This is Part II on the Propaganda series that is so overdue. You can read Part I here: Propaganda – Part I. I anticipate that I’ll add several more posts in this topic series.
Since writing Part I, the propaganda machine within the media, government, politics, religion, science and finance has continued to churn out endless layers and lies for public connedsumption. This practice is so common now that we seem to barely notice how easily manipulated we’ve become. This manipulation, and the harm that propaganda creates is what this series of post is all about.
I use fact-checker websites to vet websites where possible, and to also fact check stories whenever possible. This is not a fool proof method, but it can be helpful. If you are already well-informed on a subject or topic, this step isn’t even necessary. But how do you know if you’re are already accurately well informed?
The problem with propaganda is that is has replaced real factual information with disinformation. If you’re not accurately well informed, then it’s easy to adopt disinformation (propaganda) as your own “fact checker” and therefore believe you already know what you need to know. But do you? Recent write-ins have demonstrated to me that the adoption of bogus conspiracies posing as ‘facts’ don’t pass my standards (at all) for claiming to be anything other then pure propaganda.
Here is how I think this happens:
A number of websites (nearly all of them) are guilty of using others sites and sources that are very questionable for story accuracy. I’ve had that problem here myself (and will again, no doubt). These stories and the claims they make become broadly circulated and adopted without their story elements being factually verified. It doesn’t take very long for these memes to become widely embraced as established ‘truth’ within wide audiences and then, endlessly repeated by thousands of others – except that they’re not true at all. Fact-checking will reveal them to be either complete falsehoods or gross distortions or some level of thinly-disguised ‘truth’ with a host of lies, deceptions and fabrications.
But the damage has been done, because each deception spawns numerous other distortions and lies and a snowball effect results, polluting an entire topic or narrative. Nobody really knows what is accurate anymore and what isn’t, because this practice is so ubiquitous, but that’s only because of the long-standing failings to adopt a rigorous approach to establishing truth and rejecting propaganda and disinformation.
Importantly, the extremely high level distortion of fake and false narratives, incorrect “facts”, phony memes, erroneous claims and conjecture, and the broad adoption of conspiracies, superstitions, paranoia, distrust, rejection, fear mongering, and fake tribalism (‘us’ against ‘them’) in the public discourse today isn’t accidental. It’s not a unfortunate byproduct of the modern digital age. Propaganda and disinformation in all of its insidious forms, formats and functions is deliberate and intentional. This of course, poses numerous questions that I’ll hope to discuss in a later post.
We are all guilty of participation and propagation of this type of propaganda. I’ve done it myself and so have you. I’ve spotted scientists, researchers, media, politicians, commentators, public personalities, religious leaders, church members, financial experts and virtually everyone else spreading propaganda. Stories and claims and factually false ‘facts’ have permeated us all and we’re all guilty of giving them more life and more extent in the public discourse because we are pretty lazy when it comes to establishing truth.
This is in part why we can barely tolerate and talk to each other now. The level of rhetoric, vitriol, and outright hatred is at an all-time high. We all have our ‘facts’ and they’re in disagreement with the other group. We don’t stop to question our own claimed facts either, only ‘theirs’. At the core of this social disintegration is the propaganda and disinformation that has been promulgated and a broadly adopted without verification. We’re all convinced that we alone are much more ‘right’ then ‘they’ are. We could not be more wrong in many cases.
In my years in the ministry, the concept that ‘we alone have the truth’ was heavily brow-beaten into the church leadership and members. Early on, I simply accepted this declaration, but observation and study revealed that this was simply propaganda and factually wrong. This same practice of exceptionalism permeates every institution today. Science claims to know the truth, and so do politicians and pundits and virtually everyone else. You can’t even talk to your doctor about medicine and procedures without running into this exceptionalism. Truth has become a priest-hood of exceptionalism. Closed-minded claims are one of the warning signs that can alert you to knowing that the ‘truth’ isn’t desired or sought after, it’s a signal of non-growth and limited understanding.
It isn’t that we cannot know the truth about a topic or subject – we certainly can. But where we fail is when we have adopted a non-rigorous approach to establishing what truth actually is.
The media is among the most guilty in this respect. We’ve even come to accept this. Their distortions, exaggerations and claims are ‘opinions’ – easily disbelieved because we know that they distort and present only what they want us to see. And it is the same with politicians, we know that they deliberately conflate, deny, distort and constantly lie. We know that they all lie, a practice that we’ve fully accepted – because we have very low standards for truth (and for media and politicians).
But we definitely feel differently about other professions that aren’t supposed to lie and exaggerate to us. If you’re going to have surgery, you want your doctors to know exactly what they are doing and to tell you the truth on what you can expect. I’ve been under the knife enough times to know that they tend to tell you what you want to hear – but they’re not completely forthcoming. I’ve avoided totally unnecessary surgery and treatments that I didn’t even need by fact-checking their claims and recommendations. The difference here on something as personal as this is we check their stories. Sometimes we cross-check and triple-check before we agree to do anything to our bodies, and we should.
But not so with the media, or with politicians or with many other institutions, groups and memes that we adopt as truth. We’re easily mislead, deceived and manipulated into adopting their claims and narratives without bothering to engage in any serious checking of their facts. This failure of ours has led to a severe situation of extreme distortions of public perception and awareness. The level of real truth knowledge is now very low.
It is my opinion, that it’s never been this bad in America as it is today. No, I don’t have any ‘facts’ to prove this, but I can point to mountains of anecdotal evidence that strongly suggests with a high level of probability that many Americans have become as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to knowing and understanding what truth is, or even how to go about establishing it.
This post deals with “Understanding Truth” – http://survivalacres.com/blog/understanding-truth/
The pertinent sections in that post to this entry is “The Methodology” which is summarized here:
1) The method of reason (logic / mathematics).
2) The method of science.
3) The method of experience.
4) The method of history.
5) The method of expert testimony.
6) The method of plausible inference.
These elements are critical to comprehending and understanding truth from any source. If they are absent, as in this case, then you’re just dealing with speculation and conjecture and non-experts, inexperienced people who have no measure for “truth”.
Using the “method of plausible inference” (6), and the “method of expert testimony” (5) and the “method of history” (4), and the “method of experience” (3), is how I have derived at the conclusion about Americans and their box of rocks for thinking skills. You can easily infer the dumbing down of Americans by simply reading comments posted online, and numerous experts have also testified to the decline in American thinking skills and education, and the historical record also shows a dramatic decline, and finally, in my (and your) own experience, we’ve all directly witnessed this countless times. In this socially-connected digital age – it’s utterly unavoidable.
Both Propaganda – Part I and Understanding Truth remain good primers for learning the initial steps to reprogramming yourself if you have any doubts or questions about what you think you know. Neither is all-inclusive and never will be, and I tend to drift into other related topics (everything is connected) often. This blog has an enormous amount of “thinking” resources but it’s downright difficult to get people to read much of anything anymore, so I’ll stop this post right here and will return to this topic of propaganda again in future posts.