Woo hoo!!! This is on the ad panel of the Frank Ogawa Square bus stop on Broadway in Oakland!
I have seen it now for a couple of weeks and today got a snapshot of it! This ad alone is food for lots of commentary, but what it brings up for me recently is my quest to try to understand how, and why, so many people actually fall for the stuff that not only Trump, but so many others, are spewing forth these days, and why various forms of conspiracy theory are so appealing. Of course I have my own rather unbecoming “explanations” for this … you can only guess!
So I googled the terms “fact vs opinion” to see what might some up — interestingly, lots of pretty lame web sites that are designed for grade school kids to learn how to distinguish fact from opinion. OK … so why are these lessons not taking hold, and the power of blatantly false opinion still holding such power?
Last night a couple of pundits on MSNBC offered some fairly plausible explanations that are worth taking into account … there is a theory (and apparently some research to back it up) that proposes that actually reasoning is driven (or preceeded by) emotion — that what we believe or think to be true, and what to we take as “fact” is actually shaped by our emotional response to it. In part this does shed light on why blatant racism is so prevalent in the “trump and company” lies.
Then there is the notion that the internet is at the root of this evil .. that for the first time in history, people rely on the internet and TV for their information, and create these little cocoons in which they are only exposed to the points of view they want to hear. Good point .. but that applies to me and all of the folks with whom I agree as well. I never tune in to Fox or read the papers or web sites that are following that line of “news.” And, any information that I get about what goes on in those opposing cocoons comes from the internet, TV and radio sources that I choose to use – not because I tune in the find out.
One of the pundits addressed whether there is any actual difference between folks on both sides of the propaganda wars we are experiencing. He pointed out that the difference lies in what folks do with information that is contrary to what they already believe to be true. Reasonable and rational folks listen and consider the plausibility of such information, and are even willing to shift their thinking based on new information. Folks who follow conspiracy theories and “trumpisms” simply expand the conspiracy … for example now not only is Obama’s birth certificate a fake, but the folks in Hawaii who produced it are forgers and in on the conspiracy!
So the important question is what do we do to work against this. Despite the lame material I found on the web for kids, I still believe that working with kids and young people to help them learn skills of discernment is just about our best hope for the future. The scariest part of this situation to me is the shabby state of education in our country. So for me, the most important issue facing us all is how we can assure that our kids are getting the kind of education they need. The charter school movement (which is actually corporate take-over of education) is one of the scariest things going … as is home schooling .. both of which run the risk of teaching kids to live in a bubble of their own making. So today the old adage for me is still the best .. think globally and act locally .. on not only education, but all of the many other challenges before us today.
And most of all, do whatever we can to bring the public conversation to a focus on real issues, and away from the air time given to all the trumpisms flying around!
PS: As someone who thinks I was helped to develop critical thinking skills by studying mathematics, logic, statistics, and physics, I think that a return to empiricism is long overdue.
Say whatever one might about the disadvantages of logical positivism, at least people had some focus on truth, valid forms of argumentation, and correspondence between theories and facts.
If you missed it there was a really interesting discussion on conspiracies and belief systems MSNBC’s “The last word” last night (April 28, 2011) with Jonathan Kay of “National Post” and Chris Mooney a science and political journalist.
You can catch the discussion at: