It is almost impossible to overstate how much manipulation and mind programming you are exposed to on a daily basis. The sheer amount of it, and the insidious hidden agendas behind it are staggering.
Last week I did a post on Edward Bernays' book Propaganda. In it, Bernays described the “invisible governors” of society. I made the case that today we have many people who see their role as visible governors, charged with manipulating us for our own good. Then over the weekend, I wrote about the now infamous MAGA kids video.
Unfortunately what has transpired in the last few days has confirmed my predictions and worst fears. No one is talking about memes, troll farms, bots, and manipulation. Instead each side is being influenced by those memes, troll farms, bots and manipulation – and using the “evidence” to demonize people with a different viewpoint than they have.
Since the original video first went viral, here are the narratives I’ve seen:
Here is something fascinating: I have seen long detailed social media feeds and blogs, complete with frame-by-frame analysis of their particular video clip, and even chronological screen captures of videos, with running commentary on each slide to demonstrate their point.
But here’s the crazy thing: I have seen case studies presented to support every one of the scenarios above.
Please. Read that last sentence again.
There are people making air tight, lock down cases for EACH narrative above. Some of these threads are presented by people who genuinely believe they have found the true version of events. Some of these threads are obviously prepared by attorneys or public relations agents for one of the parties involved. And if we’re viewing this realistically, we can be sure some of these threads are actually prepared by the Russian troll farms or other bad actors.
So which one is the truth?
If you’re like the vast majority of people – your truth depends completely on your confirmation bias and worldview. And no evidence of any kind will change that. The stuff that confirms your programming is “proof.” The stuff that disproves your programming is “fake news.”
A big part of the equation is determined by who you follow on Twitter and Facebook. You do not get the same social media feed as I do. I don’t get the same feed as Mary, and Mary doesn’t get the same feed as Juan. We all receive a feed that confirms our confirmation bias. And there are bad actors like Russia, Iran and China – and even many black hat marketers – who exploit and amplify your media consumption (social and traditional) to manipulate your mind. Not to mention, people at those very social media platforms, such as Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, who might be the most manipulative of the entire lot.
So which one of the seven narratives above do I believe? None of the above. I saw a lot of disgusting bigotry, despicable behavior, and an alarming lack of empathy. Then I saw lots of people being unwittingly manipulated to amplify that bad behavior, which created more fear and hate.
In 1996, Thomas Friedman developed the McDonald’s Theory of War. He made the case that no country that has a McDonald’s outlet had ever gone to war with another country with a McDonald’s. Which was true. The underlying philosophy was that humanity had recognized the senselessness of fighting people a lot like us, and we were heading toward a harmonious world – moving toward post-ideological goals like peace and ending world hunger. Friedman cleverly stated, that countries "don't like to fight wars. They like to wait in line for burgers."
There is a sardonic degree of truth in the waiting in line for burgers idea. But alas, the theory no longer stands. The Russia-Georgia conflict invalidated this theory. And so does the MAGA kids video, the U.S. debate about the government shutdown, the U.K debate about Brexit, and the “baby Hitler” trending discussion last week.
Today we love to go to war with people who are a lot like us. Because if they have one thing (like skin color) or belief (like religion) that is different from us, then we believe that supersedes all the ways we are alike.
Notice no one talks about the different groups of people in the MAGA video as just human beings. For the narratives to get any viral traction and show up in your social media feeds, they must include labels like MAGA, Catholic, Black, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, Hebrew, and White. Because without those labels, we wouldn’t be able to keep score, and know which group we’re supposed to like, fear, or hate.
The thing that worries me is how many people replied to my blog (and all of the pervasive media coverage of the event), without dealing with the core fundamental issues:
Why do we keep attacking each other?
Why do we keep allowing foreign entities to amplify the situation to create more hate and division?
So feel free to make your case why the kids are really innocent, or really guilty, or any of the others players in this drama. But don’t expect me to engage with you on that. Because that's like passengers on the sinking Titanic arguing over whether the iceberg came from the North Pole or the South Pole. (And I also think there is enough blame in this situation to share.)
Here’s the situation in our toxic social media world today:
In the next post I want to look deeper at how we love to be victims of mind manipulation, by looking at the failed Fyre Festival, and the recent documentaries about it. Until then, would love to hear your thought, below.