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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

ARE YOU SEEING RED?

The battle against propaganda and fraudulent misinformation is of key importance, and not just in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the election of Donald Trump to BREXIT and other issues, misinformation is a tool being used by governments, extremists and criminal organizations for a lot of reasons and with a lot of success.

Extremist views are fostered and deeply implanted in memory by overriding critical thinking with emotional responses. Fear and anger are the most effective tools for this as they tie directly into eons old fight or flight instincts. We remember very little detail of an hours long trip on the freeway compared to what we recall of the big crash in front of us, we only narrowly missed being part of. Adrenaline is very effective at imprinting memories when we are startled. In the past if you walked around a big tree and a lion was there, the fear imprinted the memory so you would recall that a lion may be on the other side of that big tree.

No matter the subject a person can't have their views challenged if we can't prove the argument against the view. The problem is not that there isn't enough evidence to prove the argument, but rather its getting people to accept the evidence supporting the truth. This brings us to the opening question,  "do you see red?". The colour red is simply red. If I was converted by an extremist and no longer accepted red as red, how would you try to prove red is red?

I am not a cult deprogrammer so have no idea how this concept fits into that scenario, but I do know from discussions with family and friends that winning over someone has to do with them believing the correct information. Immigration is an example. The argument is that we support immigrants with our tax payer dollars and they are on support forever. In Canada for sure, broadly, this is untrue. There are bad examples for sure, but on mass, the data and experience on the street confirm that immigration brings in hard working and industrious people, who, after a little help getting settled become very productive members of our communities paying substantial taxes in support of our government services. That is the red people have been told is blue, (or green, etc. pick your colour) but we can't prove it because they have been conditioned to set aside the facts.

Let's be clear, this issue exists on both sides of most ideological issues. Religion,  Capitalism, Socialism, Feminism, Misogyny, pick your ism and you will find blinded activists and supporters unable to see red as being red when it doesn't support their position. How do we alter this dynamic? Is it enough to simply make people aware of the manipulation at play? This very much seems to be something that has been tried. We all have our blind spots, this writer included. Belief gets in the way of a ton of facts.

Somehow we need to become able to look at things and trust our senses. If it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, for the love of human kind, it's a duck, darn it. You can't change it into a swan by ignoring the fact it's a duck. Taking us back to the original point, if you want it to be a swan, how can I prove it's a duck, how do I prove red is red?

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