The Truth I Choose Ain't On The News!

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3 Reasons we now live in the Post-Truth Era of Politics

“If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.”
Larry Speakes
White House Press Secretary for Reagan

In November of 2016, Americans elected a man who called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese to keep American manufacturers non-competitive. Given that Donald Trump launched his political career by questioning the birthplace of Barack Obama, it is not a surprise that he used conspiracy theories to fuel his presidential candidacy to the top. After all, 20% of Americans still believed, in 2015, that Obama was born outside of the United States (even after he produced his birth certificate in 2011) while 29% of Americans incorrectly believe Obama is Muslim (he is Christian).


A few weeks after the election, a man misinformed by conspiracy theories drove from North Carolina all the way to Washington DC and marched into a local pizza restaurant with an assault rifle. The reason? He was convinced that he would find Hillary Clinton and John Podesta’s underground sex trafficking ring in the back of the pizza restaurant.


With the overload of misinformation, we are now living in a post-truth era in which conspiracy theories run rampant through the Internet unchecked.


How did we get here?



“No Reason to Stop It
If we’re going to Profit.”
- Evil News Corporation
Original Artwork


Violence is more entertaining than peace; polarization is more entertaining than moderation. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Back to middle school, when our pre-pubescent hormones were raging and we were becoming hyper conscious of how “cool” we appeared to others. (A hyper consciousness that never goes away for most of us.) Remember how entertained we were whenever a fight broke out? Never mind that the two middle schoolers were fighting over whose bubble gum was more flavorful than the other’s. It all started with a series of disses, to which the crowd would “Oooh” and “Aaah” and culminate in fists being thrown.


Now think of the “peacemaker” who tried to get in between the two. Nobody liked him. “Get out of the way!” the crowd would yell. All the kids have their phones out, ready to record the next viral YouTube video.


We laugh at the middle school kids, but that’s American adult politics in a nutshell. We are drawn to the polarizing “outsiders” such as Donald Trump. Anybody who is a centrist Democrat or Republican is a “sellout”, equivalent to the boring peacemaker kid in middle school.


And polarization is not at all new to American politics. Our politicians have not “devolved”. Our Founding Fathers killed each other in pistol duels, unable to settle issues by talking things out.


Polarization is entertaining, and entertainment sells. It’s the reason ratings and viewership for the Daily Show dropped (from 2.1 million to 1.3 million) when it switched from Jon Stewart the Great Eviscerator to Trevor Noah. It turns out Jon Stewart himself didn’t like being called “The Great Eviscerator” and didn’t think it was healthy. Trevor Noah, on the other hand, promotes reaching across the aisle and talking to the other side in a civilized manner. Boring!


Polarized entertainment is exactly how Fox News built their profitable business model.



“Fake Television
Creates Fake Politicians”
Original Artwork
“Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, 
and now we are discovering we work for Fox.
David Frum
Former George W. Bush speechwriter

Carlos Maza from Media Matters does a great job of explaining how the politics of fear led to the rise of conspiracy theories and Donald Trump. Click here for the 6 minute video. In summary:

  1. Fox News and other right wing radio stations had to become sensationalized in order to be more entertaining and to compete in the media market.
  2. One of the ways to sensationalize the news is through spreading misinformation such as: A) Trump’s “birther” conspiracy; B) Claiming Obama is a Muslim; C) Claiming Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq; D) Claiming that Obamacare would create “Death Panels”(Labeled by Politifact as Lie of the Year)
  3. This misinformation keeps the voters angry and in fear that the outside world is out to get them. This makes them angrier and more likely to hate politicians who are willing to compromise with the “other side”
  4. This is EXACTLY how cult leaders operate, keeping their members enslaved and in fear of the outside world
  5. Angry & fearful voters become a reliable base for angry politicians who refuse to compromise, thus fueling the rise of the Tea Party who led our nation to 2011’s debt ceiling crisis. These are folks whom I call “fake politicians”, because they are unwilling to compromise with the other side, the very job function of a political figure.
  6. Donald Trump comes along, validating all the misinformation that Fox News and other right wing outlets have been spreading for years. Voters love him because “he tells it like it is” meaning Trump repeats the misinformation Fox News feeds its viewers.


“Why Aren’t They Listening?
It’s Cognitive Dissonance!”


Whenever collecting information, we have a tendency to stay in our comfort zone, never exposing ourselves to information that may change our worldview. Admitting that we are wrong and deciding to change is always uncomfortable and takes maturity, whether it is in an argument with our loved ones or on a political view.


