Question It [on KS Friday]

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Mist covers the mountain and the mountain disappears.

I just learned a new term: astroturfing: “…the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection.” ~wikipedia

This morning I stumbled onto this term because someone we love has swallowed the bait and jumped enthusiastically into a conspiracy sink hole. It took us less than 30 seconds to research the organization and discover its connection to Russian bots. It’s a mirage meant to attract the lazy-minded and whip them into malcontents. Pull the curtain and Oz is revealed as nothing more than a 2nd rate magician who understands the power of slight of hand. Look over there.

I feel as though I could and should use this quote every day:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ~ Isaac Asimov

The real problem of our nation in these times is a dedication to ignorance. It took us less than 30 seconds to pull the curtain on this cult-sham-of-angry-misinformation meant to influence our elections. Yet, we know that no amount of love or appeal matters. Our loved one is lost. It is the nature of cults to provide absolute answers to the fearful. The cult provides the appearance of comfort and community. “Welcome!” The organizing principle is always Us versus Them with the not-so-subtle doctrine that Us is superior to Them. It is the nature of cults to isolate their members, play on their low self-esteem, steel them against fact or reason or the appeals of loved ones to open their eyes. It is an aspect of cults that the adherents have no idea that they are in a cult.

There’s no use shouting, “Wait! Look! Open your eyes!” We have become the enemy, Them. We are inferior and data and fact are an an assault on the comfort, the easy answer, a threat to new-found absolute superiority. The tub of purple Koolaid has already been distributed and consumed by the faithful.

I remember teaching students to check their sources. It’s become even more important in the age of the internet and social media. Kerri and I hold ourselves to that standard. We check our media. We check the sources of our media checks. It is a simple basic: don’t believe everything you hear. Check it. It is the hard line separating ignorance from knowledge. We cannot have a debate of ideas and ideals without it. We cannot build a bridge to the center, to compromise and collaboration, if astro-turf  manipulation is so easily embraced as a grassroots movement, if dedicated ignorance is comparable to research, study and questioning.

30 seconds. It seems like such a small thing to ask, a simple kick of the tire. Check what your hear. Question what you are being sold. A question is never an assault on belief.

Yet, it seems too much to ask. We watch as the mist descends. The mountain disappears.

 

 

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Bother to Ask A Question [on Flawed Wednesday]

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All of us know this tale: A farmer loses his ax. He saw the neighbor boy playing in his field so he suspects the boy took his ax. He tells his wife the neighbor boy is a thief. The wife goes to town shopping and tells everyone she meets the story of the neighbor boy stealing her husband’s ax. People share the story and the story magnifies. An ax is now the least of the boy’s crimes! They tell other people and when things go missing or worse, the boy is their suspect. If he could steal an ax he could also steal a shirt off the line. He’ll take your horse when you’re not looking! He’s a chronic thief! The boy is shunned. His family is ostracized. The farmer feels satisfaction until the day he finds his ax resting on the tree – right where he’d left it.

Narratives are very, very powerful.

Yesterday I listened to a speaker from SelahFreedom present on the growing “industry” of sex trafficking. It was horrifying. One of the slides on the speaker’s Powerpoint was from a pimp’s notebook, instructions about how to keep his women under his control. Drugs help but the narrative weave is all. It could have been notes taken from the commandant at a concentration camp or a cult leader’s handbook. Paranoia tactics. Isolationist, us-versus-them strategies. Lies and distortions repeated to the point that it is impossible, once inside the narrative, once hooked in the story, to distinguish between reality and the distortion.

We live in the age of information and misinformation. We now inhabit the era of hyper-magnified distortion. A single post, a tweet, can reach millions in an instant. The boy stole the ax! They are trying to make us all socialists! The judge was biased! Don’t believe what you see! Witch hunt! Hoax! Believe what I say not what I do.

When was the last time you checked the veracity of your news sources? When was the last time you bothered to fact check or research something that alarmed you in your stream?

Fear is a great brain scrambler. Robert Sapolsky, researcher of stress in animals, has shown that zebras are capable of shaking off their stress after the lion gives up the chase. People, on the other hand, whip up and maintain their stress by repeating the story over and over to all who will listen. And, more to the point, there need not be a real lion chasing us, just someone who knows how to manufacture a lion and get us to spread the terror, to share without question.

It’s the pimp’s strategy. Stoke fear. Discourage thinking.  Threaten. Sow doubt. Play on insecurity. Keep them hooked. Encourage thoughtless sharing of an empty narrative. It validates the perspective of the pimp and the farmer who couldn’t possibly have lost his ax all by himself.

Despite what they tell you, the pimp is never protecting your interests. The pimp is only concerned with his own interests and needs a deep state of delusion running rampant through his stable, to control the narrative.

Imagine what might have been possible if anyone in the ax chain had thought to ask a question, had stepped back to think about what they were hearing before they hit the easy button to share.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THINK BEFORE YOU SHARE

 

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