Much like everybody else I’m often faced with so much information to get through that I skip from subject to subject — which isn’t a good thing to do.
Most of us read books, articles, and odds and ends written on social media sites.
When we read anything, an article, a book, or a block of information, we are normally hoping that we find something that will be of practical use to us.
We don’t consciously approach our reading with a set of values that we need to defend in case the author has some weird ideas with which she wants to persuade us.
A novel offers the value of escapism and a peek into another world and time. Some of those worlds can be invented by the author. That’s something many people enjoy, to skip the light fandango into another universe and feel what it’s like to be amongst strange peoples.
Fictional worlds are always based on our own real world, we can’t escape that one. The conflict of three lovers in a triangle, written by a great romance author, will always be about human love. Aliens and monsters who feel unloved are also expressing human feelings, and are really humans disguised as monsters.
There’s always a strong case of projecting humanness onto monsters and ghouls in a story, it’s the only way that readers will believe in them.
We read fiction to enjoy and relax, to disappear for a while. The influence that the story has on us is secondary to our thrill.
On the other hand, when we read an article we are looking for solid information to help us get something right, to understand how to do something. Maybe having a go at doing something for the first time.
This article on How to Milk a Cow, for example, should give us everything we need to get our new start in farming.
Most of us would check the author for farming and cow credibility before buying the book. Some people have trouble distinguishing between a cow and a bull, so the right knowledge could be life saving.
When we read, we absorb information. Our brain goes into a special mode that allows it become open to ideas.
Reading draws us into a new world, fiction or non-fiction, we must give up our disbelief of things so that the author can lead us along to a place where we can understand their point of view.
The successful author weaves her words like a hypnotist lulls a subject into a trance. Once we are under her spell we will respond to most anything asked of us.
A good author will be skilled in the techniques of breaking down your critical thinking and opening your vulnerability to new ideas.
This is why we will believe that a monster can fall in love, and then experience a broken heart at the end of the book.
If we sat together drinking coffee and I told your, suddenly, “Yesterday, aliens landed in the city, they were followed by the police to a department store and were witnessed trying on different types of summer clothes.”, you would probably laugh, and then, maybe think that I had a mental problem.
If you read a book about alien visitation, well researched apparently, witness accounts given by former generals and colonels of the military who used to work in Area 51, and read the same thing about aliens shopping in a chapter on page 150, you might consider it to be true. How do I know this?
You read almost half the book, you must be hooked, or at least intrigued enough to keep going. I would presume that you believe in ‘that stuff’ enough to be mulling over the information, trying to sift the facts from the speculations and make up your mind about the whole alien question.
Books & Beliefs
The books on your shelves at home tell us a lot about your beliefs and interests. It used to be a thing for visitors to browse each others books on the first visit to their home.
The New World Bookshelf
This is no longer necessary, the internet is like your bookshelf, except it contains the volumes and volumes of books and articles that you have read in the past, are reading today, and it figures it knows which books and articles, and videos you be reading and watching in the future.
It’s your interests that are most vulnerable to persuasion when it comes to reading things on the internet. Facebook has been caught out several times about not culling the false information that can be scrolled through.
The intentional article-adverts that have been spammed across it’s servers and onto the time-lines of people who show a passing interest in a subject that can be used to manipulate a reader’s beliefs about something.
Global Warming can be presented in many different ways, politically, it is a leverage device to gain voters. Tell them that electric transport is safer and won’t destroy the planet, and they’ll vote — after being force fed articles and memes in their timelines after showing interest in wild animals.
Don’t tell them that energy to run electric cars will be generated by diesel generators that use as much fuel as cars do right now. Focus on the lack of fuel being used by the car itself — that’s enough information for an overloaded brain.
Videos of lone polar bears floating out to sea on ice blocks convinces us that there is something terribly wrong with the World, it tugs at the same heart strings as lost kittens do.
These images and short memes about Global Warming can be used to sway opinions and beliefs in a much stronger way than if you read a book on the subject.
It’s when we are convinced that a business, a political party or individual has knowledge that we can benefit from, we become vulnerable to being persuaded of anything they say or constantly send to our timelines.
