I write this as someone familiar with having deeply held beliefs that don’t correspond with reality.
It hurts when these beliefs conflict with what I witness in the world around me. Even when I understand these beliefs to be false, it’s hard to discard them. And no matter how hard I try, they sometimes linger as an echo in my thoughts.
In some ways, it doesn’t take much to convince a person that lies are truth and deception is reality. The best efforts mix honest results with falsehoods. Much of the ones I am familiar with were found in my religious upbringing.
With the steady source of misinformation at a person’s fingertips – coupled with the blind hubris that such information isn’t wrong – this phenomenon now crosses political, social, and physical boundaries at an alarming rate. Consider this one example, a rally in New Zealand. Some of the people marching by carry a prominent “Women for Trump” sign.
To be fair, I don’t understand the circumstances of that sign existing in a New Zealand rally concerning New Zealand policy. My hope is that it’s some sort of attempt at ironic humor. My fear is that Mr. Trump has become this beacon of pseudo-liberty to people across the world.
Belief in misinformation has created a crisis of ideas.
I think when historians finally write the books about the last four or five years of human existence, they will have to acknowledge that the bright hope of unfettered information has become the nightmare of ubiquitous misinformation. Whether it’s lies leading to Brexit or the circus of Trump’s presidency, a body of human knowledge untethered to human ethics can’t be sustained. Real decisions get made upon the flimsiest of beliefs.
We just happen to be able to make weightier decisions than our ancestors.
The beliefs can still be as flimsy.
Without getting too abstract here (too late!), what I’m saying is that on a very real level, I don’t think people are as aware of how powerful their beliefs are. Even I’m not aware. But ideas can fly all over the place, far enough now to prompt people across a wide ocean to express support for a leader that couldn’t find their country on a map.