About fake news and living in an illusion

Donald Trump and I don’t have a lot in common. We grew up in different cultures, belong to different generations and most importantly don’t think alike at all – perhaps partly because of those other differences. Our views on the way the world works are like night and day. There is only one thing on which we seem to agree: we both distrust the media. I can’t say I’m okay with the way he deals with that problem, but the problem is there nonetheless.

The U.S. President talks about this problem in easy to understand terms: journalists are liars. Fake. News. I like to go a bit deeper than that. Media isn’t necessarily propaganda or lies, but it will definitely shape our thoughts and opinions about anything and everything it touches. This is because the media is our only resource of actually forming those thoughts. It tells us about the world and we’ll have to believe it – we have no other way to find out (even if friends told us, those friends of friends of friends of friends got it from the media). Based on whichever media you choose to believe some details will be enhanced or omitted, since complete objectivity is impossible. The media decides what’s important. This consequently means that the media creates a projection of the world that will never be exactly the way it actually is. It creates the illusion we live in.

To explain this idea better I’ll go back to mr. Trump. My opinion about the man is completely based on the media: I don’t know what the guy is like, I have never met him. This means I don’t actually have an opinion about Trump himself, but about my projection of Trump. A projection created by whatever the traditional media decides to show and what he himself shares on social media such as his beloved Twitter account. But as we all should realise, social media accounts aren’t true reflections of the people behind them either – even if it’s the president. Decisions are made about what to share and, more importantly, what not. Still, we believe that our projections of this man are very close to what this man really is like. Simply because we have nothing to tell us otherwise.

Sure, we can try to listen to people who have different ideas. But because we already live in this illusion, this bias, we are much likely to doubt their ideas than to change our own. We have been living in our own projection of the world for so long that we have started to believe it. I even dare to say that we don’t just live in the illusion, but that the entirety of life itself is the illusion. Because what else do we have than biased, subjective ideas about anything and everything we have ever encountered, including ourselves? What else do we have to guide us?

This realisation has made me extremely sceptical towards the media – even if it’s coming from a source that seems objective since I automatically tend to agree (which means it’s as biased as I am). The way media frames certain problems or emphasises certain details sometimes comes off to me as untrustworthy. Not because the facts aren’t true, but because of the effect these portrayals could have on my own and others’ projections of the world – and those will be untrue. The media is responsible for a lot of the fear, anger and hate in the world. And no, I don’t just mean the hate towards minorities. I also mean the (my? your?) hate towards people like Trump and his supporters. Sadly, there isn’t much we can do about that. We can’t be neutral about things unless we don’t ‘know’ anything about them (perhaps attainable by becoming a hermit). But maybe we can try to be a bit less negative at least. Don’t worry too much. Focus on the positive.

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