“History is written by the victors,” someone once declared. Such narrative purity facilitated an expedient, maybe necessary and almost mindless, rallying around any figurative flag.
But what happens when (a) everyone’s worried they’re the losers; (b) we’re all afforded unprecedented opportunity to write our own histories?
Then another saying resonates even more: “We don’t see things as THEY are, we see them as WE are.”
To me, that’s the ultimate “why” to our present proliferation of disinformation and misinformation — and what I referenced in a recent Zignal Labs town hall as an explosion in “alternative realities.”
Consider our robust menu of options that help us manage/endure our anxious existence: augmented reality, virtual reality, parallel realities, alternative universes, alternative facts, conspiracies.
Powered by technology, we get to choose what’s real, and what best suits our own stories. We’re all gaming reality. And the stakes are high whatever we choose to believe — or not: Q-Anon, voter fraud, GameStop, the coronavirus, climate change, 1/6, Sandy Hook. Belief is membership. The more who sign up, the more it makes it “real.”
This all begs two questions: what’s really real? And why is this happening now?
The first question inspires a mind-bending exploration of philosophy, quantum physics and uh, the entertainment industry. Descartes, Schrödinger’s cat and our voluntary suspension of disbelief as we binge Netflix are the driving factors here. We crave consensus for a singular reality, but that may be the greatest fiction: it might not exist.
The second is political, psychological and algorithmic. Winners are worried they’re now losing. They want to delegitimize the institutions that once exclusively served them. Losers want to be winners. They want to delegitimize the institutions created by their oppressors and re-imagine new ones. The most intense of these movements are amplified by our social technologies, which only causes more chaos and confusion.
Two more questions: what’s it going to take for us to regain that consensus? And might we be willing to do away with a few uncomfortable truths to save ourselves?