The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most powerful tool.
~Stephen King - Author
My wife and friends like to kid me that my life is an "all or nothing" proposition.
And I will not be one to disagree with them as I tend to live a compulsive life.
Sometimes these binges are incredibly productive (such as exercise, solving puzzles, or reading books) while others obsessive habits are complete time sucks (such as social media, playing fantasy sports, or following politics).
There are those times that you know in your heart that your behavior is out of control and you really need to check yourself into rehab.
The first step of any 12 step program simply states: I fully admit that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life has become unmanageable.
Such was my situation in the months leading up to the November presidential election.
Seemingly each hour or so, I felt the uncontrollable urge to check polls, Facebook or the latest news reports. My car radio’s presets were all tuned to a variety of news stations representing both left and right affiliations as I oscillated between the two polar extremes that separate liberals from conservatives.
For me, the presidential race itself was a secondary curiosity... what really peaked my interest was the intense rhetoric being played out as people lined up on both sides.
Social media was awash in memes and dubious news stories, making outlandish claims that could in no way stand up to the scrutiny of even the most fundamental fact checking.
I specifically remember one such story from a progressive news outlet and reposted by not one... but several people.
This news story reported that the defense department had "misplaced" $19 trillion dollars.
The item was obviously fake... if for no other reason other than the entire budget of the United States in 2016 is "only" $3.54 trillion... including social security and Medicare. The entire defense budget is roughly $520 billion.
Even if the entire defense budget was misplaced each year (not paying ANY expenses)... it would take over 30 years to burn through $19 trillion dollars.
Despite such evidence, people persisted to propagate such nonsensical thinking.
Don’t think for a moment that the far left has cornered the market when it comes to producing fake news.
The top fake news stories of this election season included such headlines as "Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump", "Hillary sold weapons to ISIS", and "FBI agent in charge of Hillary’s e-mail investigation found dead".
According to several fact checking organizations, fake news received 17 times more reposts than actual news (although this too might be a fake statistic... because who really knows).
Distinguishing real news from fake news is becoming harder and harder... even as it is reported from traditionally creditable mainstream media sources.
Over the years, tradional media sources have sensationalize news to boost readership or viewership in order to sell advertising.
Although we’d like to believe that credible news sources are trustworthy and honest all the time, we also need to remember that news media is a business first and foremost.
Whether it’s AM talk radio, the New York Times, or Fox News, profit is a significant motivator when it comes to news reporting.
The more outlandish the claims... the more people engage, respond, and redirect.
Tabloid news such as National Enquirer, the Daily Mail or TMZ exist only because people read or watch them.
Most people understand that the stories and reports in these "news magazines" are entertaining but hardly a trustworthy source of true and factual news reporting. However tens of thousands of these publications are sold each week at the grocery check-out.
The advent of the internet and social media has given rise to a great many conspiracy theorists who try and mislead the public using a legion of followers to spread their message regardless of the factual realities.
There are people to this day who believe that the landings on the moon were an enormous ruse perpetrated by the government... despite the fact that the lunar modules left behind by those missions can actually be seen using a strong telescope.
I often wonder what causes people to adopt beliefs that lie several standard deviations from the mean.
One thing I am definitely not, is an expert on human behavior. So it puzzles me as to why those who appear to have a great deal of rational thought, accept these eccentric claims as facts.
On one hand, there appears to be a great deal of skepticism among the population, refusing to believe facts and scientific data as presented.
Generaly speaking, this is a good thing.
Scientific method is built upon scrutiny and that an idea needs to be proven before it can be accepted.
Yet there are many other people who blindly accept any random theory offered by anyone with an internet connection. These people are somehow convinced that science is being corrupted to serve the agenda of the elite and the government.
Madison Avenue marketers have created an entire industries based on concepts that offer little in terms of credible facts
Billion dollar markets, such as nutritional supplements, cosmetics, and fashion exist only because marketers want us to believe that we are healthier or more attractive because we use their products.
Each day, we are bombarded with advertisements offering dubious claims as to why we should purchase certain products and services.
Consequently, our brains are unable to separate fact from fiction when we attempt to create a rational buying decision. We equate the product with a feeling rather than a utilitarian use.
People often buy based on emotions rather than facts.
They want us to believe that a pill will make us lose weight, that if we only used the right shade of lipstick we will attract our missing soulmate, or if we drink the right brand of beer, sexy women will miraculously materialize at our backyard pool party.
These messages are no truer than extra-terrestrials controlling the brains of congressional representatives.
Marketers implant these images into our brains because we want to believe them... in the same way we want our news to reinforce our current belief system.
Yet we alone have the power to create rational thought, weighing factual evidence against what other people want us to believe to be true.
It’s time to start thinking for ourselves rather than relying on others to tell us what to think, believe, and how to act.
It’s time to believe in our ability to see...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we encourage everyone to use facts to make informed decisions.
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