Today, the United States of America will formally swear in its 45th president, Donald John Trump. Many Americans will greet this act enthusiastically, while others will be either depressed or outraged by it. This also holds true with citizens around the world who either eagerly await Trump’s presidency, or alternately hold no hope that their lives will not be debased by Trump’s coming days in office.
One reason for such negativity is Trump’s relationship with the press, or news media in general, as many see it to be corrupted by money or so irrevocably biased, corrupted, or neutered as to be irrelevant. It is this latter view that has a significant number of the world’s citizens concerned about their own national media, let alone the USA’s.
But I have good news for any and all who care to read my blog, as I will be blogging a short series on detecting, understanding, and resisting manipulative propaganda no matter where it originates: newspaper, social media, corporate television, the entertainment industry, etc. This means that you will know as much truth as you can; not “being right” per se, but rather knowing what is fact, which is not for or against anyone. Thus, you can be of any political party, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, religion, and use these tools to keep yourself from being fooled by propaganda. So in Part One today, I will am going to introduce to you a system of analytical thinking designed to help you understand and successfully negotiate the socio-informational landscape.
THE FOUNDATION: 媒体術
I call this system baitaijutsu (媒体術), a Japanese word I invented which means something like the “martial art of media”, the art of doing “hand to hand” combat with the news: grappling with possible deception and throwing it down like a judo expert. No matter who and where it comes from, you will be able to analyze media information and resist being manipulated by what is false. The truth is nonpartisan, so baitaijutsu is for everyone.
Also we must remember that the word propaganda means information used to promote a point of view. WHen we think of propaganda, we automatically think propaganda is “bad”, because we have heard the word used so negatively so for long. But a mother telling her child to eat more vegetables is also propaganda; the mother’s correct view that her child will be healthier and stronger for doing so. Telling your friends that your favorite sports team is the greatest ever is also propaganda, which still may or may not be true depending on the team’s statistics. So propaganda is not what is true or false, but the act of promoting an idea or information. Thus, when we study baitaijutsu, we must always remember this fact: propaganda is promotion, and this key idea is the foundation of resisting the promotion of untruth, the core of baitaijutsu.
LEVEL ONE: WHITE BELT
To get our introductory training, our white belt in baitaijutsu we must know the nature of its design: what it does, how it works, and what the basic structure is: the best way of doing being to describe two distinct states of thought. The first state is uncritical: Mirror Mind. It is structured on three false principles (axioms):
If I believe this, it is true.
If we (group) believe it, it is true.
If I want to believe it, it is true.
You will see this unconscious state of belief everywhere in society. And you will also notice that you too are inclined towards this state when you or I are passionate about something. This is why you and I must remember that baitaijutsu is done with all ideas, beliefs, and notions, especially our own. If we think everyone else is wrong, and yet we remain in this state, we will soon lose any fact or truth we might actually have, lose it to the ever-evolving realities of life that make truth and fact complex. Mirror Mind is inflexible, dangerous, and socially irresponsible. It is the state on which all negative or manipulative propaganda relies to subjugate and control humans. Conspiracy theory is built on mirror mind, and anyone is capable of falling prey to mirror mind thinking, no matter how benign or malevolent the belief.
Thus, we must develop the core mindset of baitaijutsu: Fuhen Mind (Jap:不偏, “no-side”): unbiased thinking that questions itself as much as others. Fuhen Mind is developed through understanding the Four Axioms of baitaijutsu, which combat and eradicate Mirror Mind. The Four Axioms are as follows:
If I believe this, it may still be untrue.
If we believe it, we may be wrong.
If I want to or enjoy believing it, I may be prejudiced by my desire to believe.
It may benefit me to believe it, but that does not make the belief true.
The power of these four axioms lay in how they keep us from being so certain of ourselves that we stop considering new points of view, ones which could save us from becoming so certain about a thing, we are easily manipulated. Absolute certainty in belief has historically proven socially destructive and often thoroughly deadly time and time again. Something can be fact, but there may be nuances we are blind to, which render our thinking rigid, and once again easily manipulated. So to begin our quest to be socially and ideologically free citizens of the world, memorize and meditate upon on the Four Axioms of Fuhen Mind.
In Part Two of this series I will discuss the next belt level of baitaijutsu: Understanding The Core Axioms of News.