Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Old Wisdoms, New Dumbness

There's an old saw that a lie has rocketed around the world before the truth gets its boots on.
That's not what I want to talk about, however. I want to talk about why it's important to stay on top of facts and the truth, in your own life.
We all live with biases and perceptive alignments that colour our view of the world, that shade the truth. They can't be helped.
They can be overcome. They can be acknowledged and admitted and then accounted for and moved past.
We use information to do this. We gather facts and data and compile a narrative for ourselves that instructs and informs us. We don't rely on other people to inform us. We don't rely on other people's opinions solely. We seek the truth ourselves.
Except it doesn't always work that way. In fact, it usually doesn't.
This lesson, one I was re-taught painfully this summer, is one that we all have to go through. Sometimes, people want to believe what they want to believe because it fits a narrative they've been instructed to believe, that somehow this person is evil or that person is good, merely because some authority has pronounced it so. They want their information precooked and predigested for them.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. There's only so many hours in a day, only so much information a brain can process. If we have an authority that we've learned or have reason to believe is solid, then why not avail ourselves of the easier route?
Often, we find out to our own cost later that authority was wrong. One reason I take great pains in these blogposts to present data and facts supporting my own opinions is so my thought processes are transparent. You can see whatever pitiful authority I have comes from a set of facts beyond my own.
When the authority is proven wrong, even once, we are faced with a dilemma: how to unlearn that which we have learned.
Remember the hierarchy: it takes little effort to take someone's word on something. It takes a little more effort to corral the facts for yourself and process them into your own information.
It takes a LOT more work to unlearn that which we have learned. And there's the nub. This is why a lie rocketing around the world is such a dangerous thing.

Take....Sarah Palin. Despite the distinctly gooberish way she ran her Vice Presidential campaign last year, she still insists on changing the narrative.
After all, when you're the Veep nominee, you are beholden to the campaign of the top of the ticket, like it or not. To critique them afterwards for not letting you be you is nonsensical and ludicrous. You didn't run all those primaries: he did. He was chosen, you were picked.
Shut up, in other words. And yet after all that, and this hideous book tour she's engaged in where she tries desperately to disavow any responsibility for the full-metal fuck ups she performed routinely on the trail, there are still a strong minority of people who believe her story above all others, simply because she is the Palin.
Take the photo on this week's Newsweek cover story.
Now, she claims this photo was taken for a Runner's World photo spread and that it's unfair for Newsweek to use it for this story.
Admittedly, she hasn't announced that she is running for President, but it's clear that she's running. She's no longer governor of Alaska but a private citizen. She deserves no more consideration than any other private citizen with a book they are humping.
And she does have nice legs, to boot.
Somehow, however, she wants to juggle authority with respect and responsibility such that she gets both. But hey, if you're dumb enough to do a spread for a running magazine, you might want to consider the implications of that frivolity if you plan on running for office.
Still, there's the inevitable bleating from the sheeple of the right that this deinigrates women, that this cover is simultaneously biased AND sexist.
It must be the American flag that makes it the product of some CommiehippiepinkoleftistIslamofundamentalistmale conspiracy against Sarah. Youbetcha!
Nevermind that the yahoos that she's selling herself to are the most sexist pigs on the planet. But there's the lie for you: Sarah Palin is a victim of the great mainstream (conservative, we should point out) media bias, and treated like a sex object to boot.
The truth is, she's gone out of her way to call attention to herself as a woman, not as a politician, and so she's the one who has denigrated and deprecated and depreciated the power of women. Lipstick on a pitbull indeed!
We can hope that most Americans are smart enough to remember her antics. Sadly, the attention span of the vast majority of Americans is so short, I doubt it.
We'll have her to kick around for a long time.