Sixty two years ago, George Orwell wrote the novel, 1984. He described a society controlled by government where the individual had no privacy, no real freedom, and was literally put into the equivalent of a drug induced state by the pabulum of mass media television. It was an intimidating forecast. But now the question; how much dumber can television get with shows like: "My Big Fat, Obnoxious Boyfriend," "Real Housewives of Wherever," and "Temptation Island?"
It was Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian educator, philosopher and academician who came up with terms like, "the global village, "medium is the message," and the concept of the "World Wide Web" almost 30 years before Al Gore said he invented it. Marshall described the fact that the mass media was quickly taking over our ability to think independently as we rushed into the realities of Orwell's Big Brother. He explained that we would be once again living in a world of tribal drums, total interdependence and superimposed terror as opposed to thought and feelings from rational analysis. Can you say, "Weapons of Mass Destruction?"
It appears that, because of this tribal unity, many very obvious changes have become accepted by our current culture. For example, according to columnist Rex Huppke, the fact that someone of any political party can say something that is completely false and stand by it makes facts meaningless and thus, dead. He goes on to theorize that, rumor and innuendo along with emphatic assertion are also part of this new communications standard.
Dartmouth political scientist, Brendan Nyhan professes that, "In journalism, in health and education, we tend to take the attitude that more information is better, and so there's been an assumption that if we put the correct information out there, the facts will prevail."Nyhan says that, "Unfortunately, that's not always true." Facts don't seem to matter, and those who expose bogus facts are often more highly criticized than the person who misrepresented the truth in the first place.
We all know that the spin can change the view on any subject matter. In many cases, it's the quality and persuasiveness of the argument, not the facts which becomes the issue. If you are on the right side of the spin, or if enough information can be put out there, the mass audience will be distracted from the facts, and confusion will reign supreme.
Fact: The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world.
Fact: Legislation has recently been proposed to take away additional funding for prenatal care.
Fact: The United States has fallen to "average" in international education scores and our state austerity measures include the laying off of teachers.
Fact: The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world with only five percent of the world's population, one-quarter of the world's inmates are incarcerated in the United States.
Fact: Average annual cost per student for a public school education $8,500; average annual cost per prisoner, $23,000.
See, many of you will not know if you should believe these facts. Some of you will fact check them. Others will say, so what? Some of you will look for my prejudices regarding this list, or you may be overwhelmed and say, "I can't change any of this anyway." Most, however, will not bother to read this far.
Twitter has become the new novelette and everything is a sound bite. As Jimmy Kimmel said, "What's red and black and read all over? Nothing anymore."
(Nick Jacobs, Windber, international director for SunStone Consulting, LLC is the author of the blog Healinghospitals.com.)