During a discussion I had recently a friend of mine was giving his opinion, based solely on a single TV news blurb, to which he then added some Information Helper to fill out the story. Information Helper is the name I give to ones own imagination. It’s the most common type of thinking error that I come across in conversation.
Everybody does it, calling imagined ideas knowledge. They take a talking point, bullet point or soundbite and then use their imagination to pad it out into being what that person believes to be the whole story on whatever the topic is. The problem then becomes that I’m now conversing with someone who’s basis for their “knowledge” is their own imagination. Imaginings that have turned into strongly held beliefs and opinions forcefully put forth when the opportunity presents itself.
Imagination is Not Knowledge
But imagination feels like knowledge. Someone once asked, “What does it feel like to be wrong?”. The answer was, “It feel exactly like being right.” Because if your “knowledge” actually *is* wrong but you believe that it is true and factual stuff, you’ll get a boost of positive brain chemicals associated with learning. You’ve learned something. Something that is factually incorrect. Imagination is not fact. But it pays out like a slot machine full of positive, highly addictive, chemical reinforcement for your brain. Like a built in crack dispenser.
Later on in the conversation with my friend I pointed out a fact, a very important fact, that he was unaware of. Not a heavy handed critique of his argument, but as part of the general give-and-take that makes for a robust conversation. Unfortunately the facts I presented, actual go-look’m-up facts, completely negated his premise. Without going into detail, I can say his premise was overtly racist against all things Middle Eastern.
Faced with my fact-based claim, rather than attempt to refute the claim directly, he merely said, “I don’t buy that for a minute. Look, Jef, *you* can’t know everything.” I get that a lot when talking to people who use Information Helper rather than just doing their homework on the topics that interest them.
Imagination is Not Information
Information is data. Information is not knowledge. It is, however, the first step to acquiring knowledge. Research, study, doing ones homework on any given subject, are the only means by which you can gain quality information. Where do you start? Find the best and brightest, the textbooks and scholarly writings and read them. Develop a system of keeping track of which authors are credible, scholarly and non-corporate and which are propagandists and hacks. Use Michael Shermer’s “Bullshit Detector”. Understand and use the rules of logic, reason and argumentation and approach life and the claims of others using the Scientific Method. Do these things and you can’t go wrong. As a ancient philosopher once said, “One word to a wise man is sufficient, but a thousand words to a fool will fall on deaf ears.”
Use of the Rules of Logic
To say that “you can’t know everything” is true, but it’s also nonsensical rhetoric. Knowing a basic fact about something doesn’t mean you know everything, or anything really, beyond the supposed fact as asserted. Saying “you can’t know everything” is actually a tactic to change the argument from the point that was made to the person making it. This qualifies it as a passive-aggressive version of that old chestnut of logical fallacies, the ad hominem attack. It implies that the person’s claim, as asserted, is not valid because there is something fundamentally wrong the person making the argument. They might as well have, more directly and honestly said, “You are *not* smarter than me, Mr Thinks-He-Knows-it-All !”. Or as Michael Swaim puts it, “Your argument is wrong and you are stupid”. At least that shows that if you can’t be right, you can at least powerfully attack your opponent into giving up. Ego crisis averted.
Beliefs Are Inexorably Linked to Happiness
As far back as the Old Testament days writers knew that there were two ways of approaching knowledge. “A fool thinks himself to be wise but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” A good observation, that. And also it’s the definition of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Truly intelligent, well educated people know that there is so much information about every detail of everything that it’s not humanly possible, even if you could live to be a thousand, to know everything. Yet that doesn’t stop intelligent people from pursuing education on the topics of interest to them. Rather, it inspires. It inspires me that, given my brief time here on Earth, I can pursue information and understanding of our world and it’s inhabitants with great vigour. I encourage everybody I converse with to devoutly pursue their educational goals. Because information leads to happiness. As the Bible correctly puts it, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Information leads to knowledge which leads to freedom from the shackle of error which leads to success which leads to happiness.
Freedom? Happiness? Really? Yes. One can only succeed, in life or in commerce, if the things one believes are factually true. Believing things that are false, or at best unproven, or “true for you” won’t cut it.
I know a woman who believes that ghosts communicate with her, angels assist her and that she can move the moon with her mind. None of this is true of course. She’s one of the least happy or successful people I’ve ever met. You might say she’s getting a failing grade in the school of life. And it’s sad. It’s even sadder that she has purposefully chosen her life’s path to be this one. The fatal flaw in her beliefs is that she is always right and not coincidentally, everyone else is wrong so, naturally, she disdains reading, science and education. She isn’t mentally ill; her unhappiness is a direct result of her low-quality beliefs.
To be successful in any endeavour one must be, or must be endeavouring to be, an A student in the school of life. You can only achieve this by acting on what you believe to be true and those beliefs must be based upon a solid foundation of factual, evidence based information. Wrong, bad and incorrect information cannot possibly lead to success. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit”, so the saying goes.
Television is Not Truth, But it IS Education
Television has turned all of the greatest ideas about truth upside down. Television hates and disparages any education or information that doesn’t come from the producers of television programming and the talking heads that represent them.
