Monday, November 01, 2010

The Disturbing Power of the Media to Shape Opinions

The older I get, the more curious I get about why people hold the political views they do.  At this moment in time, nearly 2 years into Barack Obama's presidency, I find it truly baffling how anyone can look at what policies he has enacted, how he has behaved, what state America is in and conclude, "Wow, what a super presidency!"  Yet, about 47% of Americans apparently do.  Not a majority but certainly a large number.

Most everyone is familiar with the notion of "Cause & Effect".  In essence, every Effect (Result) occurs because of a Cause (Reason).  In a Computer Software Program the analogy is as follows:

Data Input  ----->  Processing  ----->  Data Output

The human mind is kind of like a computer but the middle part, what we call "Thinking", varies greatly from person to person.  However, I tend to believe that if two people possess a good deal of Common Sense (Processing) then given the same Input, they're likely to produce the same Conclusions (Output).

When it comes to Political Views (Output) one thing that has become clear is that News Sources (Input) vary greatly from person to person.  If an experiment were conducted that significantly skewed all of the News Sources (Input) for test subjects, either through false reporting or by deliberate omission, I strongly suspect that within a period of months, perhaps even less, most people's Viewpoints (Output) could be shaped in a very dramatic fashion.

I thought a lot about this when I listened to this recent podcast from BBC Radio.  If you're a typical person in Britain and all of your News (Input) about America is similar to this, what Conclusions (Output) would you draw about: Americans, Alaskans, Christians, Republicans, Sarah Palin?  For most people, could it be anything other than highly negative?

Yet in the nation of Britain the entire welfare state is falling apart, the government is nearly bankrupt, and countless people are being laid off.  But those American Tea Partiers who are demanding smaller, responsible government and fiscal responsibility, they are the crazy ones!  After all, almost the entirety of the British media watched, listened to, and read is constantly telling people this, so it must be true ... right?  This is what's known as Cognitive Dissonance.

It's quite amazing therefore that someone like Daniel Hannan can grow up in such a place and come to very different conclusions.  Amazing, and dare I say, inspiring.

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