Although we may believe that our opinions are based on years of objective research and factual data, the truth is that we are all biased and engage in what psychologists call “Cognitive Dissonance.” Cognitive Dissonance occurs when we hold two contradictory truths in our head. For example, all smokers know smoking is bad. On the other hand, they continue to smoke. There are only two ways to reduce the stress these contradictory beliefs create:


Option A: Put in the hard work to quit smoking or

Option B: Convince oneself smoking isn’t so bad compared to gaining weight or being stressed


Since quitting smoking is much more difficult to do, many smokers go with Option B. Let’s take another example. If we do not have the ideal body type, we can either:


Option A: Put in the hard work to change our diet and exercise patterns or

Option B: Blame it on our metabolism


With our tendency to go with Option B on an individual basis, we can see how this quickly becomes a problem when we all decide to live together as a society. Although well over 90% of publishing climate scientists have concluded that human activities are accelerating climate change, taking the necessary steps to keep our planet healthy is inconvenient. We can either:


Option A: Put in the hard work to change our consumption patterns or

Option B: Convince ourselves climate change is a hoax and that human activity does not cause it


It’s unfortunate that we’ve elected a President who decides to go with Option B. After it was shown that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by almost 3 million popular votes, Trump could either:


Option A: Put in the hard work to understand why so many Americans voted against him or

Option B: Convince himself that there was massive voter fraud


Because Option A always requires more maturity and hard work, Option B will always be the more common path.




Step 1:

“Be Comfortable being Uncomfortable.”
Peter McWilliams


When it comes to building muscle, the growth only happens when we are outside of our comfort zone. In the same way, we can only increase in the certainty of our own beliefs when we listen to other points of view. Although we may not agree with the other side, it is the best way to come out with a win-win.


Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote a viral post regarding climate change which embodies this win-win mentality.


In it, he addresses the climate change deniers and gives them the benefit of the doubt that yes, perhaps climate change is all a hoax. And yet, even if climate change were a hoax, there are legitimate ethical and business reasons to pursue clean energy:

  1. 7 million people die every year from pollution.
  2. We are bound to run out of fossil fuels at one point and switching to clean energy is simply the smarter business decision

Of course there was disagreement from some of us on Arnold’s hypothetical assumption that climate change is a hoax. Perhaps we thought he was a “sell out”. However, he was able to understand the opposing side and to make an argument that was catered even to climate change deniers.


In the same way, we can only generate these win-win solutions when we are willing to at least “try on” the assumptions of the opposing side.


Step 2:

“Check Thyself
Before Thou Wreck Thyself.”
Ice Cube*
20th Century Poet
* May not be Ice Cube
Original Artwork




Too late. Every time we fall for their trap, the clickbait creators get rewarded with ad revenue. When’s the last time you told a kid not to take a cookie out of the cookie jar and he actually listened? It’s nearly impossible But at the very least, we can use Snopes and Politifact before sharing any misinformation.


The day after the election, Eric Tucker, who lives in Austin, tweeted a picture of buses coming into town. In the tweet to his 40 followers, he declared:


“Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests #trump2016 #austin”


By the next day, the post was shared over 300,000 times. It was written about in conservative blogs and Donald Trump himself tweeted it. The only problem?

It was completely false. Snopes debunked it and it turned out the buses were used to host a business conference of over 13,000 people.

After realizing his claim was false, Eric Tucker tried to take it back by tweeting:

Original Link

Unfortunately, that particular post was only re-tweeted 29 times in a week, and the Snopes article debunking it was shared about 5,800 times at the time. In numbers, less that 2% of the number of people who shared the original fake news (300,000) shared the correction to it.


What’s At Stake?

In 2009, President Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act, an individual mandate based health insurance which was proposed by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank many Republican politicians have agreed with. In fact, when Hillary Clinton introduced employer-mandated healthcare in the early 90’s, Newt Gingrich tried to counter her with the individual mandate proposal. Governor Mitt Romney also used the individual mandate model to create a universal healthcare system within Massachusetts, the state with the lowest rate of uninsured residents. It is fair to say that Obama’s Affordable Care Act was largely based on Republican ideas.


And yet the resistance against the Affordable Care Act from the conservative side was so fierce that the repeal of Obamacare became a central theme in both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, even after it covered 20 million Americans who previously had no healthcare.


