All Else is an Option
By Jorge D. H. Prósperi 2019
Let’s begin with some debunked old-time “confirmation biases” . . . the ones most of us can agree on . . . that earth was created flat. Might as well mention the other connected debunked conspiracy theory . . . that MAN along with EARTH . . . were centers of the universe. Oh well . . . it only took a few hundred years for members of the human choir to sing . . . 🎶“Here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo) . . . Here comes the sun, and I say . . . It’s all right!”🎶
Waiting patiently . . . the universe . . . its galaxies . . . beyond wo/men-made optics . . . patiently waiting . . . splendor . . . reverential wonderment . . . truth . . . waiting patiently to come into view . . . waiting for minuscule arrogant quarks shunning humility’s life-forces among the vastness of space and time . . . exploring in awe uncaused causes . . .
Those middle ages were tough “confirmation biased” years. Learned scholars, academicians, philosophers – even theologians were tortured and murdered for expressing their science-based-research-data and findings. To mention a substitute for a well-defined heaven was to invite a fettered life.
Let’s be clear, the notion that the world was flat (not Thomas L. Friedman’s metaphor) was affirmed by religious, social and political powers present at the time to “confirm” constructed truncated notions of reality. Altered realities and fake news was not created in 2016!
That the world was flat was one of the biggest of the “Big Lies.” To express doubt or site proof otherwise was considered blasphemous, scandalous and heresy. The price for exclaiming the truth was excommunication, torture and even death.
“Confirmation bias” has been around for centuries, always with the same foci and reasons: to use, abuse and dupe human kind in order to centralize, acquire and maintain power and control – be it via a king, queen, pope and/or autocrat.
The delegitimization of the truth has always been a major component of “confirmation bias” – a central tenet and master plan of totalitarians, autocrats, dictators, despots, absolutists, tyrants, authoritarians and monocrats focused on absolute power and control.
Invalidation of the truth is a prerequisite and core value of those “who would be king.” The strategies used in the past by autocrats are well-documented throughout history.
What is new are the tools available in the 21st century – the power of the Internet, Social Media and sophisticated marketers Confirming horror and trauma.
Autocratic paradigms can easily be found in the past resulting in cataclysmic results . . . and now are but a click away to reconfirm . . .
- Align political ideology with citizens who believe to be disenfranchised politically, culturally, economically, racially and have lost the capital of their identity. Promise that such constituencies can get “their country back!”
- Create – produce – market “Nuremberg Rallies” to stoke partisan support. Use chants to “confirm” biases.
- Create echo chambers, silos to foster absolute messaging by social media and cable TV and radio. Control the airwaves and message.
- Disenfranchise and repress a free press, free speech and investigative reporting.
- Use nepotism and favoritism to pander self-adulation, narcissism – demand blind loyalty.
- Face indictments with denials – deflect allegations, play the victim.
- Obstruct legislation and policies that favor other parties and legislators.
- Refuse to testify if self-interest outcomes are not guaranteed.
- Isolate the nation and its citizens promoting anti-globlalization.
- Break global alliances and collaborations.
- Align leadership style modeling other authoritarians and dictators.
- Lie and deny – avoid fact-finding and research-based data.
- Do not apologize or admit to any wrong doing.
- Keep the public off balance guessing as to who and what has veracity.
- Demean, discredit and silence scholars and academics.
- Stoke fear and ignorance regarding social cultural changes.
- Define “diversity”, “multiculturalism” and “bilingualism” as enemies – non-patriotic.
- Revise history if and when necessary.
- Stoke racism, feminism and xenophobia.
- Promote the science of race – eugenics.
- Tie patriotism to White Nationalism.
- Avoid research, inspection and pursuit of domestic terrorism and terrorists. Use coded “dog whistles” to show support.
- Provide simplistic answers for complex economic challenges.
- Avoid retrospection and critical self-analysis.
- Deflect personal blame and responsibility for regrettable choices and dysfunctions.
