WORDS: 1,681 — During my trek through blogland one of the more notable perceptions I’ve gotten is that an awful lot of people are plain willing to believe in fake news and associated political lies because it fits with what they want to read or hear… and then keep believing it when facts to the contrary become prevalent. You think you are smarter and immune from all that? Think again, because you are human… and AI is coming for you.
As I got into this subject for this “Avenues of Hope” series with a post “B”, it became apparent I would have to even break up this presentation of how I determine credible sources up into two parts. So I guess you will have to bear with me on this… and hopefully you don’t get lost. This part illustrates my starting point.. the realization of current conditions as I perceive them.. a bit of context on how we got to this point in history, and the players’ motivations for indulging in falsehoods and misinformation. I include here also my view of the media in general in their role in free speech. All this sets my mindset in trying to find facts which hopefully might get closer to some level of truth to form my opinion. Let’s get on with this.
Now, common sense might suggest that both sides of any political environment can be guilty of falling for lies and fakery. In its basic form we all have fallen for some advertising for a new product. The approach is generally 1. inform you as to what it does, 2. tell you why you need it, 3. convince you of a subliminal fear if you don’t get it. To do all that typically requires a stretch of truth (although laws regulate some outright advertising lies these days).
As a sidenote… I recall a number of years ago Campbell’s Soup was called out for misrepresenting the imagery of their vegetable soup, illustrating in their TV ad the the variety of veggies poking through the surface of the steaming bowl of soup suggesting the soup was chock full o’ veggies. In fact, the veggies generally are heavier and fall to the bottom of the bowl and out of sight. But for the commercial effect the ad people put common marbles in the bottom of the bowl, thus giving the illusion of copious veggies poking up from the surface… thus hoping to influence our next purchase with that “little fib”.
Humans are vulnerable to being “convinced” to act based on our natural instinct to respond to fear. Show us why we should fear it.. true or not… and we will likely fall for it. You could say, it’s all in how you package the fear (If you doubt that remember the racist fear that brought about the Japanese-American internment camps during WW2?).
But I found this propensity to believe political lies and falsehoods very persistent with those aligned with elements of nationalism reflected in MAGA Trumpism. In fact, let’s take a moment to go over just that.
A Form of What We Currently Call Trumpism Has Always Been With Us Since Our Beginning As A Nation
Various forms of contemporary nationalistic movements can and will occur anywhere in the world, throughout the history of mankind. As this is being written, “The Governator”, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has revealed that his father was a devoted Nazi during WW2, although apparently not a direct contributor to the Holocaust (beyond his Nazi affiliation and serving in the military) (HERE). Arnold, himself a Republican, warns that there is a nationalistic fervor spreading in America that thrives on the similar hate and lies that his father succumbed to in the 30’s and 40’s.
I think we can likely agree that a nationalistic-populist, far Right Wing, holding more extreme views regarding politics, society, even religion, has existed in the background of the American scene since the beginning. One early example would be the Whiskey Rebellion between 1791 and 1794 during George Washington’s administration (HERE). In fact, I think historians generally agree that our fight for independence from Britain back in 1776 likely had the support of “only” 50% of the population. Apparently not everyone signed on to be a “patriot” or a “Founding Father”. There were a LOT of folks who felt a national loyalty (for many practical reasons) to England was a safer proposition.
Right-wing nationalists typically seek to define and defend a “true” American national identity from elements which they believe are corrupting that identity. The intensity has ebbed and flowed over the many years since the founding but there’s always been an undercurrent of aggrieved nationalism and the promoting of an international isolation. Later variants include a Darwinistic survival-of-the-fittest white supremacy component… the racial hate and the neo-Nazi stuff. Trump didn’t invent this but his kind of authoritarian politics-of-self-victimizing struck a nerve, and his non-traditional rhetoric defying conventionality, and the saying-it-and-who-cares-what-you-think attitude attracted a lot of folks tired of the traditional Washington elite. This has also emboldened a Christian Evangelicalism (more on this in the next “Avenues of Hope” segment). Again, some, not all, Trump supporters came from this arena, who over the decades tended to side with the more extreme Conservative movement. Trump pointed to the idea that there was an “other” out to get “patriotic-nationalistic” Americans.. the “them” forming grand conspiracies to take their freedoms. Fear is the motivator of all this. But fear is generally the prime motivator of most lies and falsehoods.
