You wrote this post here, so I wrote this response here.
Seems like you’re saying what, I think, any reasonable person would say about these articles and their worries over censorship and lack of freedom in media: seeing as how we’re all lazy, isn’t it really easy for the classical powers (wealth, prestige, whtaever) to continue to control our thoughts and actions by just prompting us to do what they won’t (a la Facebook campaigns, etc.). And you’re totally right, ’cause we’re pretty lazy and we don’t wanna do the work, and, to be honest, we’d rather get told we have two choices to choose from rather than being told we have a million choices. See, black and white’s a fairly easy choice; the whole color spectrum is a bit more tedious to sift through, especially if you don’t care what color it is in the first place, or if the world tells you not to care.
I wanna know, though, what do ya think we can do? Can we figure out a way to stop people from being lazy and get focused on what’s important? And then, of course, there’s the question of what is and what isn’t important. Is voting on a president really important? Is it more important than Farmville? Maybe. I mean, most people would say yes. But that’s a rather shallow assertion given that more people play Farmville than go out campaigning for their candidates.
It seems to me that digital media has made it easier for anyone to influence other people. It seems to me, as well, that the people who do the most influencing are the ones that have the motivation to do so, be it monetary, political, or ideological, as well as the ones who know how to atavize all of the issues into a single, one-dimensional stance: “Vote for Obama.”
So how do we stop people from being so misled? How do we get our society to pull itself out of the milieu and get focused?
Well, we can’t. I know, it sucks.
I wish we could too, but it’s a problem of our nature that no one has yet figured out a solution to.
If I can use a prominent example in philosophy to illustrate this idea, take the examples of Descartes and Hobbes, contemporaries of each other and both very influential in modern times. Descartes had this brilliant idea: if we can establish correct criteria in the search for truth, we can improve all of society in the process. All it would take, in his mind, is a bit of education on the method for establishing truth and then, voila, people would become better and society would conquer all of its myriad problems. He was brilliant, for sure, because his thoughts became the cornerstone of modern rationalism.
Hobbes, on the other hand, became the spokesman for political philosophy, for the social contract, and for the need for government. See, Hobbes liked Descartes’ ideas because they made sense: if you can figure out the path to truth you can improve the world. The problem Hobbes saw was that not enough people would do that, because: 1. People are stupid in general, 2. People are driven by fear, not by reason, and 3. People are quite lazy and really want to be supported by controlling powers. And he’s right. I mean, they’re both right, it’s just that one of them was realistic and the other was idealistic.
And when we look at our real world, we see that Hobbes was totally right. People act out of stupidity, not intellect (in fact our culture seems to honor stupidity), and they’re compelled by their fears much more than their reason. And, of course, they like the power structure implicitly, because it assures them a comfortable life without having to worry about the natural fears of this world (hunger, etc.).
What I mean to say is, I get your point and agree with you, and it would be great if we could figure out a way to stop this exploitation of media and start getting our society to work towards progress and equality. But we’re afraid, we’re stupid, and we’re lazy. So it won’t be easy, and it might be impossible. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but it does mean we should understand that the challenge is monumental, perhaps the most challenging endeavor ever begun by humans, to fix ourselves.