As soon as you put the book down to take a break, you begin to mull over the last thing you read. Weighing up the ideas of a book is a part of good reading, the hypnotic effects of the story don’t last forever, sometimes we put a book down and find it hard to start reading again — something about it nags the brain’s critical thought processes and we say, “no thanks”.
Constant exposure to memes, click bait articles, and subjects that seem to appear on our time lines, are interesting and cause us to habitually switch off our critical analysis of the material we see on these platforms.
We switch off because it’s easier, and more relaxing to view things floating past our eyes without having to analyse each meme for truth, fact, or lies.
Facebook is presented as entertainment and social contact. I don’t get that definition, and I don’t think any intelligent person would agree that it’s a truly socially engaging environment.
Creating confusion about what we should believe is another political weapon that is too tempting to pass up.
Who knows what’s right or wrong when it comes to Brexit? Both British political parties have been keeping their policies and intentions under wraps for a long time now, we only know the “facts” about how bad the other party is.
The opinions on Trump and his character, his lack of knowledge about political procedures, presidential privileges and laws, seem to be in sway at present with more and more articles popping up that speculate that he’s a very smart guy who wants you think he’s stupid — that way he can outwit the opposition.
All it takes is to sow the seeds of doubt and we will grapple for a firm hold on something solid to believe in. And that will often be the next big news splash that somehow makes sense enough, and then we fall into the other camp of belief.
Slagging-off the opposition has become a powerful way to divert public attention and their beliefs about what’s real in the world for a long time.
Mesmerising the public with our leaders’ childish behaviour, word gaffs in the media (Boris Johnson), the homeless at Christmas, the quirky characters populating the conservative party, drug taking politicians and so on, and then front pages are too full to have stories about What the Party Really Stands for.
So we are left to make up our own minds, and we only have silly “facts” to go on.
Scientific opinion is not the same as proven science, but it is used widely to persuade readers to believe in ideas that become public opinion. Much of the public are happy to accept the facts as they are given.
Politicians are lobbied by scientific groups looking for money. The medical community needs research money to carry out tests and experiments to advance their knowledge. When the Government says “no”, they will compromise on their beliefs and go with what’s on offer — knowing that it’s not the best solution medically for the public.
In order for medicine to reach the market and get into general use, it must be backed up by medical research and a clean stamp of approval by the medical community.
When politicians at Government level like a big pharma company and want to help them out, they will get the right medical scientists to express their opinions on facts about a new medicine.
The drug goes into the medical system and the pharma company makes its billions.
The results can be catastrophic for individuals who have learned from childhood not to question a doctor’s advice, and doctors who feel out of their depth questioning the power of big pharma and governments.
The rigorous scientific fact checking within the science community had been well tested, and actively proved to be sloppy and lazy about publishing scientific facts.
How to Dupe a Scientist
The scientific community can be easily duped into accepting new ideas and scientific facts, which are used in research and the public domains. The Sokal Affair from 1996, Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University wrote and submitted a document on social studies to an academic journal named, Social Text, a respected journal in the scientific community.
Alan Sokal intentionally wrote nonsense into the article to make it as unacceptable as possible. It was, amazingly, accepted and passed through the rigorous vetting system of judges.
Sokal said that he made sure that the ideas sounded good, and that he flattered the editor’s ideologies in the document to ensure it would be seen in a favourable light. That was enough for scientific rigour.
The affair also won the editors of Social Text a igNobel Prize for “eagerly publishing research that they could not understand …”
Examples abound all over the internet and in books on the shelves of shops. Wariness and caution of why a certain clicky looking article pops up in our timeline is a good habit to break the spell.
There are many monsters out there, we seldom meet them, only hear about them. We are often told that they lurk in the woods and mountains waiting to pounce and destroy us. It’s important that our monsters make sense to us before we run and hide under the table, which is why caution about what we read and watch should be a new discipline to learn.
More importantly, the monsters and threats that we being told to believe in are often the creations of heavily conflicted characters caught up in a narrative that they don’t control or understand themselves.