We’ve always had “fake news”. The truth is nowhere to be seen in the news streams and history books that serve most people. As Spinoza says – “if the mob is not afraid it is to be feared”, and so the power possessors of all ages have used misinformation to generate fear and anxiety in the masses – it’s a very good way to control them.
Politicians use lies and twisted truths on a regular basis to achieve their ends, and there is nothing more useful to them right now than social media. Most users of social media are uneducated and easy prey for the forces of disinformation that might wish to manipulate. Having said that, the so-called educated are also easy meat, although some might be more cynical. In any case, never in human history have the power possessors had such powerful tools to manipulate the masses.
It is also worth mentioning that religious, spiritual, self-help, and other people intent on serving their own interests, also find social media to be a blessing. The religious authorities have always used fear as a tool to control the masses – fear of damnation, of being accused of blasphemy, and so on.
Finally, we find the world flooded with conspiracy theories – theories that are created to serve the interests of other power possessors, or simply people who want to feed stories to a fearful mob eager for anyone to deliver a false sense of power through the notion of “inside information”.
For the individual, the solution to all of this is very straightforward. Assume it’s all lies – all of it, and while you may be misjudging some information, in the main you will be 99% accurate in your judgments. We are entering an age of extreme superstition, and while in the past superstition concerned itself with religious and “spiritual” matters, it now serves political, financial, and cult interests, in addition to the old favorites.
Every individual is equipped with some level of rationality. Superstition exploits emotional biases, and particularly our survival interests. To think rationally about the world is much less common than you might think because the emotions are typically more powerful than reason. Even so, we can seek our best interests by using reason. And by-the-way, as the world increasingly resembles a pack of rabid dogs it doesn’t serve any purpose to stand out from the mob. Agree and placate – don’t aggravate.