Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Nation of Sheep Will Beget a Government of Wolves

Sheeple (a portmanteau of "sheep" and "people") is a term that highlights the herd behavior of people by likening them to sheep, a heranimal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research.

I spoke with my mom at length yesterday. A long time. She started talking about politics and the things she was saying were so ill informed. She was spouting a great deal of propaganda and misinformation -- some outright lies.

She is not a bad person and was not intentional in her messages of misinformation.

She is simply a perfect example of the extreme groupthink (a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics) that pervades this country. She bases her information off of what “others” say, hearsay -- not on facts. Because of the special interests spearheading media consolidation, the media has shunned their responsibility to afford the populous real, fact-based news. What was once yellow journalism (journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers, viewers, or listeners) is now the norm.

People rarely have the time or take the time to understand the special interests (or money) behind the "news" they see, hear and spread throughout their communities. When I asked my mom where she gets her news she said, "Everybody around here says..."

Watching scream TV, listening to scream radio and then spreading the misinformation you gain from it is a vile and despicable act. Social media has made the spread of viral hate and ignorance far too easy. Those of you sharing lies and propaganda know this is wrong and your actions directly contribute to the negative energy and incivility we experience in our society today. Stop. You know who you are. You know what you are doing. You know it is wrong. It is an immense danger in our society and a lead cause of the greatest era of widespread incivility in our history.

Disagreement and debate are good things. America is well served when political parties represent different viewpoints and then compete vigorously to recruit voters to their side. But the increase in recent decades in demonization that characterizes American political debate, particularly among politicians and in the media is quite disturbing. When disagreements activate the psychology of good-versus-evil, it becomes more difficult to reach agreements that meet each side's key interests; reasoning becomes far less responsive to facts; and combatants begin to believe that the ends justify the means.

When that happens, partisans are more willing to break laws, play dirty tricks, lie, and ruin the personal lives of their opponents -- all in the service of what they think is a good cause. We see this with the fringes and extremists now, and through social media it only gets worse.

Good people are discouraged from entering politics. Good public servants are driven out of public service. Now, good citizens are turning on one another, their neighbors, their family and friends. Stop the ignorance. Stop the spread of lies and propaganda. You are the foolish tool being used by the special interest. What do you gain from such actions? Not only is it an insult to the intellect of those who do actually check the facts and know how policy impacts them personally, it also makes you look ignorant and/or evil.

Why not take the time to share the truth, the facts, and explain in a reasonable manner, how those facts may impact you personally. No one can argue with that; merit can be given to your stand – even if it differs from another’s stand.