March 10, 2018
William Thomas / Will Thomas Online.net
Commentary: Why is nearly everyone ignoring nearly everything (of dire and urgent importance)? Activists know by now that constantly warning of doom gets people highly motivated -- to tune them out! Conversely, insisting that everything's going to be okay when the inverse is already happening does not inspire changed perspective and priorities either. So what's going on? (Or not.) The latest brain and behavior research shows that more facts -- especially irrefutable evidence -- is not the answer.
William Thomas / Will Thomas Online.net
(March 5, 2018) -- Today's head-scratcher: Why is nearly everyone ignoring nearly everything (of dire and urgent importance)? Activists know by now that constantly warning of doom gets people highly motivated -- to tune them out!
Conversely, insisting that everything's going to be okay when the inverse is already happening does not inspire changed perspective and priorities either. So what's going on? (Or not.) The latest brain and behavior research shows that more facts -- especially irrefutable evidence -- is not the answer.
Shout "Fire!" in a crowded room and everyone rushes for the exits. Scream "Catastrophic Climate Collapse!" onboard a jam-packed planet and nobody looks up from their iPhones. What gives?
Turns out, we are reflexively tethered not just to smart phones but ancient reptilian reflexes. Millions of years confronting large hungry predators have left us hard-wired to respond to imminent big-toothed threats. This is handy if we trip over a Tyrannosaur. But we fare far worse confronting invisible hazards like microwave radiation or the dying world ocean that gives this planet life.
"We tend to deal best with threats that are visible, immediate, a direct physical risk, and have a clearly identifiable cause," observes George Marshall, author of Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.
"Humans are less capable of dealing with threats that are invisible, in the future, with drawn out and uncertain impacts and with complex causality. We are especially poor at dealing with threats . . . of our own making."
We not only ignore troubling information, we duck our aversion to it. Unaware that the tottering edifice of our random rationality is missing more than a few bricks, we remain carelessly clueless regarding the biases and hidden impulses of our own conditioning.
"The result is a sustained malfunction in our capacity to assess and evaluate risk," Marshall told an Oxford audience.
So when someone points to an aerosol-scrawled sky, or mentions mega-methane releases in a blow-torched Arctic remote from our daily experience, they are either ridiculed or ignored.
"The refusal to recognize a major issue when it threatens to destabilize our lives; our obsession with trivia; the compulsive over-consumption; the open and active indulgence in activities we know to be destructive -- all these behaviour patterns are symptoms of denial," Marshall mentions.
When reinforced by amygdala-amped fear and all-consuming greed, such destructive denial becomes a species-limiting activity.
Whether inverting reality in Syria, North Korea, the Ukraine or the sky overhead, the corporate media's "selective framing" isn't helping restore reason in an increasingly shrill Excited States of America. Or its northern neighbour.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Canada's national CBC television broadcast a "signature shot" of snowboarders glissading down a mountain under a deep blue Utah sky. The February 15th frame also highlighted a brilliant white jet trail. As the camera held steady, instead of dissipating like a normal contrail, this particular plume began to grow and expand.
When producers awoke to this telltale composition, the shot abruptly switched to another camera until the first camera could be reframed. For the rest of the afternoon, CBC cameras showed millions of viewers postcard pictures, while keeping lingering "chemtrails" out of all shots.
Subsequent taped interviews with Air Traffic Controllers confirming these geoengineering aerosols as a USAF climate-modification experiment, and expressing concern over possible human health impacts were never aired. [Chemtrails Confirmed by William Thomas]
"Why do so many Americans act like whack jobs?" the world wants to know.
Answer: We can't help it. We're born with cult-like beliefs in American exceptionalism that are constantly reinforced, seldom demonstrated and rarely challenged. While corporate media mesmerizers continue stoking imaginary fears, real and immediate dangers are ignored. Every day in the most violent nation on Earth, at least 289 people are shot. Every 80 minutes another traumatized veteran commits suicide.
THE BACKFIRE EFFECT
Thanks to carefully managed network "nooz" and the Internet's smorgasbord of fact and fiction, we can cherry pick what we swallow. As Chris Mooney, author of the oddly titled, The Republican Brain, explains, "In an era when dozens of media sources are a click away, people have a tendency to consume more of those that conform to their respective worldviews."
Everyone follows their favourite narrative scripts – stories that tell us what we want to hear, confirm our beliefs and give us permission to continue feeling and believing as we already do. As a journalist, I have to constantly monitor my tendency to highlight information I agree with, while disregarding contrary facts.
After studying how contrails form, I came to see that many reported "chemtrails" are briefly sublimed ice crystals streaming from the turbines of high-flying jets.
But many more are lingering plumes of microscopic, sunlight-reflecting chemicals intended to slow the sun's further warming of an overbaked planet. It's not working. By eroding Earth's protective ozone shield, and changing wind and rainfall patterns, aerosol spraying is making the climate emergency worse.
But the approximately 1C of warming being bounced back into space has set us up for a sudden lunge across drastic climate thresholds when -- for any number of reasons -- these aerosol experiments end.
