The Truth is Not Political
Or, at least, it shouldn’t be
In this day and age, the only media that’s trustworthy is that which criticizes mainstream media. Mainstream media is not critical, and therefore, is not reliable. Mainstream media is composed purely of rhetoric and narrative. Narrative, although often mistaken for the truth, is very far from it. Narrative is political; truth is not.
Americans have a hard time distinguishing what’s political and what’s not, because mostly everything in our lives IS political, and has been for our whole lives. The reason for this is that, if we were exposed to too much of the truth, we would start to question everything (ironically, this echoes the oft repeated “common sense” about China, that the reason for censorship in Chinese media and internet is because if people know too much they will start to question their government*, and then revolt, putting the stability of the nation at risk).
The United States is a society built on narrative from the ground up: America is the land of the free (but what’s your definition of freedom?), our country fights for the virtues of democracy all around the world (but what’s your definition of democracy?), and so on. So we can see that just a little bit of critical thinking on these narratives causes them to fall apart. Without being critical, we cannot get out of the political mire most of us were born into. Believing the narrative without being critical is a self-imposed life-sentence of ignorance.
Claiming that our mainstream media outlets are direct government mouthpieces is not a conspiracy. And our government quite obviously has a political agenda**. Therefore, in order to get to the truth of any situation, we first have to acknowledge that agenda, and then make deliberate efforts to dig through it to reach the truth. Without acknowledging the political agenda of our popular information channels, we wouldn’t know where to start. The topics covered in the news are all hints. They are telling us that our government sees a given situation as important, and have taken the initiative to generate a narrative about it before we can hear about it from the source itself. Our media covering situations abroad is not done for the purpose of informing you, but rather to assign you with a certain opinion on that situation — an opinion which is, of course, aligned with the US political agenda***.
A Brief Anecdote
I shared a Mark Twain quote on another platform:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime,”
…adding to it, that we in the West have a tendency to be narrow-minded towards other cultures.
This sentiment generated some resistance to a member of my audience. That person cited a political reason as an argument for which Western society is less narrow-minded than Eastern cultures, one of which “as of a few months ago, has been engaging in genocide of a minority group, according to the New York Times.” To this argument, I gave a two part response: 1) the real background of said “genocide” (which I will write about more specifically in a separate post under the theme of debunking), and 2) the reasons for which the New York Times has an incentive to lie about it. This was apparently too much for my audience member to take in all at once, and so she responded defensively, incredulous to the idea that a reputable news outlet could conceivably be spreading false information.
Being that this was someone who had in several instances claimed to be both apolitical and open-minded to new things, I would have expected a much different response… something along the lines of, “Hm, thanks for taking the time to explain all that. I had no idea. I’ll have to look into it further to confirm if what you said is accurate or not.”
I’m writing out this exchange as an example of a very common phenomenon among Americans: the thought pattern that causes us to be defensive in the face of new information, rather than accepting it as a possibility (note that I am not saying people should take all my words at face value, but rather to see them as reason to dig deeper and come to ones own conclusions).
The response of my audience member was perfectly representative of this common thought pattern of resistance, which is in turn motivated by a set of layered beliefs, which, together serve to block us off from opening our mind to new information and ultimately from accepting the truth.
Those beliefs are as follows:
1) our news-media is honest / does not have a political agenda attached to it,
2) our country’s general sentiment and resulting reporting on other countries is not politically motivated, but rather a matter of clear cut right and wrong, or justice,
3) being apolitical means not supporting either party, but still buying into the agenda of our nation’s foreign policy (because #2 states that doing so is not a matter of politics), and finally,
4) that being open minded means being open to new to personal experiences, but never questioning long-held beliefs even in the face of new information.
The combination of the above beliefs quite naturally causes us to feel defensive when somebody presents us with truthful information — one simple point which manages to overturn all four of them at once — because it’s a very uncomfortable feeling to have ones entire paradigm shattered. Being immersed in politics our whole lives, this paradigm runs deep, making it hard for us to be conscious of it, and even harder for us to do away with it.
If I had to offer a suggestion to my reader, it would be: try to become aware of this thought-pattern in yourself. Pinpoint the moment of resistance when confronted with new information, and if that information includes criticism of the popular media narrative, look into it deeper to come to the truth for yourself.
That being said, please don’t get caught up in conspiracies. Conspiracies are simply politics on steroids, and they are never constructive. The way we can distinguish a conspiracy from an oft-overlooked piece of truth is that conspiracies can never be proven or disproven; they can only be inferred. (This is also the same reason so many people have taken to them; that is, it becomes something of a hobby to dig deeper and deeper into theories that never end and that never have any resolution.) At the same time, conspiracy theories, if true, will not make a difference in the way we go about our lives. The existence of UFOs or aliens will not change the fact that you have to go to work everyday (all conspiracies are in essence equivalent to the UFO claim). Overlooked truths, meanwhile, can change the way you live by helping you understand better the society you are living in, and why it is the way that it is. With such an understanding, we can direct our actions and efforts to making an impact in places where we know that they can make a difference.
*The Chinese government has nothing to hide. Ours very much does. The real reason for censorship of Chinese media and internet is also a topic I will discuss in a later post.
** In an ideal case, the agenda of government would be to improve the lives of its citizens, but in the case of the United States, it is to maintain global hegemony despite the blow to the standard of living of its people that doing so inevitably brings about.
*** It would not be too far off base to simply say that all mainstream media is government propaganda. Propaganda itself is a layered topic, because we have been taught to believe that only other countries have propaganda, not realizing that that belief in itself is a product of our own propaganda at home. Propaganda does not need to be big red banners, or portraits of the president hanging all around town; in fact, such form of propaganda is very obvious, and therefore easy to avoid. Our propaganda is much more sinister. It comes to us through private (as in, not government-run) channels, such as news networks and social media platforms. The impact of it is therefore much more effective, because we take it as face value, assuming that it is simply information with the intention of helping us. All of this brings to mind, yet again, the universal truth that everything we blame on China is more true for us than it is for them (i.e. projection).