Feeling Manipulated

One of the reasons I don’t post much anymore is the sheer volume of fact-checking I have to do whenever I see current events. Clicking on a news story, I invariably discover conflicting accounts and spin putting it in different directions. People claim truth is subjective, and in today’s climate of persuasive and alternative facts, they’re right. I suppose that if one confuses every issue long enough, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

What this means for me is that I keep feeling manipulated. I can’t just read about facts and make my own mind about it. Instead, I have to look for where the story doesn’t make sense, for where they’re hiding something. Good spinners of news will give people what they think they already know, which keeps consumers coming back for more. They’re not in the business of giving facts; they’re in the business of perpetuating a narrative.

Another problem I’m having is that this isn’t the first time I’ve expressed this feeling, or the first time I’ve had conversations about this. It seems like whenever I have conversations about it, people agree with me up to a point. Sure, news media is bad, in a general sense. What gets left out is the caveat: “But not the news I believe.”

I really do get why this is a thing; I grew up in a house where my mom listened to conservative talk radio all the time. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were big names (the latter was local to Huntsville, unfortunately), and I got to hear all sorts of messed up things when I rode in the car. Conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton spread like wildfire, and that was the first time I figured out that not everyone in the media says the truth.

Before people get too smug, other political camps are just as deplorable. There was a meme going around which claimed Mitch McConnell got help from medicare to cure a childhood illness. Turns out, that meme wasn’t true at all. But it sounded great, so nobody gave a fuck.

All of this builds to a greater point; it’s hard to believe in nothing because it’s better that way. Disillusionment doesn’t even begin to describe the despair I can get in. I can’t go anywhere without someone saying something extreme about people in whatever the other tribe is. This behavior makes us all look and sound like the apes we are, and not anything resembling a sentient species. Sometimes it gets really bad, and I feel we all get the misery we deserve.

In the end, I avoid talking about it because it doesn’t even solve the problem. People get defensive when their pet theories about the monstrosity of “those other people” get challenged. They’re more likely to just dig their heels in or maintain the illusion that it’s true for everyone but them. The last thing I want to do is help that along.

So, the more I see how fucked up things get, the less I want to get on those topics. It shouldn’t matter if people agree with me or not, about this or anything else. I’m trying to treat it like that, and get to a point where it doesn’t matter to me. While I can’t change the world, I can control how I feel about things. As it turns out, the least I can do is also the most I can do.

And if someone wants to manipulate me into getting irrationally terrified of the Donald Trumps and Barack Obamas of the world, I can just say that they’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s not that I don’t care about world events; it’s that I don’t care about the shit they’re covering it in.

20 thoughts on “Feeling Manipulated

  1. I find that I take a step back whenever a big news story hits, there is so much hot air blown about seemingly without much thought put in at all. I take at least 24 hours away from any social media because of all the ridiculous claims, absurd logic and a clear unwillingness to change a mindset formed over the course of a life in, like you mentioned, a tribe that a person has been brought up in.

    There is more truth in not saying anything than there is in saying something, which is rather tragic.

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  2. I’m fairly immune to slant put on news. I tend to think of facts as objective and truth as subjective, if that makes sense.

    I tend to gather primary news from sources that have a charter that requires balanced reporting. I’m the first to acknowledge that no source is truly balanced and unbiased, but where they have some legal requirement to do so then I’ll trust them a little more than other sources.

    So for me, I have more trust in organisations such as the BBC, Radio NZ, and TVNZ than Fox for example. I also find Al Jazeera another useful alternative source to counter Fox.

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    • Ideally, people in the States have relied on defamation suits to keep news organizations honest. American law has been unable to enact anything more strict because of the First Amendment. Even then, news organizations have armies of lawyers that actually give advice on stories before they run. What this does is enable news organizations to toe the line while not crossing it.

      I’m already seeing this in other countries. In the U.K., for example, the BBC and other organizations reported political lies by the Brexit supporters. Although the news organization did do a good job of reporting on it, they didn’t stop the politicians from manipulating them. In short, how are people who even try to report the truth capable of doing it when they can’t call people out for lying?

      Maybe it’s just my American cynicism, but I don’t see this problem going away in other countries. Instead, other countries are going to have to do something to stop the spread of it. And right now, I don’t know what that is.


      • One of the problems with news services is that they have been stripped of reporters and researchers. Seems that too often they merely relay whatever press releases they get with little more than a cursory glance at the content. The days of doing in depth research seem to be gone.


  3. You’re very smart, though. So confusing as it may be (and is), you’ll get there. I can relate because about 10 days ago I decided to not drink at all for a while because I thought my level of crazy was getting out of hand. Then when it didn’t get better, I had to admit the problem wasn’t my own mind – it was everybody else’s! HA!

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  4. My friend, don’t despair. If it will make you feel any better, latest report shows over 90% of Kenyans have been subjected to fake news in the days leading to the election. The amount of lies being peddled can make you go numb.
    So I agree with Pink and JZ, trust Auntie. Though I don’t know why they would want to have cinnamon in their whiskey 🙂

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