The “They” In “They Say”

Humans have an incredible desire to believe things, especially things that explain how the world works. It’s far easier to believe the pyramids were built by aliens than a large and dedicated work force because it explains something we can’t come to grips with: how would you get that many people to put in that much hard work with so little reward? The people that question this are usually coming off an eight to ten hour shift where they put in as little effort as possible for the maximum reward. Such is our culture that a different work ethic is so alien it may as well be aliens behind the whole thing.

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New Mexico needs warning signs like this.

I think it’s because of this uncanny desire to simplify, understand, and believe things that conspiracy theories are as popular as they are. Conspiracy theories provide us with an easy answer to a complicated problem. 9-11 wasn’t the end result of decades of questionable choices and intelligence foul-ups – it was an inside job. No one has ever landed on the moon; it’s too far away and there’s no way we could get there – the moon landings were faked. Jade Helm is far too large of an operation to be a training exercise – it’s a plot to take over Texas.

Conspiracy theories play into our desire for simple solutions and the best ones play on our preconceived notions. How could Hillary Clinton get as far as she did when it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that she’s a criminal? Simple: she’s a criminal mastermind. But also stupid. And a woman. And she needs to be locked up for whatever those supposed crimes that decades of digging haven’t uncovered. Infowars to the rescue with a whole mess of half-baked theories that “prove” she’s a stupid criminal mastermind that needs to be locked up. Boom! Meet #pizzagate. And people bought it because they already hated her and were looking for a good reason to justify that hate.

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No, it actually happened. Multiple times, too.

For the record, I don’t think Hillary Clinton should be locked up. I think she would have made a fine president.

Also, for the record, I don’t think Trump will be the end of the end of the world. I don’t particularly care for him and he’s already off to a rocky start, but I like to think someone will pull him back from the edge and he’ll do at least a few good things. At the very least, if he does decide to go to war with China, we’ll hear about it on Twitter before the bombers leave.

This last election cycle still leaves me wondering how we got to this place. As a writer, I’m used to fabricating tales and live in constant worry that someone will think I was serious about the events of Henchmen. What still boggles my mind is there are people out there writing fiction, passing it off as fact, and it had a massive impact on the world when people who were worried about their futures decided to swallow the easy lie rather than face the harder truth.

Nebulous sources, alternative facts, and “they say” is easier to handle than digging down and figuring out the root cause of the problem. It’s unfortunate, but our access to information has gotten so expansive that it’s trivial to find an example that supports our philosophy. All it takes is someone saying something we agree with and suddenly that person is a trusted source. This unfortunate desire to believe things has allowed unscrupulous swine to manipulate our understanding of the world.

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As long as we blindly believe things, yes we are.

Conspiracy theories can be fun. I even wrote a post not too long ago on how to make one of your own. The problem arises when they change our perception of the world because, unfortunately, perception is reality.

Next time someone provides you with a piece of news that seems to validate everything you believe, take a moment to ask yourself a couple questions. Where did this come from? Can I find any other evidence for it? And, most importantly, who profits from this bit of information being out there. Always wonder who the “They” in “They say” are and what their endgame is. Follow the money, follow the power, and then you might find the truth.

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It may just not be the truth you want to find.

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10 thoughts on “The “They” In “They Say”

  1. There is a magnificent piece of false sports news about a rising new soccer star from Eastern Europe. His name MasalBugduv.. look it up.. it’s the phonetic version of the Irish for my little black ass (Donkey). Great piece as always Eric

    1. Wow. Someone fabricated an entire person and that guy was considered one of footballs’ top 50 rising stars. That’s an impressive bit of hoaxing right there. Whoever was doing the reporting on that needs to go back to school.

  2. I think we have become conditioned to being lied to. We are lied to by our government, politicians seeking office, TV product ads, supermarket tabloids and a host of shadow people on the Internet (“I am the widow of the president of the Congo and would like to give you $8 million from his estate …”), We watch “reality shows” that are anything but real, and despite laws against “perjury” and vows taken on the Bible, at least one of the participants in every court case is probably lying — or, sometimes, both. It’s part of the game. No wonder we now have Donald Trump to puzzle over.

    1. Unfortunately, you are very right. There was a time when we’d be able to look at something and says, “That’s wrong! That’s a lie!” Now, we look at something and think if part of the message is true, the whole thing must be true. I wonder if it’s a growing intellectual laziness or if this is something that’s been going on all along and no one noticed it or thought to point it out.

  3. I like the quote from the actress who was asked why she didn’t sure whoeoever it was that superimposed her face over someone else’s nude body on-line. She said: “Because they gave me a better body than I really have.” But then again, I don’t know if that quote is true.

