Posted on May 4, 2019 by Diana Roberts
Assassination, murder, maim, martyrdom —- It feels like it is coming from all sides. This past week the FBI arrested former U.S. infantryman, Mark Steven Domingo for planning a mass-casualty attack. He was planning on detonating an IED at a white nationalist rally in Long Beach, California, on this Sunday. ISIS leader, Abu al-Baghdadi, appearing for the first time in five years and after losing the Syrian califate territory ramped-up his followers worldwide for more violence and praised the Sri-Lanka Muslim terrorists for killing 250, mostly Christian churchgoers on Easter Sunday. Last October the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, last month it was slaughter at two Mosques in New Zealand, and most recently 19-year old John T. Earnest killing one and injuring one with an automatic rifle at the synagogue in Poway, California.
Is it all about religion or race? What are we to expect in the future? How do we stop this violence? How do we tone down the rhetoric? Is this the present that social media has brought to us?
In the dust cover description of the just released, The Misinformation Age, how false beliefs spread, professors of logic and philosophy of science Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall state:
“Why should we care about having true beliefs? And why do demonstrably false beliefs persist and spread despite bad, even fatal, consequences for the people who hold them?
… social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the spread and persistence of false beliefs. It might seem that there’s an obvious reason that true beliefs matter: false beliefs will hurt you. But if that’s right, then why is it (apparently) irrelevant to many people whether they believe true things or not?
… If social forces explain the persistence of false belief, we must understand how those forces work in order to fight misinformation effectively.”
This is the starting point for defeating political driven “fake news,” “alternative facts,” “hate speech,” gender and sexual preference discrimination, and violent extremism. One might look at the psychology of the individual actor, but to design a counter-offense to extremism and violence and to change or prevent deep-rooted dedication to those dysfunctions, the social factors must be understood, countered and realigned.
We must develop a well-funded organized system of understanding how social media poison works on the mind in processing information and develop an understandable resistance to the negative process. America has had as many self-developed terrorists as Islam has been successful in sending to the U.S. Racism has been a part of culture since the beginning. Prejudice and power grabbing has always been with us.
To change this, it is going to take both government programs and private effort to stop the growth of these cultural and national defects, and indeed, seize the opportunity to reverse the current trend in the public forum and in social acceptance.
To begin with, this must be done with methodic and calculated free speech. The ability to share information, stories and opinions, to influence one another’s beliefs is part of what makes humans special. It allows for science and art and culture of any sort. But the conundrum it leads to is how do we know who to trust? We don’t, and Twenty-First Century misinformation through technology has been perfected. But we don’t have to “trust” in order to engage those in conversation who espouse hate speech, prejudice and violence. We just need to know “how” to do it, a formula as it were.
There is a chance that someone or even an organization who entertains terrible, even dangerous or fatal ideas, can be turned around by friends, families, colleagues or fellow religious members. This won’t be true for everyone and there will always be bad people and bad things implemented by them. But we can at least try to diminish the stimulating rhetoric or its effect.
By engaging and empowering the extremist to speak, we are also disarming him in another, critical way: by depriving him of the charge of bias. Every radical accuses the government of being out to get him. Once conspiracy theorists, whether it be against the government, or a race, or religion, or non-religion, have said their piece, it’s harder for them to claim unfair treatment, or if they do they lack credibility when it is pointed out. They can still make an accusation of bias, in fact, they’re certain to do it anyway. But the charge doesn’t have the same sting as if the state or the group had tried to suppress or even ignored their point of view
Banning ideas and communication actually erodes the necessary conditions for long term equality. It breeds resentment, stokes anger, and makes the radical suspicious of community. It’s in the community and the terrorist’s, Jihadist’s, white supremacists own intergroup and society where the discussion must be had and on a regular, well-organized basis. While some of this is being done, it is not being activated on the scale and with the forethought that needs to be. Let’s bring America back to the land of reason and acceptance and do it now!