There’s an enormous issue within American culture. The issue is the extensive brainwashing of individuals by corrupt media organizations and politicians who are paid off by wealthy corporations and individuals. It may seem to be a unique issue for American culture, but it’s a human trait and isn’t unique among Americans. It’s unfortunately easy for people to get brainwashed by the media regardless of what their political affiliation is.
I’m an independent and research every single issue extensively before I decide how I feel about it and who I support. I feel as if many people from both parties (much to their dismay) as well as people in general have a hard time debating and forming cohesive thoughts when they argue.
The problem is that it’s easy for people to read a few articles and think they may understand the content of them. They may think they understand what climate change is or understand how politics work. They may think they can discern how to debunk which statistics are real or not. However. it actually takes years of practice and educating yourself to be able to do it effectively. Many people don’t realize that.
I think it would be easier to understand if I were to shape that thought into an analogy. Let’s use guitar for an example. Political Science is a skill just like guitar. Many amateur guitarists feel as if they are very good or that they have nothing more to learn. However, they still have a great deal to learn including the wisdom in knowing that they have a lot to learn.
Many of the most intelligent people I know have a hard time grasping with the idea that the media and politicians can be very biased and have a hard time spotting it even if they do.
So what happens is that the media and many politicians realize these flaws in human nature and seek to expose them. Many of them choose to “beat-around-the-bush” when asked questions directly and choose to use sensationalist approaches without much explanation or understanding behind what they’re saying in order to garner votes.
Unfortunately, the side-effect of this is the consequences on the everyday person who watches the news or reads about it online or on paper. It effects how they interpret what is being said. Many times, they only hear the sensationalist arguments over and over again and they begin to memorize them as their own arguments and only use those instead.
Many people, when attempting to do research on politics or contemporary issues, instead end up getting trapped in articles that are very well written but lack the credentials and statistics to support their claims.
Many of these articles will seem right, but are actually very wrong when looked at from an analytical or scientific approach. For an example, if you think about climate change. Climate Change can be proven countless times over because of the science and data that we have readily available to us. However, many articles and websites actively combat the idea of climate change and use either false evidence or “cherry-picked” data to support their claims.
People get stuck in trying to prove themselves right instead of thinking they may be wrong. People don’t realize they are taking an unbiased approach to their thinking. They instead cherry-pick their stats and their arguments in order to fit with their own perception of what they perceive as right. However, their perception of what is right can be easily influenced by the media, faulty sources, and their social sphere.
The social sphere of influence is described as groupthink.
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.
A side-effect of group thinking is also the false-consensus effect. The false-consensus effect is when Person A overestimates how many people believe in Person A’s ideas. This happens because Person A always associates with Group A which is comprised of individuals who think like Person A. Person A then believes that a majority of people think like Person A and Group A even though they don’t have any experience interacting with people from Groups B, C, D, E, etc.
This false consensus is significant because it increases self-esteem. It is derived from a desire to conform and be liked by others in a social environment. This bias is especially prevalent in group settings where one thinks the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population. Since the members of a group reach a consensus and rarely encounter those who dispute it, they tend to believe that everybody thinks the same way.
Like I said previously, many people don’t understand that they may be wrong. They lack the wisdom in knowing that they have a lot to learn. In return, they only look to prove themselves right with their limited understanding of the political atmosphere. It’s human nature and any Psych 101 course will give a lot of insight into group and social dynamics when it comes to politics.
Remember the guitar analogy. The amateur has no idea how much they have yet to learn yet they pretend to know everything about guitar. It’s the same exact concept with political science. A majority of people who participate in politics are amateurs. The guitar player will never be considered a master unless they show devotion and dedication to learning and understanding everything about guitar and music. Unless people start questioning the status-quo for how the media shapes its information for consumption, then they will never get better at political science. To be considered knowledgeable in politics then you need to treat it like a hobby like anyone else would.
That hobby needs commitment, discipline, dedication and time. The person who wishes to be considered politically intelligent must first accept the thought that they may be wrong and must also learn the wisdom in knowing that there is always something new to learn.