As I scroll through my Twitter feed and Facebook, looking at trending topics, it’s easy to look at the media outlet originating the article, and assume how they will come down on a certain topic. Being a normal human being, you automatically zero in on the media outlets that support your way of thinking.
It’s kind of funny (not funny ha-ha, but funny strange) that there are two outlets covering the exact same incident and tweak a few words or add/delete a certain detail and the news story says something totally different. It can be infuriating to see such polar opposites in the news. Meanwhile, everyone claims they are right. And if you dare express an opposing option…option mind you…not necessarily an opinion, you get slammed down and shouted down until you either shut up and shut down, or just go away.
Propaganda is a tricky business; and people on all sides of the issues are slinging it around. Many of these people are well meaning, and some are clearly not. Some news outlets are so sure they are being righteous and truthful, and so afraid that the general population, often referred to as a clump, “‘The American People’ are concerned…or aware…or like this…or think this… or that,” will be mis-led, so they take the responsibility upon themselves to lead them into a certain way of thinking.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I listen to a statement about what concerns the “American People” and I think, “How dare they speak for me? They don’t even know me.” What these people are doing is stating their opinion as fact and use inflammatory statements intended to make the “American People” feel left out or stupid or in the minority if they disagree.
Ratings and free speech
OK, I get it. It’s about ratings and free speech and being the first to present the facts. Of course. That is what it is. We have to stop blaming the media, the politicians, and the advertisers and get informed. It’s a contest, a race for who’s on top, who’s got the best ratings and that’s all part of a capitalistic society.
But if we, the “American People,” want to avoid getting caught up in the vortex of a propagandized agenda, we must be the ones to stop the reactivity. We must be the ones to slow down the rate at which we listen, think and respond. We are really the ones who have the power to change the culture to what we want it to be, not what some politician or news source wants it to be. But we have to stop being lazy in our listening.
Blaming and finger pointing is lazy and reactive. We need to accept what is and embrace it. If we are seeing a divided society or propaganda-slinging, we need to stop resisting it and hoping it will go away, but we need to see it for what it is and ask ourselves, “So what do we do about that?” Awareness is the beginning of change. When we are aware of what we are dealing with, we can develop a plan of action. Blaming and finger pointing is not a plan of action.
If different media outlets are spouting totally different stories, then we need to hear what’s out there. We need to dig through the rubble and find facts, and differentiate them from opinions. It may be painful to listen to an outlet that doesn’t necessarily sing to your tune, but it’s a great chance to learn how to sing harmony.
As a therapist, I am constantly aware that one side sounds correct and credible until you hear another perspective, then when you hear all perspectives, it can get pretty messy with blaming and name calling and mudslinging. But if you make a judgment based on one side of the story and start jumping on the bandwagon to oppose, (Can we even say, destroy?) the opposition, we will never find the truth. We will never find a solution. We will just continue to get more and more divided, and factionalized.
When a country or a society is divided and factionalized, it is weakened. It begins to crack. Then remember earlier we talked about how some of this is done by well-meaning people? OK, but there are those out there that would utterly destroy our community, society, or country. They will take advantage of our naivety, our emotional reactivity and lack of intestinal fortitude to do the real work of searching for truth.
So how do we protect our society and ourselves? We need to each, personally make sure we are grounded and connected to the source of truth. Many studies have been done showing how meditation changes the brain. It helps you process toxic emotions; it reduces anxiety and depression; it helps you think clearer and increases empathy and compassion.
Those that would divide us know that if they can get us stirred up to stop thinking and just react on our triggered emotions, our capacity for empathy decreases. We are no longer able to hold conflicting thoughts in our minds and process them. We become sheep being led to the slaughter of someone else’s agenda based in power and control. That is a dangerous place for a society to be.
I am not advocating any one type of meditation because there is a place in every belief system or faith to define it as you will, but the truth is we all, every single one of us, need to slow down the reactivity and learn to take a breath and detach from the drama and propaganda (from all sides) and learn to listen to the wisdom within. It’s there. It’s just waiting on you to breathe.
Marianne Clyde is an expert in Mental Health in the workplace. Speaking to businesses and associations about empowerment, team building and relationship networking, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in practice for over 27 years,