Saturday, July 24, 2021

Freedom, and How to Lose It, Part 3

     As I mentioned last week, I read an interesting article by Jonathan Rauch who was describing how people can highjack democracy and chip away at freedom.  The last technique in their arsenal is what he termed "the firehose of falsehood."

     Rauch defines this as using every means possible to spread partial truths or outright lies, no matter how divorced from reality they might be, to flood the system.  The aim is to pour out so many untruths that the public and media cannot possibly combat them all.  The purpose is to leave the public confused, cynical, and mistrusting, a perfect scenario for an autocrat or demagogue to step in.  

     All these methodologies -- trolling, spreading conspiracies, and flooding the airwaves with lies -- are forms of information warfare, and are very sophisticated.  It causes people to react emotionally, to listen to the lies and try to get more information about them, and to mistrust objective media and social institutions.  

     What can we do about this?  First, be careful where you get your news information.  Go to trusted and unbiased media outlets (such as PBS in the United States).  Second, learn about media literacy and teach it to your children.  Third, vote out people who engage in this kind of behavior.  Finally, realize that people who say outlandish and hurtful things may be doing it for some nefarious reasons.  Don't ignore that fact!  Be wise, be objective, and be careful.  Democracy and freedom are precious.  Defend them. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Freedom, and How to Lose It, Part 2

      Last week I was discussing an article by Jonathan Rauch who wrote about how to lose freedom in three easy steps.  The first step, described last week, is to troll.  The second step is what Rauch terms "conspiracy bootstrapping."

     This is where one starts and spreads a conspiracy theory, get a few people to believe it, who then call for an investigation, and then claim that there is a coverup.  When you are the target of a conspiracy theory, you become caught in a no-win situation.  If you ignore it, you are accused of a coverup.  If you deny the claim, you are repeating it and giving it more traction.  If you investigate it, you are giving it more credibility.  You become caught in a web of lies and crazy thinking.

     What can be done to combat this?  Whenever there is a conspiracy theory, facts and common sense must be given greater weight.  If there is a conspiracy claim that has absolutely no factual basis, then point that out and put the onus of proof on the other side.  Although Rauch did not mention it, I think humor and satire help make the point that this is all crazy talk and contradictory to reality.  Laugh at their claims.  But be careful not to laugh at the person, as tempting as it might be, because that only creates "otherism" and defensiveness.  I am sure we can all think of times when we believed things that were not true.  Compassion mixed with a heavy dose of wisdom and criticial thinking are crucial.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Freedom, and How to Lose It

      A while back I was reading an article by Jonathan Rauch, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the "The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth."  In this article, he was detailing how a democratic country can be highjacked and start to lose its freedom.  He described how to do this in three easy steps.

     The first step is trolling.  The purpose of trolling is to get noticed and make people react emotionally.  When people become outraged, they rally around their beloved groups and fundamental beliefs.  They also remember what is being said that makes them upset.  

     As Adolf Hitler said, "Who cares whether they laugh at us, treating us as fools or criminals?  The point is that they talk about us and constantly think about us."

     What is the cure for this?  Perhaps it is twofold.  First, vote out the leaders who engage in this behavior.  Second, be aware that the purpose of their behavior is to make you leave your logical brain and react emotionally.  Step back, take a deep breath, and remember that they doing this to manipulate you.  Keeping a calm, objective mindset is imperative.  

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Happy Independence Day!

May we be free of fear.  

May we be free of anger.  

May we be free of want.  

May we be free to live wisely and grow.  

May we be free to bring peace to all we meet.

Happy Independence Day!

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)