But much more eye-opening was the influence the right wing media had on getting Obamacare beneficiaries to vote against themselves. Although “Obamacare” is just a nickname for the “Affordable Care Act”, about one-third of Americans do not know that they are one and the same. With all the demonizing of Obama and “Obamacare” and reporting on “death panels” (labeled by Politifact as Lie of the Year), Fox News successfully convinced many Obamacare beneficiaries to vote against themselves. According to William Carpenter, the CEO of a rural hospital network, Donald Trump voters will be hurt the most by an Obamacare repeal.


Whether it is climate change, health care, or our immigration policy, the polarization and misinformation spread by our media will continue to have huge consequences on our world for the foreseeable future. Just like we would be careful of what food we eat and feed others, maybe we can strive to be careful of what media we consume and share.


Aaron P Added Feb 25, 2017 - 5:26pm
Enter your comment here...
Ryan Messano Added Feb 25, 2017 - 5:36pm
You need to learn American history if you disagree with Trump.  You need to read 10 biographies of our Founders, read the DNC and RNC platforms, and be as familiar with the Bible as the Founders were.  
Ryan Messano Added Feb 25, 2017 - 5:37pm
Also, stop using porn, and get off mind altering drugs.  You'll then be able to think clearly.  True clear thinking is only possible when we live in accord with our design, which also means cutting out all sex outside of marriage.  Pervert a human's deepest desires, and their entire view of truth will be perverted.
He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.  Jim Elliott.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Feb 26, 2017 - 10:03am
All the kids have their phones out, ready to record the next viral YouTube video.
When I was in middle school we'd only been able to get a land line for three years. You must be too young to have any experience of worth to adults. 
Billy Roper Added Feb 26, 2017 - 11:52am
Polarization is the best alternative we have, at this point.
J. Riddle Added Feb 26, 2017 - 11:52am
A really good article. It's one that sort of steals my thunder on one I had on the drawing board but I'm happy not to have to write it now. Maybe I'll use what I had in mind to do a sequel to this one.
One big correction, though (and a much smaller one). This...
"when Hillary Clinton introduced universal single-payer healthcare in the early 90’s"
...never happened. Clinton never introduced single payer nor anything that remotely resembled it. Hers was an industry-friendly "managed competition" plan, a virtual reproduction of another conservative Republican plan authored by then-House-Republican leader Bob Michel. And the minor correction is that the Heritage Foundation didn't author the Repub alternative to it, which was, in effect, Obamacare; Heritage only came up with the individual mandate, which Republicans adopted into their own. Republicans advocated this same plan for 15 years, right up until the black guy endorsed it; then, it suddenly became "socialized medicine", a "government takeover of healthcare", the individual mandate "unconstitutional" and all the other rot.
Billy Roper Added Feb 26, 2017 - 12:00pm
Whenever a leftie talks about "managed competition", hide your wallet.
J. Riddle Added Feb 26, 2017 - 1:51pm
No lefty ever was talking about "managed competition."
Aaron P Added Feb 26, 2017 - 6:29pm
Thanks for the feedback! Will keep that in mind
Fear not for I am the future of your country ;)
Aaron P Added Feb 26, 2017 - 6:31pm
Can you please expand on your position? I think polarization is NOT the norm and is harmful to our democracy. Plus, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. 
Aaron P Added Feb 26, 2017 - 6:43pm
@J Riddle
Thanks for the corrections, I'll do a bit more research into it and fix it. And sorry for stealing your thunder. I'd still love for you to publish it so I can read from your perspective 
What's your take on managed competition? Without regulations on the car industry, for example, Ford came out with the Pinto which they knew wasn't safe but manufactured anyway, figuring that the cost of the recall would be worth it when compared with the sales. 
The same thing was going on in the healthcare industry, in which insurance companies (driven more by profit margins than the health of the insured) can deny people the coverage they really need. So if you needed a $100k procedure they would find a way to give you something subpar or kick you off the health insurance policy based on a technicality. 
Competition is great, but without some sort of regulation....some of these food companies can get away with selling us rat poison  lol
J. Riddle Added Feb 26, 2017 - 7:20pm
"And sorry for stealing your thunder."
I'm glad you stole it. I may do that sequel article.
Bill H. Added Feb 26, 2017 - 11:03pm
Great article, Aaron!
It may actually spur some thinking within the WB readers (not all, for sure!)
I have constantly stated that the ones who are going to be hurt by Trump the worst will be his diehard voter base.
