The explosion of social media networks in recent years has served as the technological breakthrough that has enabled nearly anyone with an Internet-enabled computer, smart phone, or tablet to have an instant dialog with a national and global audience. This capability, however, is not without its drawbacks in our current environment when fear and anxiety are rampant, stress levels are off the charts, and many stubbornly refuse to acknowledge or listen to viewpoints that differ from their own.
I received angry replies when I posted a link to a video about the nature of the COVID-19 vaccines that are under development. The video featured the expert commentary of Dr. Carrie Madej, an Osteopathic Internal Medicine Physician who combines traditional and holistic medicine techniques.
“Human 2.0”? A Wake-Up Call To The World
In the opinion of several readers, I was guilty of posting a conspiracy theory and that Dr. Madej’s opinions were based on false information. As of Sep 25, 2020, her “conspiracy theory” video had received over 839,000 views.
Cognitive Dissonance and Polarization
When overcome by fear (particularly, the fear of death), we tend to shut down mentally and emotionally. We seek safety above all else and are less inclined to approach problems in a thorough and objective manner. Those who stay informed about issues are more likely to do their own research, whereas, a large segment of the population are unwilling to make the effort to think critically, preferring to rely upon the advice of the “trusted experts” in medicine, the news media, and government.
As an example, let’s assume you are told by your doctor to follow a specific medical procedure or protocol. Subsequently, a close friend or family member advises you against it. You are caught in the middle of two competing recommendations that contradict each other – a term defined as cognitive dissonance, as described in a report written by Kendra Cherry (and medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD).
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort.
Another term relevant in the COVID-19 era is polarization, which is defined in a Beyond Intractability post entitled, “What is Polarization?“
Polarization is the process that causes neutral parties to take sides in a conflict. It also causes individuals on either side of the conflict to take increasingly extreme positions that are more and more opposed to each other. As parties move toward these opposite “poles,” they define themselves in terms of their opposition to a common enemy. Trust and respect diminish, and “distorted perceptions and simplified stereotypes emerge.”Parties assume more rigid positions and may refuse to negotiate.
I knew I was not going to convince my detractors by insisting that I was right and they were wrong. At the same time, I wanted to end the conflict while being true to my own convictions. Doing so required a delicate balancing act on my part where I stated my position and then terminated my involvement in the discussion:
Everyone on this forum is free to believe what they want to believe in and can disagree with what I write. That’s fine by me. What I don’t take well to are ad hominem attacks and overused labels like conspiracy theories that get thrown around without any verifiable support to back up the claim. I offer my perspective from many years of research where I have studied under health professionals who are leaders in their fields. The tagline on my Organic Sulfur For Health website expresses my personal philosophy: Healthy Living Through Education and Nutrition. Education is key. No one has a Copyright on Truth. Not you, and not me. I believe we must allow our minds to be open and teachable and not stuck in a set paradigm. Otherwise, we stagnate. If you don’t support freedom of expression, then what do you believe in?
Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up
In a report published by Business Insider on July 30, 2013, Henry Blodget referenced a statement often attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860):
The following quote is stenciled on the wall of idealab, a business incubator in Pasadena, California:
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Nearly four centuries ago, Galileo was tried and placed under house arrest for promoting the heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the solar system that conflicted with the position of the Catholic Church who placed the Earth at the center. Over time, mainstream science adopted Galileo’s view, while the Catholic Church waited until 1992 to issue a formal pardon.
In his long and distinguished career, MIT Professor and free speech advocate Noam Chomsky has offered his personal views about dozens of topics, including indoctrination:
• Younger people who are being indoctrinated into the contemporary system of falsification – they really have to do some research to find out what is the truth. In the general population, people forget or don’t care that much. And gradually what you hear drilled into your head everyday comes to be believed.
• Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.
• He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.
Finally, Voltaire (1694-1778), one of the leading writers of the French Enlightenment, sums up our discussion with this memorable quote:
“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”