- Blame loss of employment, lack of academic success, dropping out of school and/or denial to college admission on others. Blame bad teachers, schools paying too much attention to Special Needs students, Title IX, ESL and affirmative action.
- Divide urban, suburban and rural communities.
- Call for privatization of services through special interests in order to control contracts and profit.
- Find a common enemy and/or institution to blame and exploit. Use IMMIGRANTS and IMMIGRATION as defaults.
- Suppress registration, elections and right to vote locally and nationally.
- Eliminate civic and civil norms.
- Disregard rule of law unless it results in personal gain and/or advantage.
Tactics to divide and conquer are not new and were major ploys by the Nazi regime as Hitler sought to destroy opposition and critical analysis of the Nazi ideology by draconian methods and truncated laws. With each salute and chant HATE was Confirmed – Affirmed – over and over until it was normalized.
Nazi ideology called for the destruction of norms and principles, rule of law and democratic values. It created a base of support that did not – could not question without reprisals.
Given the engineering of “The Final Solution”, it was necessary to convince the populous of the need for terror – to normalize what was being designed – society needed to be anesthetized to the reality regarding the demise of a society . . . so that it could look away in the face of human horror and trauma.
The normalization of dehumanization requires constant “confirmation” –because it is asking fellow human beings to ignore the humanity of others based on a truncated constructed bias.
Social biases, -isms and phobias ask human beings to cross a line that requires numbing of mind, heart and spirit . . . to literally deny the worth of another human being . . . a denial of life itself.
Such socio-political -isms and phobias were insidious processes led by individuals who were master engineers of deceit, propaganda, control of the media and knew their constituencies – their audience – the flaws in their citizenship. They just needed to tap into and stoke the fear and ignorance, while creating social anxiety, stress and chaos.
Thomas L. Friedman does not mince words as to his critical analysis of the challenges that America is facing in 2019 and beyond. In a recent article in the New York Times Opinion Section titled: “Trump, Zuckerberg and Pals are breaking America” October 29, 2019. Friedman posits,
“America’s worst enemies had spent years designing a plan to erode our greatest strengths, they could not have done better than what some of our fellow citizens are doing to the country every day for short-term financial or political gain.
Prominent figures in government, politics and commerce are behaving in ways that are so destructive of the core institutions and norms that underpin our democracy, one can only assume that they take the country’s stability as a given — that they can abuse and stress it all they want and it won’t break.
They are wrong. We can break America, and right now we’re on our way there. Not in the Cold War, not during Vietnam, not during Watergate did I ever fear more for my country.
They justify it with daily new conspiracy theories amplified by Fox News.
In attacking all the diplomats, intelligence officers and civil servants who have stepped forward, at great professional risk, to bear witness against Trump, they are attacking the people who uphold the regulations — and provide the independent research and facts — that make our government legitimate and the envy of people all over the world.
And, finally, there are the internet barons, who for too long ignored the weaponization of social media, which is turning our free press into a house of mirrors, where citizens can no longer cognitively discern fact from fiction and make informed judgments essential for democracy.
To think of such realities in the 21st century seem incredible – impossible to fathom . . . and yet historians estimate that throughout our human history several hundred million human beings were murdered due to political / religious ideologies.
These are incredulous numbers but true. The number does not seem immense when we consider colonialism, displacement of native people, slavery, genocide, needless world wars and ethnic cleansing.
But that was yesterday right? So let’s bring it home to 2019 . . . how about White Nationalism, Domestic Terrorism and Domestic Terrorists and their “confirmed biased” Manifestos?
Why are hate crimes on the rise – why are hate groups exponentially growing, expanding and now emboldened? Hate-Crime Violence Hits 16-Year High, F.B.I. Reports by Adeel Assan – National Desk – Nov. 12, 2019. FBI 2018 Data on Hate Crimes.
As an educator for some 43 years, I truly fear “confirmation bias” as much as I fear all constructed social -isms and phobias that now have been weaponized and normalized – once more.