J. Riddle - Thanks for reminding everyone about the history of the ACA.
Funny how what was originally a Republican plan became "socialized medicine", a "government takeover of healthcare", the individual mandate "unconstitutional" and all the other rot.
Aaron P Added Feb 27, 2017 - 7:41pm
@ J. Riddle
I did some research and updated my information on Hillarycare / Heritage Foundation. Thanks for the heads up! Wow at the fact that they actually wrote it themselves.
@ Bill H.
Thank you! It's sad but true that Trump voters got scammed.
J. Riddle Added Feb 27, 2017 - 8:03pm
That's Obamacare's lineage. Clinton proposed a Republican plan, Republicans countered it with what would later become known as Obamacare. Bob Dole ran for president on that plan in 1996. Mitt Romney actually saw it passed and implemented in his home state. When Obama adopted it, Repub Sen. Judd Gregg wrote and circulated a little manual among his colleagues about how to oppose the proposal. He would know--he'd introduced essentially that same plan repeatedly over the years.
Felicity Harley Added Feb 28, 2017 - 3:38pm
Thanks Aaron really enjoyed this!  Well written and thought provoking!  You might enjoy my book published a week ago!
Bill Kamps Added Mar 2, 2017 - 4:03pm
The  ACA cause my private insurance premiums to double, that is real, not fake, and that is the reason I want it repealed.  I dont care what they do for poor people, but they had to reason to screw with my insurance, before ACA I was happy and the insurance provider was happy.  After the additional regulations by ACA, my premium doubled.
Dino Manalis Added Mar 2, 2017 - 4:39pm
The newsmedia only gives us a snapshot of the day's events, not the full stories.  People have to do additional research, but most of us don't have the time.
J. Riddle Added Mar 2, 2017 - 9:00pm
"The  ACA cause my private insurance premiums to double, that is real, not fake"
Your insurance company chose to double your premiums. The government has no control over that and, in fact, premiums were going up at a much higher rate pre-Obamacare than now. Don't be such a tool.
Felicity Harley Added Mar 2, 2017 - 9:38pm
Excellent article!
Mircea Negres Added Mar 3, 2017 - 4:46am
I enjoyed this, Aaron. There are some things I did not fully grasp because of a lack of in-depth familiarity with American issues, but reckon the gist is sound. Keep it up! Thankfully you don't need literary or literal Viagra yet in order to do that... ;-) 
Louis E Weeks Added Mar 3, 2017 - 7:27am
Mostly a decent piece, but I noticed you made the decision to only try to point out issues on the Right and ignore those on the left.  FOX is certainly guilty of pushing false ideas and narratives but they are incredibly small and insignificant compared to the impact the main news and networks have on society and they do this too, maybe more nuanced and circumspect, but clearly working on the same sort of agenda.  Such as when they all pushed the idea Trump called all Mexicans rapists.  That is simply untrue, and ABC, CBS, NBC, and all the Left leaning cable outlets like CNN as well as all print outlets like the New York Times pushed this false narrative that Trump said all Mexicans were rapists.
Also no mention of Hillary saying half of Trump;'s supporters were Deplorable and lacked any redeeming quality in America and the various mouthpieces going on the networks saying you can only vote for Trump if you are a racist.  The "fake news" was that Trump was a racist, and so was anyone who supported him, but I see no mention of that in your piece.
So many more things you intentionally ignored, but my point is made, you are wearing your own blinders and pointing your finger at other people you do not like because of their political beliefs.  Not exactly original.
Bill H. Added Mar 3, 2017 - 11:19am
Louis - You state that Trump is not a racist, yet he was caught several times in the past refusing to rent his properties to blacks.
It was also a practice of his casino management to remove blacks employees from the casino floor when he visited.
The more recent examples are many, including some of his cabinet picks.
And for some reason, he seems to think that black people only live in Chicago.
Doug Plumb Added Mar 3, 2017 - 11:34am
The conspiracy culture grew and got legs after 9-11. As far as current evnts/news goes, even with the best of intentions it will usually fall short of the mark.
  The only real guides we have are history, philosophy and law. Those provide the yardstick from which to judge those on the set. They cannot be judged by how they react to what happened recently because they are working with different info than you or I, both sets of info likely filtered, intentionally or not.
  To get a clear picture we must only look at broad strokes.
Aaron P Added Mar 3, 2017 - 11:57am
@Louis Weeks
Here is Donald Trump's Transcript:
When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
In essence, he said most of the Mexicans in America are this way.
But fine, for argument's sake let's say you're right. CNN/ABC/CBS/NBC are all guilty of exaggeration and sensationalizing the news.