  4. I would counter that you made one small supposition that may be incorrect. I say ‘may’ because it would take more energy to research than either of us have left in our bodies. We can both agree that people on either side did have valid reasons for voting the way they did. You voted the way you did and I voted the way I did for our own different reasons. If we accept that, then we are left with the matter of the despicable media on either side. I don’t care who’s theories you throw at me, I really am apt not to believe them if they come from any of the major outlets. I think they are all rubbish to borrow an English saying. I have a sneaking suspicion you’d agree with me on that point.

    Where I think you may be wrong (slightly though, only slightly) is the idea that that these theories necessarily rise from the money and power. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Certainly they have their own mechanisms, but anyone with a computer, some basic skills, and free internet at Starbucks and create their own fantastical world of distorted fact-ish information which is then picked up and ran with by anyone who wants to satisfy their own ideological itch. The news media today isn’t held accountable for the information they forward. The just chose to retweet and republish anything that come across.

    This leaves us with the matter of who we can trust. Again, I think we’d both agree that it is up to the end consumer of the information to fact check. Don’t believe everything you hear and consider the source. Someday, when we all accept that the other side has valid reasons for feeling the way they feel, we can learn to live as civil human beings. But a lot of people won’t be bothered to look at the facts and follow the trail of the report to its base elements.

    A good example of this is the ACA. I am against it because it actually has worked against me in my insurance situation by increasing my premiums like I’ve never seen before. My brother actually lost his insurance in Illinois and then was told he had to pay for another insurance policy costing twice as much. That isn’t fair. However, I do think the ACA probably helps some people out there. The trick is finding those people and understanding what works for them and identifying why my premiums have gone up so much and working out a solution to make it all work. But, the idiotic chatterbox cheddar-for-brains that we call the news wont allow that because their base needs to be stirred up by the other side. It keeps them selling advertisements to their dedicated audience. That noise pollution is only made worse when others post mis-information and half truths to Facebook where too many people are turning to their primary source of news these days.

    The answer is more one-on-one communication. Maybe, some day, Facebook will be abandoned for more traditional communications. But I doubt it. When you break bread with someone and get to learn their stories it is impossible to hate them.

    -B

    1. Lately, I’ve been starting my news in the morning by reading BBC News. They’re pretty well-regarded as being factual and, at least, somewhat less biased. Over the course of the last election I started taking a hard look at CNN and decided it was a bit more biased than I was comfortable with, so I supplemented with other sites. Things I do tend to stay away from are Breitbart – which has a serious right-leaning bent – and Infowars which has a complete loon-leaning bent. You’re right, though, ultimately it’s up the end consumer to do a bit of fact checking, something we shouldn’t have to do with the news at all, but without that extra step on our part we’re likely only getting a part of the news. Maybe the Internet has made it too easy to be a reporter; they can sit at their desks and digest information from a variety of sources and call it news. Not saying they all do that, but the desire to give into that laziness must be overwhelming sometime. Again, you’re right, as soon as you meet the other guys and realize they’re human, too, you realize nothing’s ever as cut and dried as we like to think. I work with a few folks that voted for Trump and they’re all decent people who just really, really, really, didn’t like Hillary’s policies. As for the ACA, it’s such a mixed bag it’s hard to know where to start. Personally, and this is just me, I think it missed the mark because it was trying to fix an inherently flawed system by putting a layer on top of it. It did some good things, but it missed the mark because health care is a business and they’re more interested in money than anything else. The insurance companies are complicit in this and as soon as you make healthcare a business things are going to get ugly. Then it becomes about money rather than people and that’s the situation we’re in now. Unfortunately, it seems like the current administration’s plan is to remove the ACA and replace it with tax cuts for the extremely wealthy and that’s not much of a solution for the millions of people who need insurance. It’s a mess. I’d like to see something better come along, but you’d have to tear the whole system out by the roots and replace it with something else. Maybe a single payer system.

  5. Reblogged this on bryan the writer and commented:
    To be fair, Eric and I sit on opposite political viewpoints, but he is very well spoken and intelligent. In addition to being a top notch writer, he also makes some great points in this blog about not trusting everything you read. I would add that the ‘news media’ is really out there to sell advertising space, delivering information is essentially a secondary goal.

  6. When we’re worrying about these conspiracy theories, we also need to remind ourselves that, where government and large organisations are concerned, most of their output is confused and lacks “joined-up” thinking. If that’s the case, how the hell would they have the wit to put together any of these events? Unless it they happened by accident, in which case they’re hardly conspiracies.

    1. Besides, it’s like they say: Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead. There’s very little chance a vast conspiracy could exist, let alone be kept secret.

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