Dispatches foam the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches foam the 148 by Fred Ryan
Our world is so connected … everyone’s in touch with everyone else, all the time. People out for a nice dinner spend much of it on their Faceplant posts. Kids go to sleep with their phones under their pillows, ready for the beep-beep. We have messages from everywhere, about all topics … with accompanying video bursts. It’s a little exhausting, really, when you stand back and look at it all unfolding, day after day.
Here’s a question that’s puzzled me for some time: why, when there’s such a shift in popular connectivity and consciousness, does it so often come out in the
negative? This is our “civilization” (which Gandhi famously said would be a good idea were it ever to arrive), and, so, if it really is “ours”, how do we explain our reliance on the negative, on the step downward, rather than aspiring for improvements and for what’s visionary?
This is, you understand, in reference to the deluge of trolling and slamming, attacks and name-calling that we find across today’s social media. We have world leaders insulting and accusing, and, in the Trump years, a complete flowering of
conspiracy theories. Idiotic conspiracy theories – not simply because I disagree, but because the conspiracies themselves make such little sense. How could a world full of scientists be manipulated to maintain, if not create, the wildest conspiracies? For example, the claim that humanity’s reaching the moon, walking upon it, is actually a hoax, a conspiracy to fool the entire human race – now imagine the thousands of scientists and technical workers who would have to be in this plot, and who would all have to preserve their participation for years – all for what purpose?
Why would so many intelligent people buy into a plot with so little genuine impact on anything we are doing?
So many of the conspiracy theories – for example, the claim that the flooding of New Orleans during Katrina was deliberate – require the very active and tight
collaboration of thousands of people, and for no purpose, for nothing gained. A pragmatist, faced with questionable claims, asks “who gains?” and “what is gained?” from all this effort and coordination.
The puzzle is not so much where these theories come from; indeed, they could largely be work of tech-savy, but bored, teenagers! No, the question is why do we turn to the downside, the negative, to insults and accusations, rather than conspiracies for good? Perhaps in old days, when religion was stronger, we saw conspiracies as the work of a devil, or, in New Ageism, the work of “higher beings” who are trying to lead us upward, out of our lower selves?
We will believe that our governments exist mainly to enrich themselves and their friends – but we won’t believe the opposite, that there are conspiracies designed to help us, to improve life or to save the planet? We can’t believe good news? After all, if every newscast (or blog) grabs our attention by predicting
disaster, why would we expect good news? Wouldn’t we would be suspicious – another conspiracy theory!
In the day’s list of newsworthy events, there are hundreds of entries, some dismal but also some encouraging. But we get mostly the ominous news, the possibilities of things getting even worse. Editors make choices for every newscast, and they pretty well are negative. Maybe the negative ones are threatening, and we need to know of threats … is that it? But how about good news, even a little, stimulating us upwards?
This is not another criticism of the media (it’s a target in every conspiracy theory). This is a criticism of us, our attitudes, our civilization, whereby we prefer to be titillated and shocked rather than inspired. We all tsk-tsk agreement, but then go back to our devices. We claim to hate all the negativism, but then repeat the latest we’ve heard. Why aren’t conspiracy theories conspiracies for the good? Why are they so negative, and why are we so eager to believe all this negativity?
That’s my question, why are you and I (and your aunt) so receptive to all today’s negativity?