of these two extremes. You’ll be amazed how informed you really feel, when you think about the sources of information you are using, and how the author derived their arguments. Are their arguments based in reality or pushing some political narrative?
Here are some more examples. We were told to avoid large crowds to avoid spreading COVID-19, yet now we are seeing large crowds without social distancing protesting in our streets. If you protest the lockdown, you are wrong. If you protest police brutality and racism, you’re exempt. If you like guns, you’re a nut, unless you are taking over six blocks in Seattle or Portland. Then the guns are OK. If you think putting up a wall to curb illegal immigration is OK, you’re racist, unless you are a group of radicals putting up a wall in Seattle or Portland to protect their newly found Utopias. Welcome to the Land of Confusion. This is outright insanity, right?
In our information saturated world, we all have to be more discriminating. We have to read broadly. We have to take a look at the arguments being posed by all sides and then make a decision about who we think is right or wrong. Arguments that are not supported by fact are weak and untenable. Arguments supported by junk science or biased studies are weak and untenable.
Listen to your gut. If you read something and it is filled with emotion, insults, and outrageous claims, it is likely false. If it is filled with verifiable facts, it is more likely to be true. But don’t stop there. What facts are being used? Where were they derived from? How were those facts and figures determined? Who paid for the study that produced the facts? How are these facts being used?
It’s a lot of work to get at the truth. You have to dig, and dig, and dig some more. When you have completed this hard work, you will begin to understand how important it is to get at the truth, by thinking critically.
You can circumvent the Land of Confusion by doing this hard work. Stop accepting what you are “told” is true. Verify, dig deeper, and weigh the arguments carefully. Then make your decision. If you can’t, dig some more. You don’t know enough yet.
Until next time…