All television content is created by, and wholly owned and controlled by, corporations that are collectively part of what has been termed the Military Industrial Complex. This is the Pentagon, US Gov’t, Oil companies, Mineral and mining companies, reconstruction companies, 3rd party support services such as food, transportation, laundry, medical and communications companies, insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, NASA, weapons manufacturers, security state infrastructure manufacturers, security consultants, video and movie production companies that are on the payroll of the Pentagon, private security firms, private mercenary armies, entertainment and broadcast corporations, think tanks, astroturfed grass roots movements and assorted people in high positions who stand to profit heavily from war and the security state or who merely need to manipulate your beliefs and opinions for the profitable and political reasons of power and control.
Television is the tool of mass propaganda and outright lies that is owned and controlled by this military/security industry. It’s a weapon they use to control the desires, tastes, voting decisions and general opinions of the masses.
Worst of all it teaches you to use the deceptive language of television. Your new vocabulary and talking points that will make you sound just as knowledgeable as the Really Smart People on TV. Now you’re smart too. Thanks Mr Syme.
So, What Can I Do To Avoid Being a Televictim?
Rather than passively watching TV, actively observe it in action and you’ll soon realize that television is always Pro-War. Television is always Pro-Elitist, Pro-Oligarch, Pro-Wealth and overwhelmingly Anti-Poor-People, Anti-Citizen’s Rights, Anti-Union and Anti-Education. Television tells us that all money should flow in one direction only; from the poor, who don’t deserve it to the wealthy who do. Television portrays the wealthy as the saviours of humanity and the poor as criminals, drug addicts and lazy louts out to steal the hard earned wealth of the ruling class.
There is no Liberal Bias on television, only people who claim that there is. Television is, by it’s very nature and ownership, highly Conservative, Status-Quo, and Extremist in it’s view points, without fail. It demonizes intellectuals, educated thinkers and commentators, and promotes the points of view of known criminals, felons, ex-jail birds, war criminals, corporate profiteers and ideological menace-to-society types.
You don’t have to believe me on this. As with any claim I make, do your own homework and, if you look up the credentials and background of those whose opinions are the go-to opinions of mainstream media, you will discover that none of these observations are polemical or unjustified; merely an accurate observation of what your television promotes.
How The TV Virus Spreads
Usually, at this point, the avid televictim will retort, “I only watch educational channels like Discovery, The Learning Channel and National Geographic.” Though I would never say it, I often think to myself, “Really? Which shows on these channels do you like best, Honey BooBoo, Monster Garage, Storage Wars or that one with the drunk monkeys?” These channels are the worst form of stupid. They work on the premise, “Make a man actually think and he’ll hate you; make a man think he’s thinking and he’ll love you.”
These so-called educational networks work their evil in a subtler, more insidious, way. But ultimately use the same exact tactic as a mainstream current events opinion show. That is, they give you 4 or 5 talking points, virtually meaningless factoid bullet points, that are specifically crafted by professional psychologists to cause your passively absorbing brain to learn them, then pad those points out with opinion. Then tell you that only you can decide what’s true and let your imagination go to work. This is a common theme/tactic you’ll see time and again. “Did Nostrodamus predict 911? You decide.” It’s the nature of how your brain, at it’s most fundamental level, works. They actively stimulate your learning-reward system, you passively absorb the information, they tell you that it’s all your idea, you feel smarter because you actively decided either to believe or not to believe their claims and then, either way, you reap the rich biochemical rewards that make you “addicted” to your television. Literally. Symbiosis at its finest.
What then happens is that the viewer, having learned and internalized the talking points, parrots them to others and adds their own special brand of Information Helper, usually a goulash of other things they’ve seen on TV combined with a dash of low IQ, a generous helping of lack of education and research on the topic, and of course sexism, racism, nationalism and bland tribal xenophobia. An undigestable casserole of ignorance, to say the least. This has the effect, within the brain of the person pontificating on the talking points topic, of squirting out even more blasts of biochemicals as a reward for being “smart”, reinforcing their own sense of correctness. Remember, when you think you are right, even when you are not, being stupid feels exactly like being smart. Armed with the latest well crafted talking point propaganda you’ll be all set to get a full days supply of attention and brain crack.
My Journey of Escape
I was lucky enough to have read Chomsky, McLuhan, Kurtz and others when I was in high school in the 1970s. From then on I didn’t watch television, only observed it doing its insidious thing and studying how it was being utilized as a weapon of mass propaganda. This connected perfectly with my studies in psychology and marketing to help form a Big Picture view of how governments and corporations implement social control.
You can’t know everything, it’s true, but you can at least know enough not to get your “knowledge” from television.
But it’s not like I don’t own a video appliance, I do, mostly used for watching rented movies, which often aren’t much better than TV shows, though I don’t give up much of my precious life to watching movies either. Life is too short and there’s are too many songs yet to be written.
In 2004 I finally did what I’d been wanting to do for years; get rid of all incoming television broadcast signals. The rest of the household was onboard with the plan and encouraged my anti-broadcast-television initiative. So I chopped down the antenna mast, unsightly thing that it was and that was that for that. A beautiful garden is now situated on the site of the old television mast.
So, though you cannot know everything, you can study, use the rules of Logic, Reason and Argumentation and the Scientific Method to better yourself and improve your life.
My lifetime of study and the diligent application of what I’ve learned has made me and my loved ones successful and happy. I am free. Free from ignorance and the alleged blissfullness that is said to accompany it. You can be, too.
The truth is out there and it will surely make you free, but it’s not on TV.