Information today comes in short texts, very brief tweets and memes that flash before us – with as many as 10 on a page. Our news is delivered by social media platforms in abbreviated form with print versions highly condensed. Physical newspapers and magazines have faded in popularity and our cable TV news runs continually in 10-minute blocks that include 4 minutes of commercials and a few minutes of multi-person interviews – so no one says too much. To top it off, websites such as sumizeit.com. apple’s Blinkist: 15-min Book Insights and summary.com, highlight popular books for us so we don’t have to read them anymore. We’ve lost depth in the information we receive, replaced by talking points somebody else writes.
Tragically, most people have acquiesced to this way of life and blindly rush about day-today, not really understanding what’s going on around them. We hear a sound bite and repeat it thereby making us a society of lemmings, with one following the other over a cliff. When we merely repeat, we become an extension of the message “frequency”, the decades old strategy in advertising (and propaganda) to say something over and over and over until people actually believe it. Besides, just because we may have a similar bias ourselves, it doesn’t make the new information fact.
The exceptions are those individuals who try to do more by factchecking once in a while on Snopes or Politico - when, tragically, both sources aren’t unbiased at all. They’re subject to the pressure asserted by certain industries and skew in one political direction, over another. So, the facts aren’t the facts – they are their facts.
If you doubt me, read how they, as well as Google and Wikipedia, cover topics dealing with GMOs, conventional medicine versus alternative options, climate change without any risk reward dialogue and anything dealing with conservative political thought. Additionally, ask yourself, who is likely employed to do the fact checking research? Odds are they’re a staff of recent college graduates determining what is truth and what is fiction.
Their editing, commentary and coverage are often subtle but slanted nonetheless which leave readers with basic information that isn’t objective at all. Back to the importance of doing one’s own research.
So, how do we do that? Read books by authors on both sides of an issue; click links provided within articles for more information; when viewing a news sourced video clip – go find the entire video (to get the full context of the story) and watch a variety of news stations, some liberal and some conservative and compare the data provided. News outlets outside the USA, too. You can also visit free University sites available and watch their free public courses – even those you don’t initially agree with. Most importantly, find smart people in your life – whom you respect – and ask their opinion on various issues, then ask a few questions and engage in a brief friendly dialogue. Any face-to-face interaction with people and real conversations are nice, too. Amazing all the possibilities to expand your thinking.
Most of all, beware of the frightening trend these days to de-platform, post social media warnings, cancel and destroy the reputation of those with whom someone disagrees. Anyone engaging in ridicule, social exclusion, defamation and name calling has an agenda.
Finally, never rush to judgment on a news story about a crime – even those with videos. Repeatedly, within the first day of reporting, the media rushes to a verdict and we seem content with that – favoring speed over the truth. And, if you remember correctly, the media is almost always proved wrong. In cases like the Twana Brawley rape case – it didn’t happen; Duke Lacrosse players falsely accused; Richard Jewell falsely suspected of being the 1996 Olympic Bomber – only to have been a hero; the Covington High School Kids (Nicholas Sandman) falsely accused of harassing a Native American protester; Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and the “hands up don’t shoot” description that was total fiction; The Travon Martin/George Zimmerman case – again with Zimmerman being innocent - plus too many to innumerate here. Still, everyone believed the accusations promoted by the media, the public became repeaters and those accused as well as our society suffered.
We were the repeaters along with other media. Nobody investigated independently, nobody searched for the real truth. The facts were sacrificed for a quick sound bite and a spike in ratings. The result – lives are ruined, and people are killed because of community reaction and backlash. We were repeaters and not thinkers.
That’s likely why I recently posted on my Facebook page: “The world is filled with thinkers and repeaters. Which are you?” When most of my posts receive lots of comments – this one received very few. Hopefully because people were actually trying to figure out which they were or what I meant. Regardless, I’m hoping someone pondered the statement – which would mean thinking.
Sadly, we’re continuing this devastating trend with our children. Our schools - no longer focus on teaching our kids how to think, rather they tell them what to think. We’re raising generations of repeaters. Colleges ban controversial speakers who would provoke healthy debate but instead, students are isolated in an inbred environment. Our children are taught to listen, accept and repeat. Everything is “our truth” and “their truth” – which is a model of driving opinion stakes in the ground and stopping dialogue. That process further polarizes us and separates us from one another.
I guess nothing is ideal – since thinking for oneself has its challenges, too, as Barry Goldwater once said to me, “Original thought is a bitch.” As the father of conservative thinking, he took a lot of flack from other political parties and the media for his views, which were popular with the common man but not with them. Still, I’ll take original thinking, thoughtful commentary and an interesting question any day of the week instead of what we have today. You’d think people would think it strange that 5 different networks and a handful of politicians all repeat the exact same words or phrases in concert in the same couple days. Happens all the time and that’s when it’s time to check other sources and ask more questions.
Thinker or repeater? If you’re curious about how to become the former, begin by reading books again – and here is one that will make you pause and think – whether you agree with the content or not. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my latest spiritual book titled “HI MOMMA, IT’S ME” – How Souls Stay Connected Forever and the Power of Undying Love. I don’t believe anyone can read this one without pausing for a moment or two to think about what’s being presented.
Recovering from my lurch toward self-promotion, I encourage you all to look for longer articles, interesting blogs, fascinating books and documentaries – anything that presents the “rest of the story”. Oh, how I miss Paul Harvey!!!