But here’s the important takeaway from this.. whether one sides with this kind of politics or not, it’s a legitimate point of view which largely has not seriously been entertained over the decades because it’s a minority, and often an extreme, representation. Thankfully a minority, I might add, because I don’t agree with much of it at all nor do I think it’s good for the nation. You could say that I “fear” that outcome. But because I may not like it doesn’t mean me or you should ignore it. That’s my point. But Trump supporters.. many of them… believe in the lies and fake assertions made by the ex-president, even when proved wrong. A common defense when their beliefs get challenged is that our sources are fake news and under complete Liberal bias, and fitting the conspiracy toward Trump-hating. That brings my discussion here to the point of my personal process for assuring some semblance of credibility with the sources of information that I do use to contribute to my opinion. Why is the Right-Wing so affected by the lies and fakery that foster increased fear that something in their lives is being taken away? Well, lies and fakery for political expediency extends all over.. not just with the Right. As I’ve stated before, humans are natuarlly a diverse species of many behavioral and thinking varieties as a result of many different enviromental parameters. We all reason alike as nature intended.. but none of us reason with results exactly in the same way.
First… I value, in general, the Fourth Estate as an institution beyond just being “the press” or “the media”.
A free press itself represents the essence, the mouthpiece if you will, of our free speech. There’s no question that generally speaking the polls tend to show the media in general is not overly popular. Our divisive times are represented in a press media that’s reporting on all the issues in flux at the same time. While the traditional TV network and cable news networks are often maligned in being accused as reporting news in a “Liberal” way, our current climate has allowed for the proliferation of strong conservatively biased reporting that’s not always striving for objectivity but rather introducing plain outright misinformation and lies to capture an audience segment. These are lies that are believed without question by a largely conformationally biased segment of the public. Also, we have these media companies now aligning their reporting along political bias. Sometimes it’s according to the biased mindset of a mogul owner/CEO, other times a cooperative of outside investors, sometimes a preferred political action group. But the one thing common with ALL media companies is that they are out to make a profit in order to keep presenting their news to a specific segment of the public who’s views they have essentially created, stimulated, and or supported, more than ever before, from that nationalistic minority holding grievance with the Washington political power elite I suggested earlier. It akin to an addict needing the next fix. The Conservative media, FOX specifically, feeding the news in a way that’s devoured by those believing it, each and every day, requiring a return to get their daily fix of what they think is “truth”.
Now let’s center on something important in all this here. This 35% to 40% of MAGA/Trump supporters are equal Americans like any of us in the remaining percentages. Politically speaking they want to be heard and represented as much as the other ideologies. While they find their ideology as some idea of pure patriotic expression of 1776 fervor, and seemingly “commandeering” our typical icons of freedom for their own use, their opinions are no more or less valid free speech. The tragedy to me is how misguided they have become to the lies and misinformation spewed by the Conservative media simply out to make a buck. It’s piss-poor business ethics creating big money returns. But.. and let’s make that a BIG BUT… I DO NOT want free speech tampered with by Congress in an effort to control garbage news reporting. No. If we want to fight against a media that unethically lies consistently for profit, we try to expose the lies for what they are with equal or better consistency, banging away at their profit margins by reducing their audience. Understand here, I am not about converting or shifting anyone’s politics but rather forcing the truth into the open so that all sides of the debate can be presented from the same truth… or a debated truth using the same facts.
Let’s move on to Avenues of Hope 1-B, Part 2/2 (in a couple days)