As alarmed aerosol "alarmists" know all too well, an argument can never be won online. "When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate," mind-man Mooney writes.
After all, who wants to think their daily denial and complicity is helping to wreck an entire planet? Who wants to contemplate drastic personal changes (even if they often turn out for the better)? Better to throw another banana to that chirping chimp. You know the one, McRaney reminds us, "the stupid monkey part of your brain [that] wants to gobble up candy bars and go deeply into debt."
"In repeated polls over 80% of people identify climate change as a serious problem. Yet there is no evidence of any change in people's personal behaviour or in their voting preferences. People buy ever larger cars and homes, fly ever further for holidays, and vote for the parties that promise to do the most to support their expansive lifestyles," Bill Blakemore bleakly observes.
So why don't we change or curtail the activities that will end our way of life – along with the lives of nearly every creature onboard this foundering planetary ark?
"The refusal to recognize a major issue when it threatens to destabilize our lives; our obsession with trivia; the compulsive over-consumption; the open and active indulgence in activities we know to be destructive -- all these behaviour patterns are symptoms of denial," says Stanley Cohen, a sociologist specializing in the study of mass social denial.
"Our knowledge of climate change challenges our sense of personal and moral responsibility and our identity as moral beings. There is a common compact amongst people not to discuss these things."
"We feel small and powerless in the face of this huge and daunting problem and we prefer not to mention it, especially when there are such powerful pressures to conform to the high consumption culture. When your friend comes and shows you her holiday tan, you don't win many social points by raising the issue of how she got it," Blakemore adds. Or by relating actual UV levels and trends.
While everyone waits for someone else to do something, pointing to a sky choked with geoengineering aerosols also triggers another psychological reaction -- the 'bystander effect'. The more people who know about geoengineering and the more information available (currently over seven-and-a-half-million web mentions) -- the more bystanders there are to this cascading catastrophe, "and the greater our inclination" to do nothing.
Contributing to this "profound disconnection between information and action" is relentless political, social and economic disempowerment. "Most people are weighed down by their day to day concerns with a life experience that has persuaded them that they are powerless to effect wider change," Blakemore blanches.
This cop-out is self-fulfilling.
"People can accept the truth of what is said without accepting the implications," George Marshall told his Oxford audience. "Newspapers regularly carry dire climatic warnings in the same issue as articles that breathlessly promote weekend breaks in Rio . . . friends and family, can express grave concern, and then just as quickly block it out, buy a new car, turn up the air conditioning, or fly across the world for a holiday."
And yet . . .
On a deeper level, unacknowledged denial fuels shame and guilt. And an even greater ego-salving commitment to admit nothing. Poking at this explosive mix with the sharpened stick of irrefutable facts, figures and the view out the living room window only hardens denial. And risks a smack in the gob.
SCREENHEADS & STUPID MONKEYS
Before they can be nudged toward scary realities, most people have to be dragged out of the warm cocoon of their private reality. The one they think they control, but is really controlling them.
Acknowledging climate shift, geoengineering or the brain-wiping hazards of wireless radiation begs inquiry over how we choose to live. But fossil fuel and wireless addicts avoid introspection at all costs.
And those costs are mounting.
Even those who do accept deeply unsettling facts fail to act on the implications. "There is a common compact amongst people not to discuss these things," says Marshall.
Who wants to be another Debbie Downer? Unlike all other animals, who effortlessly practice being fully in the moment – whatever it brings – neocortex-burdened humans indulge in three main flavours of denial:
1. Outright dismissal of disturbing information. ("You're crazy!")
2. Reinterpretation of unwelcome information. (Catastrophic climate change is "natural"; wireless radiation "can't be that bad"; more guns mean more protection".)
3. Accepting the information and doing nothing about its personal, political and moral implications. ("I'll get to it later.")
BETTER BELIEVE IT
"Say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions," reports a seriously depressed Marty Kaplan.
"A lack of information isn't the real problem. The hurdle is how our minds work." How "we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe" – after we've acted. Or failed to act.
"Do facts matter?" Kaplan asks.
Even worse, when people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.
"Why do people believe stupid stuff, even when confronted with the truth?" asks David McRaney. "When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger," he found. "You do it instinctively and unconsciously."
Yet, those who persistently fail to act on negative stimuli may soon "fail to keep breathing."
HOW TO TALK TO PEOPLE WITHOUT FREAKING THEM OUT
The first step to dealing with what's coming and what is already here is admitting how difficult it is to even admit this is happening.
The next step is not to mount a crusade to save a world that does not wish to be "saved", but to attend to our own everyday choices with a view toward safeguarding present lives and those to come.
Marshall goes on to suggest that "we need to recognize and face up to the fact" that when it comes to making small choices right now that will reverberate for generations, our supposedly "rational" decisions are being driven by emotion, conditioning and especially our inability to deal with knowing better and turning the ignition key anyway.
Who says we smug sleepwalkers are smart enough to avoid extinction?
Reposted with permission of the author.