Saturday, August 07, 2010

Knowing What We Know (or Not)

The movie "Inception" imagines a technology that allows agents to enter the subconscious of a target and manipulate their memories and thus their beliefs. David Sirota, in this Alternet article titled "A Lesson from "Inception": How the Right-Wing and Corporate Media Brainwash Americans" contends that our 24/7 mediation by politically-oriented media outlets produces a similar frame of mind. If we only hear things that align with our prior information and beliefs, we get to a point where contradictory evidence cannot make a dent. Sirota quotes Cal State Fullerton's Nancy Snow, who wrote in 2004 that:

today's most pervasive and effective propaganda is the kind that is "least noticeable" and consequently "convinces people they are not being manipulated."
Few things show more resistance to contradiction than a "fact" that we believe we discovered on our own.

As Wendell Johnson put it, we become our own "most enchanted listener". When that happens, we have less motivation to ask "what do I mean?" and "how do I know?" which increases the likelihood that we will not recognize the possibility or validity of contradictory information.

So what did you NOT notice today?

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