8.6. Misinformation and Collective Action

We’ve lost our ability as a society to agree on what’s really happening in the world.

Another obstacle to acting collectively and effectively—one that’s becoming especially problematic—is widespread ignorance and misunderstandings.

The way we learn about what’s going on in the world, what’s causing our greatest problems, and what we should do to fix them isn’t much different than the children’s game of Telephone.

We pass information back and forth among long chains and networks of people and institutions. We rely on word of mouth, on what we hear from people we trust, and on reports and interpretations with varying levels of confidence.

But we rarely know for sure that the information we’re getting is 100 percent accurate.

Because like the children’s game, distortions and misunderstandings can creep in at any point in the chain.

Some of the actors in the chain are institutions that have a selfish interest in presenting information in certain ways.

Sometimes complex issues get oversimplified, important facts get left out, and flat-out falsehoods spread like wildfire.

We used to have something approaching a consensus about what was going on in the world, in the “mainstream media.”

Whether they were really so objective in their glory days is debatable. But what’s not debatable is we no longer have this consensus.

News organizations have learned how to target the biases that cause us to prefer confirmations of what we already believe, and how to present deviations from the consensus as a badge of honor—as if they’re the only organization with the courage to report on those issues.

It’s more or less broken our ability as a society to agree on what’s really happening in the world, and what problems we need to address.

It’s one thing to disagree on how to fix our problems. But when we can’t even agree on what our problems are, then we’re completely incapable of acting collectively.

We need to repair the loss of trust we have in our media, and reach a consensus about what’s going on in the world.

Because the simple fact is: we’re nothing without each other.

Individual people, small groups, and even large groups that have made powerful enemies that fight them every step of the way just don’t have a lot of power in today’s world.

Our greatest strength is our numbers. And yet we waste that potential every single day.

We take the easy way out of only consuming news that confirms our own beliefs, automatically labeling everything else as “biased.”

We let those skewed viewpoints turn millions of people with whom we could be working collaboratively into stereotypes, scapegoats, and enemies.

I’m not trying to tell you not to think for yourself. But if the media you’re consuming is telling you your views are largely correct, and that huge groups made up of millions of people unlike you are the problem, you should really be skeptical.

Those organizations aren’t interested in the truth. They’re interested in marketing to you.

They’re playing on your group allegiances, catering to your preexisting beliefs, and tearing the American people apart to make a buck.

We have to have huge numbers working together, to really make the world a better place—and half the country isn’t enough. Don’t let these divisive media organizations swindle you into believing it is.

 

This is the 130th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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