Ken is a disabled American combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Purple Heart medal and the Bronze Star with V device medal.
Defeating fake news, fear, persuasion, and distraction will render us a better America
Treating the policy agenda of our nation as if it is a game somehow feels appropriate, given the state of our political process throughout the world. The clearly defined divisions within our system of government are visible for all to see. Their clarity bombards us every time we read an article or turn on the television, as long as we are paying attention.
What is alarming about the charged atmosphere engulfing us is that none of our politically divided minds are working to draw us together to reunite our nation!
Cleaving us into unilateral factions wields its powerful advantages for our leaders. It weakens us to a sufficient stage of disillusionment and insecurity to prevent us from concentrating on the weighty issues facing our nation — poverty, immigration, hunger, discrimination, climate change, and racism.
Time for change has arrived
The primary tools used to build a wall of division are persuasion and distraction. Our governing bodies long ago discovered that coupling the power of distraction with the power of persuasion is necessary for shaping the will of the people. We have seen this play out in real-time with the "build-the-wall" efforts of the previous administration.
The reasons a governing body uses these tools may be vague to most of us. But, it enables them to slow down or speed up the wheels of progress, depending on whom holds the majority. Couple these with greed, and the picture I paint comes to fruition in the form of multiple newly-minted billionaires.
My research led me to several studies which discuss at great length the origin of Fake News and how it, and the powers of persuasion, and distraction are used. In this study, titled: FAKE NEWS AS A WEAPON OF PERSUASION, by Pier Paolo Pedrini, Lugano University, https://doi.org/10.14746/sr.2019.3.2.06 the abstract for this article states:
“Our study is qualitative research. It is a content analysis of more than 2,500 European and American posters of war propaganda identifying modern principles of persuasion and forms of discourse. The analysis of the themes demonstrates that the techniques used one hundred years ago to convince civilians to enlist had enormous potential for development to such a degree that they were adopted by modern political and commercial persuasion. Therefore, we can consider the propagandists of the Great War as modern spin doctors. The idea evolved after reading Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. This is an astonishing book; it provides illuminating interpretations both for an understanding of war propaganda — not just for the Great War — and for the commercial discourse of which Bernays became a promoting agent.”
Proof is abundant
Proving persuasion and distraction, together with fake news, are used to manipulate us certainly isn’t hard. Evidence is plentiful.
Consider this contribution from Sean Parker, co-founder, and ex-president of Facebook, in an article in The Guardian (Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human ‘vulnerability’ | Facebook | The Guardian) showed his interview with Axios:
Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, said the thought process behind building the social media giant was: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”
“That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever … It’s a social-validation feedback loop … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology … [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.”
A bit further down the page in this Guardian story was a shocking quote from another Silicon Valley bigwig:
“Parker is not the only Silicon Valley entrepreneur to express regret over the technologies he helped to develop. The former Googler Tristan Harris is one of several techies interviewed by the Guardian in October to criticize the industry.
“All of us are jacked into this system,” he said. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”
After reading these two sources, it can be argued:
- that our federal government has been pinwheeling the American public for well over 100 years, spinning us in simultaneous opposing directions.
- Commercial business studied the government’s process and, finding that it works, decided to utilize it to further spin us and confuse us.
- John and Jane Public have opacity in their glasses, and can’t see these facts clear enough to demand they end.
Throw distraction, persuasion, fake news, and fear into the fire to fuel a cleansing inferno.
The omnipresence of fake news throughout the world is callous in its dissemination, especially when it targets significantly weakened factions. It honors no boundaries!
To compound the effects of their actions, the purveyors of misinformation add one final ingredient to wholly engulf us: fear!
America is now “on the couch,” so to speak. We are the ones who are distracted and fearful. We appear to be frozen in time because this has been happening for well over the past 100 years. Our visit to this “couch” has been expected and is long overdue.
The first step in solving any problem is to identify the problem. Then we can formulate a plan of action to tackle the problem and get it solved. We haven’t attempted the first step yet. Our fears and distraction are working in tandem to keep us huddled in bed with the covers of ignorance pulled over our heads.
We need someone or something to break us out of this mindless circle. We need to stop listening to the spin-heads and start questioning everything and everyone we encounter when they share outdated or inaccurate information. Finally, we need to update our self-education. It isn’t enough to vote, then sit back and watch as the old techniques are employed. We must have the courage to vote, then take decisive action to help change our system.
That can be accomplished by a quite ordinary activity: Vote “them” out of office! That isn’t intended to be a political statement — I don’t play that game very well.
I have no tolerance for someone who will shake my hand and lie to my face at the same time. No matter which political affiliation you might align with, we are all in the same hailstorm.
Our shame as a country flows much deeper than racism, LBGTQA-ism, or any other of the problems we face. We shame ourselves when we let others control us. We shame ourselves when we allow bigotry and hatred to exist unopposed. We also shame ourselves when we oppress anyone who isn’t like us. Most important, we shame ourselves when we don’t confront these distraction maneuvers.
We have to stop letting Max Headroom into our living rooms. We have to stop believing everything we see, hear, or read unless we can prove it to ourselves.
Our plight isn’t incurable — not yet. There are plenty of strategies to overcome our laziness and our lack of caring.
We can assume more control of our lives by not allowing others to control us, for one. There is a problem with that statement, though.
When we replace “them,” we have to install someone new who won’t be beholden to the same ideology and who will actually vote their conscience. The one thing that can hold us back from accomplishing this task is… you guessed it: FEAR!
As it turns out, only four ingredients are needed to control an America that is caked in fear, distraction, fake news, and persuasion. The icing on top of all this is called submission.
What specific actions must we take to overcome these 4 traits? I can name several attributes we need to consider, but I can’t finish listing all of them. It’s left for each of us to ask that question of ourselves. To start:
- Pay attention — With patience and practice, you’ll be able to catch some of these con artists in the act! When they say one thing, then vote differently, ask yourself “why?” That is a very effective tool in our back pockets, but we don’t use it nearly as often as we should.
- Beware of the ‘grip and grin’ — Every leader I have ever met is glad to grip your hand and grin while the picture is being taken. Afterward, they tend to step back and go their own way, totally ignoring you and your insignificant opinions.
- Validate your news sources — In today’s world, that’s a high priority. We often become stuck in the spin room. We don’t know which version of the story to believe, primarily because we haven’t had the proper education and/or an unbiased teacher.
- Form your own beliefs and principles — Do not assume you have to follow after Dad, Mom, or Uncle Tom. Don’t let others confiscate time and space in your head. If you do, they will squander and confuse your thoughts.
- Research — This means you should try to obtain more than one viewpoint before deciding whether or not to believe what you’ve read or been told. Be more than a mannequin in your quest for knowledge.
Feel free to add or subtract from the list until you are satisfied you have a balanced view of the problem. Identify for yourself why you are making these choices.
Thanks for reading this!