By David Jones
Americans are talking about living in a post-fact, post-truth, post-morality nation, partly because the mediaverse hammers the notion into our brains.
I remember when we weren’t informed 24/7 about anything (not counting my mom letting me know I still haven’t cleaned my room. Not news, mom!). How in the world did Grandpa have opinions before he had a TV? Politicians and celebrities said stuff all the time and I never heard any of it. Now I can’t help but hear most of it.
TV, the internet, and especially social media need 24-hour content to draw eyeballs. If someone says something outrageous, it’s going to be wall-to-wall until the next thing replaces it. And that’s what folks are increasingly basing their beliefs and views on.
We wandered into a trap though: at some point we came to believe that what we personally saw or heard was the real truth about things. In a scary world you didn’t fully trust or understand, at least you could say “I saw it with my own eyes.”
Now we see reports of something called a “deepfake”: a video manipulated to show a politician or a celebrity saying and doing something that they didn’t really say or do. That leads some people to panic. How can we be sure that what we’re seeing and hearing is authentic or not?
The Oracle in The Matrix: Reloaded gave me the best answer:
“It is a pickle, no doubt about it. Bad news is there’s no way you can really know if I’m here to help you or not, so it’s really up to you. Just have to make up your own damn mind to either accept what I’m going to tell you, or reject it.”
It’s really just that. People did that for ages before they started needing others to tell them what views to hold and what to be upset about.
Here’s a secret: even back then, not everything you saw, heard, or read was true. The facts you encountered might have been accurate but incomplete or out-of-context. Views were spun live. Misinformation was spread and quotes were fabricated. Photos were doctored old-school, audio and video was manipulated, and fakery flourished for decades.
People knew the sources they believed or disbelieved and adjusted their views accordingly. Folks still do that today. Even if you see or hear something authentic, it’s still up to you if you agree with it or not.
You know why some folks worry about deepfakes? Because they have been using videos, recordings, and reportage to try and win arguments, not to examine their own views. Deepfakes are the latest weapons of mass provocation in the war of online aggression, and they’re hard to defend against. How will people win arguments with strangers on social media if they can’t trust the video clip that would destroy their opponent?
Winning arguments online replaced compassion.
We don’t try to help folks be less angry or intolerant or frightened of difference, we just judge them for it and move superiorly on. If your viewpoint debate results in calling someone an idiot, you’re just worried about hash marks in your win column which reinforce and reassure you about your own views.
But compassion for others relieves me of the burden to convince others that their views or beliefs are wrong or hypocritical. Mindful Acceptance allows us to just carry on and accept that some folks accept things we reject. Fact-checking is good for news, but not for bludgeoning others.
So it’s possible that this crisis of reliability will end up being a good thing. Once we are cut free from relying on what we see or hear to know what to think, believe, and feel about a thing, we are free to be more authentic.
That’s a mindfulness pillar for me: being authentic. Even if a video or a report isn’t authentic, I still can be. Accept what you’re told or reject it, it’s still up to you to decide what you actually think, believe, and hold in you heart.
I mentioned this to Bigfoot recently and he agreed with me.
Editor: Dana Gornall