2016: Don't Lament the Facts Just Yet

2016 was a year full of many notable deaths. The world lost Muhammad Ali. Yes an outspoken, Black, Muslim, Civil Rights activists that many on the right had an inexplicable admiration for despite their presidential candidate actively advocating for a national Muslim registry and the implementation of an immigration ban from Muslim predominant countries.  Prince died. A man with sexual charged lyrics and hits about S&M that middle aged conservative women now view as iconic. David Bowie died. Many conservatives loved Bowie because they thought Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was a type of Imperialistic ode to the American space race domination. Oddly enough John Glenn died, the first American to actually orbit earth, but the right didn’t seem too concerned about that one. And lastly the fact died in 2016. Or did it...

We are living in the midst of a massive sociological frontier in human history: the age of the internet. No one really knew what the internet was going to bring to the world or how it would reshape social constructs like information sharing, knowledge generation, or even the concept of truth in and of itself. The romantics of the world thought the internet was going to bring about a second renaissance of sorts: a sudden, almost orgasmic, explosion of insight, perspective, empathy, knowledge and reason. The cornucopia of insights was going to be inescapable. Through a type of sublime digital osmosis, all the world’s religions, orientations, nations, genders, income levels, races, ethnicities and sports fans were going to meld into this hive mind of empathetic, educated and rational humans. Finally we were just all going to “get along…”

And for many this has happened. For the people that value and want inclusiveness the internet is an amazing tool. But, as is oft to happen in human nature, many of us overestimated the very nature of human desire. Many people despise inclusiveness. Many people desire and value exclusiveness. And the internet has open the door to exclusiveness in a manner that has never existed in human history. The internet allows people who want their points of view assuaged into a virtually unlimited playground. You think the earth is flat? Sweet. Guess what? You can join the Flat Earth Society. Yes. MILLIONS of people believe the Earth is flat. And the best part? The FES bills themselves as a “place for freethinkers and the intellectual exchange of ideas. You can’t make this shit up. Do you hate black people? You can spend hours reading thousands of comments of people just like you. Do you think Hillary Clinton is a “demon?” Well why wouldn’t you? You are just one of the 40% of Trump supporters that apparently believe in supernatural possession.

This phenomenon has been dubbed the ideological “echo chamber.” People eagerly lock themselves into virtual “safe spaces” of like minded people that echo back similar beliefs in a form of absurd groupthink. NY times contributing psychologist Nicholas DiFonzo warned the world of the dangers of the echo chamber as he tried to piece together the unbelievable nature of the “birther movement” spearheaded by then orange faced, reality Tv blowhard Donald Trump and now actual, real American President. Trump supporters have a common refrain in their almost Pavlovian support of him… “He tells it like it is.” Well as we have seen in the last few weeks, he does not. He tells it how you want it to be and you love him for it.  DiFonzo warned us all that people in echo chamber simply choose to reject information sources that are contradictory to what they want to believe.

So in 2016 the echo chamber has become toxic. And in its deadly myopic vapor cloud was caught the fact. Facts will always have a mythical and impervious presence in American life. The corresponding Science behind facts served to correlate cancer to smoking. Facts are powerful. Facts are important. But most importantly facts are real. Facts will continue to exist. The reality is arguing over facts is pointless. They exist independently of willful ignorance. When the dust clears, the facts will remain. Our energy is better spent on questioning human intention, motivation and reasoning. Facts will survive. Mankind on the other hand… well the Science is still on how long we are going to be around...