Thursday, May 15, 2014

Land of the Free - As Long As You Agree With Popular Opinion

The news reports on activities the producers and directors think are noteworthy to report. Usually those items are unusual or different in some way, because otherwise it would not be news, it would just be ordinary events.

So the news generally doesn't report on bland daily activities. It reports things that generally happen to relatively few people but are so fantastic in nature it's obvious that the general public would want to know about it. Bank robberies, muggings, fires, thefts, crashes, strange achievements, and such. So the news, packed with so many interesting items, feeds our brains with these things so we begin to think that these uncommon occurrences are actually more prevalent in society than they actually are.

Then we lock our doors. We get security systems. We wonder what odd things we can do to get on the news, because obviously there's so much going on to everybody that there must be something we do that's newsworthy.

But the news reports on minority issues that affect a small subset of our population. We think it applies to us and it gets reported in such a way that we think that it could have happened to us, so we should be alert.

(This affects me to such extreme that one night I left the garage door open all night and the car doors unlocked and when I opened the door the next morning and saw straight outside and not the closed garage door, well I had a moment of chilling fear tingle up my spine followed by a wash of relief that the whole family wasn't raped and pillaged and murdered and killed overnight.)

And here we are, watching the news, thinking all of it in some way directly affects our lives. Our favorite TV and movie actors share their opinions about some of it, too. They support some things and oppose other things. And the news reports these famous opinions as if they are facts. The news cycle continues, and over the course of a few short months or years, the constant reporting of these uncommon activities and the vocal support or opposition of them by people we enjoy being entertained by, well, turns out that we start thinking that the opinions of these famous people are actual reflections of society in general.

So we think to ourselves, wow, my opinion must be so out of touch with the rest of the general public. Something is wrong with me that I don't see things the same way as these reporters and people I see on the TV and hear on the radio. Well, those people must know more than me, because why else would they be so rich and famous if they weren't more capable and knowledgeable than me?

Slowly, we find that our opinions and thoughts that are contrary to what the news reports as common and right, those opinions must be bad.

And when some personality on the edge of popular opinion opens up and says something to question this, perhaps the same way you may question things if you had the chance, well the media piles on this poor individual as an intolerant bigot racist who lives in the dark ages. He gets fined and suspended by his boss and the rest of the TV and radio people point to him as the worst kind of person. So you think to yourself, wow, I better keep my mouth shut, look what happened to that guy.

Yes, you still may have your opinion, and it still may be different than what the talking heads on the TV are reporting as common enlightened knowledge. But you had better not share it with anyone or else you will be seen as a hate and fear-filled ignoramus impeding the progress of the enlightened ones.

Remember, these enlightened ones are remarkably few in number. They have large soapboxes to stand on and are influential because we loved them in that movie where they pretended to be that character we love. Clearly their beliefs are more important than mine. Clearly those who disagree are wrong. Just look at what happened to those people who spoke up against the popular opinion. If such bad things happened to them (and they are FAMOUS!), imagine what terrible things could happen to us if we talk about our skepticism of what's going on? There would be no hope for us.

And this is how I am realizing that we are all free to say whatever we want, as long as it doesn't oppose what our news reporters and celebrities support.

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