Exaggerating and sensationalizing is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from making stuff up out of thin air like FoxA) target="_blank">Trump’s “birther” conspiracy; B) target="_blank">Claiming Obama is a Muslim; C) target="_blank">Claiming Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq; D) target="_blank">Claiming that Obamacare would create “Death Panels”(Labeled by Politifact as target="_blank">Lie of the Year)
It's the difference between:
Option A: EXAGGERATING the size of your penis (Mainstream media) vs.
Option B: not having one at all and saying you do (FOX News)
HUGE difference.
"Also no mention of Hillary saying half of Trump;'s supporters were Deplorable..."
My article was about how the news media twists things and how people get fooled. When Hillary said Trump's supporters were Deplorable, the mainstream news media reported this correctly. There was no twisting the facts and fooling the public, and so nothing to write about. It's not like the news outlets "made up" the fact that she said this....
"The 'fake news' was that Trump was a racist"
I'm not going to touch this one. I'll just let Speaker Paul Ryan do the talking:
"Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment"
So again, sure let's agree this was EXAGGERATED. But at least Paul Ryan still said it out loud. Huge difference between that and saying Obama wasn't born in the US (even after he provided his birth certificate).
"So many more things you intentionally ignored..."
Please hash them all out. I'm deeply curious. Nothing you have said so far disproves my point. Only thing we have concluded was that mainstream media EXAGGERATES while Fox News COMPLETELY FABRICATES.
J. Riddle Added Mar 3, 2017 - 11:59am
"Mostly a decent piece, but I noticed you made the decision to only try to point out issues on the Right and ignore those on the left."
Aaron can speak for himself, of course, but that's probably because those on "the left" are, in this respect, of very little consequence.
"FOX is certainly guilty of pushing false ideas and narratives but they are incredibly small and insignificant compared to the impact the main news and networks have on society and they do this too, maybe more nuanced and circumspect, but clearly working on the same sort of agenda."
Those aren't "the left."
The left media in the U.S. is very small. Rachel Maddow on MSNBC is the most prominent. Publications like the Progressive, the Nation, In These Times, a few radio shows, some columnists, some comedians, if you want to throw them in--the left media apparatus is tiny.
"Such as when they all pushed the idea Trump called all Mexicans rapists.  That is simply untrue, and ABC, CBS, NBC, and all the Left leaning cable outlets like CNN as well as all print outlets like the New York Times pushed this false narrative that Trump said all Mexicans were rapists."
Trump's comment was that most Mexicans were rapists, criminals, etc. You wouldn't be able to provide any links to those outlets (which also aren't "the left") claiming he said "all" and even trying to make that sort of distinction is completely ridiculous and point-missing in the first place: Trump's entire point was to demonize brown people with funny accents from exotic places. It's a direct appeal to the worst sort of racism, one he offers over and over again.
"Also no mention of Hillary saying half of Trump;'s supporters were Deplorable and lacked any redeeming quality in America"
Clinton backed off her "half" claim but there's a pretty impressive pile of polling data that supported her comment.
"The 'fake news' was that Trump was a racist, and so was anyone who supported him, but I see no mention of that in your piece."
Trump honed his appeal to racism and xenophobia throughout his campaign. That's why the white supremacist/Nazi/fascist subculture so adored him. That you dislike this fact or perhaps find it politically inconvenient can't make it "fake."
Bill Kamps Added Mar 3, 2017 - 1:58pm
J. Riddle NOT TRUE ! The ACA forced the insurance company to cover things that were not in my previous policy, they changed what a policy had to include.  So I could not  get my old policy.  Everyone I know who had private insurance policies had their policies go up by 50-100% after ACA.  To say it was not the fault of ACA is crazy because before ACA the policies never went up by more than 10% in  a year, which was a lot, but less than 50%.
J. Riddle Added Mar 3, 2017 - 2:19pm
That's only the case with junk policies that didn't cover anything. The problem with private health insurance is, as it has always been, private health insurance. The ACA was fundamentally wrongheaded policy that went in exactly the wrong direction, trying to prop up a failed industry that is taking us all down the drain. This made it the whipping-boy for every time that industry screws its customers (which is every chance it gets).
John Minehan Added Mar 7, 2017 - 2:30pm
"Quid est veritas?" John 18:38.
"No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Dir. John Ford, 1962).