"My Propagandist Wouldn't Lie to Me, Would He?"
I see a lot of talk about fake news lately and rightly so. Most news organizations, presenters, pundits, and "independent" journalists serve as the mouthpiece for one propaganda machine or another. People are "waking up" to this fact too, which is great, if you ask me. Sadly, it seems that there is still work to do. You see, when people talk about fake news there is often some exception. That is to say, there is someone whom the speaker or writer or whatever believes is a source of the real truth and this is usually a fallacious position. Further, this unjustified trust in our own "pet propagandists" leaves us vulnerable to being mislead and those who seek to keep us ignorant know this. To protect ourselves and to stand against the many false narratives that are presented to us, we must to come to understand that no media, regardless of how much we may agree with it, can ever be trusted while also scrutinizing our own beliefs that lead us to favor one false narrative or another..
I see this phenomenon all the time. "That news is fake but I can trust CNN" one might say. "You're an idiot, Alex Jones is the only one we can trust" another chimes in. We could switch out the names all day but you get the point. People seem to pick whichever propaganda best fits their view of the world and blind themselves to its lies, half-truths, and inconsistencies. Some of this is likely due to confirmation bias. We like to feel like we are right and we will, often without thinking about what we are doing, seek out the things that confirm our beliefs whether they accurately represent reality or not.
Those who want to misinform us are well aware of our desire for vindication and they exploit this by adopting the fake news rhetoric. Whoever happens to be doing the misinforming here really is irrelevant. Whatever the source is, it knows that a certain percentage of the audience is composed of true believers and feeds them what they want to swallow. If it makes sure to say that its opponents are fake news, it discredit them while strengthening the esteem that it is held in by its audience. Simply put, it serves a duel purpose. We are less likely to question things if we believe that all the information that we don't like is "fake" and are more likely to believe the official narrative (from the presenter's perspective) if it is sugarcoated and called real.
The problem is that we cannot trust any news. If an organization or individual has the means to influence a very large audience, they are likely driven by some agenda. The goal may vary from one source to another but rest assured that there is more than meets the eye. CNN shills for the establishment center. Fox shills for the establishment right. Alex Jones sells products that he creates desire for during his rants. There is always something being pushed on us by everyone who stands to benefit from our ignorance and the wealthy and powerful, who claim to inform us, often benefit the most.
There is a way to rise above the influence of the misinformation that is presented to us by our "trusted sources" but I suspect that many people will not like doing what it entails; however, it is a necessary step for anyone who hopes to be successful in the quest for truth. Many of us have realized that people are lying to us but saying that fake news is fake is not where this process should end. The actual challenge is determining which of our own beliefs are born out of those lies. These things are often concepts that we "know" to be "true." We have never examined them and, in some cases, we are disgusted by the very act of questioning them. Unfortunate as having one's worldview crumble under the weight of thoughtful reflection and the onslaught of conflicting evidence is, it essentially functions as the clearing of the brush that prevents an individual from building a clear model of reality in his or her mind. It hurts to realize that you have believed a lie but to know the painful truth is the preferable option. It is easy to question the things that we do not believe, it is far more difficult to question what we do believe but if we do not, we leave ourselves unable to discover the truth of any matter of importance.
I don't have all the answers and I don't know if self-examination is sufficient to guard us from the propaganda that we want to believe but I do know that there is a problem that even those of us who like to think that we are "enlightened" face. We must do something, that much is clear, or we risk embracing one liar while we reject the other and that is not the way one finds the truth.
All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website, unsplash.com.