From care2.com, “The Yale study proved that when people are misinformed about a subject, facts which contradict their assumptions actually make them believe their flawed information. An assistant professor of government at Dartmouth, Bendan Nyhan, found even more disturbing evidence to back up this study. From Salon:
People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year – a rising line, adding about a million jobs. They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same. Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.”
So this phenomenon is not just a function of how much time one spends watching Fox News. It’s a natural function of the human mind.
So the next question for me is why even try? Why try to provide the facts to support an argument? Why spend countless hours scanning the Internet for information that will expose the truths underlying the artifice we call reality?
In my frustration, I’m reminded of the statement, “The world is a lie,” from the documentary, I Am. It goes on to distinguish the difference between the biosphere, which is real; animals, vegetables and minerals, and the ethnosphere, which is made up of the stories created by us.
Although I think calling our distortions lies may be a bit extreme they do make up the ethnosphere that feed our cognitive maps. Maps that contain our assessments and assertions, however distorted, misinformed, biased or simply stupid they are. And we’re not going to let any facts get in the way of those.
Once again, I mention the French philosopher, Baudrillard’s reference to reality as a simulation? The proof of his claims about postmodernity are in our face every day. The current stage is of the simulacrum, something that has a vague, tentative, or shadowy resemblance to something else: Except in our era, that shadowy resemblance is fading more every day. All seems to be composed of references with no referents, a hyper reality.
How else can a human being look directly at facts contrary to his beliefs and use them as evidence to support his beliefs? It can only happen if that human being is so immersed in his own simulation that he cannot – will not – see the reality upon which the referents should depend. His references need no actual referents to ground them. They simply are.
This is how we’ve come to the post fact era in America. As Baudrillard proposed, we live in a fourth level simulation of reality; one that represents a reality that doesn’t exist – a Disneyland – a Magic Kingdom, where no one can convince us that Mickey Mouse doesn’t go home to Minnie at night and tell her about his day as she prepares his favorite dinner while he tucks his children into bed.
So the question for me as a writer of material for public consumption is, why am I doing this preaching to the choir? Why do I spend the time to collect the information and recreate it onto this page in the form of a column?
I know that people who disagree with me have long ago stopped reading my material. I also know that people who agree, enjoy it because it confirms their point of view.
My goal has been to pierce the veil of this common simulation called reality? Do I accomplish that or do I simply offer respite from the attacks on your personal re-creations?
Should I be satisfied to confirm your point of view or is their value in offering a view of the ground under our feet? I would love to hear from you.
Robert De Filippis