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We trust you... We trust you not...
The term "post-truth" was popularised in 2016 due to its frequent use during the Brexit referendum and US Presidential election. With this term comes an assumption that there was a time where the objective truth was predominant. Although I am not asserting that such an extraordinary time has never existed, I don't believe that it has occurred within the past number of centuries.
Presently, politicians are perceived more as celebrities. Nigel Farage is more likely to get asked for pictures on the streets than Theresa May, even by people who reveal that they won't vote for him. Facts have become less important than the charisma and popularity of the politician. Chomsky's book on propaganda reveals the areas where we can begin to regain some control on our own part within current political systems. Do note that this book focuses largely on the American democracy, although it does not mean that it is irrelevant to other governments.
Here are 5 of my takeaways:
1. Corporations are king
Corporations are king, and although this is a well known matter of fact, not many use this information to their benefit. Oligopolies currently exist within the telecommunications, food and auto industries, especially in America. There is not much that the people can do to change the structures of these large corporations, but one thing to keep in mind is that if corporations are king, consumers are queen. Not unlike a game of chess, Kings are the ones who decide the outcome of the game, while Queens are being heavily depended upon to protect the King.
Corporations can only survive with consumers, who need to start standing up for what they want and deserve. Support the companies involved in causes you care about and avoid those involved in unethical practices. It will not be easy to completely boycott ubiquitous brands like Nestle, but keep in mind that even small steps like avoiding them occasionally can make a difference.
2. Slogans are constructed to confuse
Marketing/campaign slogans are usually ambiguous and difficult to disagree with. Most of the catchiest slogans, including McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" and Donald Trump's "Make America great again", do not express much about their brands and the values they stand for. These slogans are tend to be vague without addressing the significant issues. The necessary questions at hand were, "Is this food nutritious for me?" and "Do I support the policies espoused by this politician?", both of which were astutely concealed by effective marketing.
Additionally, they tend to tap on the emotional human sides, distracting people in an attempt to prevent them from thinking clearly and making smart choices. The most popular emotion to trigger, as you might have guessed, is fear. Trump used this method very much to his benefit by depicting immigrants as a terrifying threat. “Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders,” he said.
Perhaps we are defenseless against our biology and how corporations choose to advertise. The best we can do is to remain conscious of marketing tactics used by politicians or companies, which then allow us to make measured decisions driven by rationality,rather than fear.
3. Minimise time watching shows
The entertainment industry has managed to convince many that the next new trendy product or the "perfect" body will be all they need to be happy, getting people to focus on trivialities. They keep consumers distracted on unimportant matters like Taylor Swift's spat with Katy Perry, keeping audiences from thinking about important issues that have actual influence on their lives. Case in point, Kim Kardashian has about 49 million hits on Google while Xi Jinping has about 2.5 million hits.
Of course, watching shows is not inherently bad, the content that you choose to consume also matters. Fundamentally, if you are aware that you spend too much time watching shows, slowly cutting down will be a good idea. Not sure of what to do with the spare time you have? Perhaps consider reading?
I will be attempting a 60 day TV/Netflix fast due to my unhealthy binge-watching habits, starting mid-June. If you are interested in hearing about my journey, do feel free to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates.
The best environment for a government to administrate is when the people are segregated and unable to achieve much with the limited resources they each have. Before trade unions came about, individual workers may have been afraid to raise employment issues with the boss. One person would have been easy to ignore and replace, but when the workers organised to form trade unions, the problems became difficult for employers to disregard.
The internet has become an incredibly convenient platform for people to organise and be heard. Not every cause can gain as much traction as the Women's March or LGBT Pride Month. But at least, uniting with people who face the similar problems can give you a greater chance of being heard while making the journey less lonely.
5. Political Hypocrisy
Not unlike Orwell's dystopia in 1984, governments can easily ignore or deviate from their previous stances to make themselves look better. A famous case is the usage of brutal and coercive methods in the military detention camp of Guantanamo Bay, going against a core value of America, liberty. Furthermore, in a contradictory attempt to "bring democracy and peace" to Syria, innocent civilian casualties brought about by the US outnumber those caused by ISIS or Russia.
We may not be able to change how governments or politicians act, but being aware of such deception can mean that people begin to choose less unprincipled and dishonest politicians (hopefully they exist).
If you, dear reader, shall choose only one thing to take away from this, it should be to read more and educate yourselves on different current issues while being critical of everything that you read. Be critical of the information you consume and use the information to make the best choices for yourself and the society.
You don't have to believe my content or trust that my summary is actually an accurate representation of Chomsky's ideas. Do read the book and form your own opinions on it. All in all, I think this book is a good read for anyone who wants to gain a broader perspective on how this world is run.