I fear that our society is not equipped educationally and as astute citizens to critically challenge the sirens of constructed biases and prejudices. I fear that our society is dormant, too distracted watching reality TV, too consumed by consumerism, too numbed by 21st century global challenges – not equipped to critically discern their power of influence as citizens. To comfortable – too wired trying to keep up with this weeks basketball / football fantasies.
What does it take to get our attention? What are the consequences for remianing silent, aloof, apathetic, unconnected?
To what degree does history need to remind us of consequences when citizens lose sight of our human connected affinity to the human condition.
History moves too fast to record every name . . . each victim . . . each street memorial . . . again reminding us . . . but a glimpse of what we have become – not in 1939 but 2019.
Pre-school through college schooling has failed citizens on citizenship. I posit that citizenship has been left to the individual to figure it out – a ship launched into adulthood without a rudder – a ship ready made for a Captain Ahab to command via delusions of power and control.
In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the editor-in-chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled Just How Stupid are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter. The book highlights four components that citizens should be addressing regarding their own education and that of their children as it applies to civic responsibilities. Without pandering, condescending and insulting . . . America is facing a serious dumbing down – anti-intellectualism – anti pursuit of fact-finding.
Shenkman posits that the first challenge facing citizens is general ignorance about major international events. The second is the lack of factual information citizens know about their government and how it functions. The third is the willingness by citizens to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country. And lastly, the degree of gullibility to be swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears and public relations babble.
Keep in mind that the book was written in 2008! So what about 2020? How many of Shenkman’s warnings are deserving of scrutiny and review?
So why are American Citizens not taught to be astute – critical thinkers about their citizenship and its relationship to history, constitution, democracy, rule of law, diversity and how it all impacts the quality of life?
To achieve a citizenry that would be on alert armed with critical thinking tools, would mean to begin with teachers that were trained to implement critical thinking strategies at the pre-school level and reinforced and amplified at each level of the educational process – YES! Especially at the college level before voting rights and professions are launched.
The Constitution, Rule of Law and Civic and Civil Norms must become major curricular objectives across the curriculum connected to all subjects with interdisciplinary links to language arts, Social-Sciences and Technology. The number 1 priority must become the tenets of Citizenship.
As Adam Collins, a contributor of Diversity-Threads.com posits, “Your first thought is how society taught you to think. Our second thought is who you are as a person.” Collins emphasizes that the second thought should be our first.
But where are these principles and processes learned as fellow human beings and citizens? Isn’t citizenship a fluid and dynamic exercise ever seeking amplification, meaning and purpose? Isn’t citizenship a synergistic phenomenon calling for inclusion rather than ostracizing due to flagrant benightedness?
“Confirmation bias” – “closed mindedness” shuts down the need for awareness, perception, consciousness and inquiry. It avoids having more than one complex conflicting perspective at the same time – no need to invite otherness or difference of thinking.
Confirmation bias invites only like-minded blind loyalists to nod in agreement – echo the daily party line.
Open mindedness is much more complex to address. Openness and Mindedness are by nature dynamic – fluid enterprises requiring intellectual patience, more time and effort for discernment.
Open Mindedness encourages different points of view in order to address and avoid blind spots. It is ever noticing new pathways – some charted – some not.
Open mindedness requires listening without taking sides, considering alternate points of view, approaching conflicting ideas and perspectives without fear. It is not concerned about winning a debate.
Open mindedness is inquisitive – loves interrogatives – asking for clarification as to who, when, where, how . . . the most favorite being . . . ¿WHY?
Critical common sense lives side-by-side with critical thinking . . . likewise begging to ask . . .
- Why would someone by choice want to remain closed minded to information, knowledge and truth without wanting to weigh different opinions, evidence and pertinent information?
- Why would a jury decide at the beginning of a trial on a guilty verdict without a fair trial and listening to all of the evidence?
- Why would one group of people designate themselves as “truth tellers” and then remain isolated in echo chambers by choice avoiding other tellers to voice their truth?
- Why would anyone scream out with absolute conviction that the world is flat and that their thinking was at the center of the universe?
End of Part III – Go to Part IV