Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Who to Believe? by Louis Evan Palmer

What do we believe?
Why do we believe it?
Can our beliefs change?

Even as events of the first 5 years of the 21st century make us question who to believe, we can see more clearly how these types of manipulations have occurred not just in our times but throughout history in the various guises appropriate to a given period of time.

The things that drive us to believe or accept a version of events are many and include emotion, logic, intuition, current facts, our beliefs & desires, and our culture & mythology. If an explanation triggers one or more of these internal drivers strongly enough, we end up "believing" it and, more ominously, its associated conclusions and imperatives.

The proffered "logic" is typically not logic at all but a blend of emotion, suppositions, tenuous logic & lies. Why do we believe it?

We are lead to believe statements that are made by people in authority or who enjoy some type of prominence. Among other things, this is a measure of a society's deference (militarism is a form of deference) and also a measure of an authority figure's credibility. Someone's credibility can also derive from their status as an expert, their perceived independence, their integrity, etc. While some may decry the emergence of celebrities as factors in public debates, it is a way to crack the attempts of the more traditional power brokers at monopolizing the discussion and as such should be welcomed.

Unfortunately, we are also seeing a strong movement towards establishing credibility by attacking contending sources of information - Fox News leaps to mind. This is good when it uncovers actual conflicts of interest or misrepresentations but it's increasingly being used to confuse the issue and stifle valid dissent. It is also clearly advancing a political agenda. This is the mark of an intolerant society which is a step towards authoritarian rule. This and other examples of the merging of corporate and state interests is a hallmark of fascism and should be a warning sign to all concerned.

Why do we believe? Sadly, we are often seduced. The seduction can entail any of the following - the charisma of the leader, the appearance of a given group's public forums and media, the battle of the experts as presented by the "major" media, mass media support & perceived momentum and claims regarding secret knowledge or needs. The other more prosaic explanations for public acquiesance are fatigue, laziness, a feeling of helplessness, and the effects of the numerous variations on fear to which we are exposed - much of it deliberately fostered by the parties in power.

The repetoire of those in power appears simple and obvious but since it's subject to many permutations, it can give an impression of baffling variety and texture, more than enough to dupe most of the people most of the time.

Fortunately, there is the internet which so far in many countries is allowing for the expression of ideas and thoughts and reports that would have been easily suppressed in the pre-internet days. Otherwise, we would be back to secret printing presses, backroom meetings and whispered news - much less effective. Of course, this points to a major effort, now and into the future, to gain control of the internet and continuing campaigns to co-op and manipulate it so as to confound, confuse and incapacitate.

Any advice on who and what to believe will probably sound like platitudes but, here goes: read widely, support alternative news & views, distrust overly emotional purveyers of facts, nurture & trust your intuition, distrust appeals to secrecy, reject calls to supremacism in all its forms including rabid jingoism, wars of aggression regardless of the excuses for it, and my god is better than your god rantings.

Copyright Louis Evan Palmer

Who to Believe?, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,


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