Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

Stream-of-Consciousness: Arm Yourself


Just a friendly little reminder:

Everything is made up. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Even the experts are making it up as they go along.

Sounds good, right? That’s the mantra of the “free thinker.” Unfortunately, that kind of thinking can land you in some pretty untenable places, like for instance, denying that humans are responsible for climate change or thinking that 9/11 was an inside job. You embrace the thinking that “you can’t trust anybody” and the whole world begins to look like a conspiracy theory. Pretty soon you’re driving around in a car that looks like this:

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Which is a pretty good way to advertise to the world that they shouldn’t waste their time talking to you.

Fact is, experts are experts not because they know everything, but because they constantly question whether they know anything. An expert will admit when he’s out of his depth. And then he’ll start asking the questions that expand his depth.

Put another way, when all the fish are swimming in one direction, your first thought shouldn’t be, “I’m swimming the other way.” Your first thought should be: “why are they swimming that way?” There just might be a good reason.

Arm yourself against idiocy. Arm yourself against people that want to take advantage of you. Ask questions. Think about what you see instead of just parroting the party line.

This post brought to you by nothing in particular.

Part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday, even if it’s a day late. Everything is a day late around here lately. Maybe I’ll invent my own time zone.

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Revising Reality


I’ve seen some pieces flying around the internet lately about “The Mandela Effect.” In short, this refers to the sensation that you’re living in some kind of parallel universe where reality has rearranged itself and changed, leaving only your memories of a past that no longer exists; or, to quote Wikipedia: “…a situation where a number of people claim to share memories of events which differ from the available evidence of those events.” (I like my definition better.)

Maybe you’ve seen the memes. The Berenstain Bears was actally The BerenstEin Bears, but it changed somehow, somewhere, somewhen. Sinbad starred in Shazaam, a movie that clearly doesn’t exist.

This is all pretty harmless, a few troubling webpages aside. Sure, there are some people out there who actually believe that visiting aliens, or shadow corps, or time-travelling emissaries from the future have mucked about with timelines and memories to make us forget about Sinbad’s breakout role, but they reside where they belong: on the fringes, where they can comfortably be laughed at, ridiculed, and finally, ignored.

But then I turn on CNN this morning — we’ve got a snow day* here in the suburbs of Atlanta — and I see that yet again, the man who will be our next president has lashed out with his favorite weapon, the mighty Tweet Scepter, against his perceived injustices. This time, against Meryl Streep, who pretty thoroughly lambasted him in her lifetime achievement award acceptance at last night’s Golden Globes. (One could make the argument that such an event isn’t the forum for such a criticism, but one would clearly never have seen any award shows.) The kernel at the center of her argument against him? This little gem:

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.”

It’s a trope in comedy, satire, and such: you’re allowed to punch up, but not down. Trump punches every which way. And in this instance, he swung his tiny  oratorial fists in the direction of this reporter. It upset a lot of people, not least of which is Meryl Streep, who brought it boiling back to the surface during her speech.

So now he’s on Twitter calling her overrated and a Hillary shill — whatever, that’s par for the course — but then he’s also claiming he wasn’t mocking the reporter.

Hmm.

And then, there on CNN, is his mouthpiece speaking for him and insisting that he never mocked the reporter.

Here’s the problem: they can’t revise reality.

It happened. It was caught on film. In other words, it’s a fact. It’s a part of reality. We’ve all seen the clip, but here it is just to be sure:

That happened.

Trump and his people are trying to convince us that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t mean what it obviously meant. They’re trying to convince us that the way they remember the event trumps (sorry) the objectively obvious reality that exists. But here’s the simpler truth: we all recognize that spastic arm-motion that all the middle-schoolers used to make fun of the “retarded” kids. The orange one executed it perfectly, at age 70, to make fun of somebody he didn’t care for.

So, big kerfuffle over this reporter thing again, but it’s only a microcosm of the bigger problem. Fake news has run amok. Hillary Clinton probably ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor; I read it on the internet. Aliens totally live on Mars; you can see their faces in our low-def cameras. 9/11 was an inside job; buildings don’t fall down like that.

This is the Mandela effect on a frightening scale. People — otherwise intelligent, fair-minded people — are convincing themselves on the daily that reality is not what it obviously is. They want to pretend that their own memory, their own perception of a thing, is correct when the objective, concrete evidence of the thing contradicts it.

And it’s bloody crazy.

The human memory? Yeah, it’s a squishy, sloppy mass of grey matter stitched together with duct tape and galvanized staples. Our memories are notoriously awful — this is demonstrably true. We screw things up all the time when we rely on our memory (which is why eyewitness testimony is basically the most unreliable evidence on the courtroom totem pole). You can even be tricked into “remembering” details of an encounter that you never even had. And yet, people — enormous swathes of registered voters — are trusting their memories, “trusting their gut”, and imposing an alternate reality on the actual one.

Thing is, though? “Mandela Effect” thinking? It’s really conspiracy theory with a less shamed-into-the-closet coat of paint. For reality to change requires a network of very capable entities working in concert, notwithstanding some damage to the fabric of space-time. But those things don’t actually happen.

Reality is what it is. It is up to us to accept that reality for what it is, rather than hammering it into a shape we’d rather it be.

I get it. Accepting reality is hard. (It’s why religion has had such a good run.) But what’s the alternative? We knowingly let people get away with lies? We allow ourselves to believe things, or forget things, because they make us feel better?

Let me drift away from the political to wrap this up (thank goodness).

For a long time (almost a decade, if not most of my life!), I sheltered in the belief that I could be a writer; that the only thing holding me back was a lack of inspiration, a lack of time. But that’s not an accurate representation of reality. What was holding me back was a lack of commitment and a lack of work ethic.

Owning up to that sucked. I had to accept that I had been a lazy jerk about my writing. It was a lot easier to pretend that I was capable, but I was just waiting to get motivated or inspired to do something about it. Out there, I’m lazy and unmotivated and maybe not even able to do this thing. In here, I can do it whenever I feel like it — I just don’t feel like it today.

But if I hadn’t owned up to reality? I wouldn’t have written even one percent — maybe even not one percent of one percent — of what I’ve written in the past three years. I would have sheltered in my alternate reality; the one where I was unproductive on my own terms. Where I believe whatever bullsharknado is on offer — especially the bullsharknado that bubbles up from my own gut.

And maybe some people would rather live that way, I dunno.

Me, I’ll take the jagged edges and freezing winds of the real world over the fluffy clouds and artificial heat-lamps of the fantasy world any day.

*Atlanta snow days do not actually feature snow.

 


Dubious Activism


When you’re environmentally conscious enough to drive a Prius, but you’re voting for a guy who claims that climate change is a hoax…

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We Are the Grid


What if memory were a saleable commodity?

I think this idea must have been implanted in my grey matter sometime around the time I first saw Total Recall when I was, I dunno, 15 or so, but I think it’s not so far-flung an idea as it perhaps seems on the surface.  When you consider the exponential growth of technology, and the fact that you now have a device in your pocket which can measure your caloric intake, sleep cycle, physical activity or lack thereof, and sharknado, probably even your bowel movements during the day, is it so hard to imagine a future wherein memories can be added to your hard drive for a fee?  Or deleted?

Terrible childhood keeping you from living up to your potential?  Not anymore.  Erase those awful parents and replace them with the Stepford Wives version of your mom.  All aprons and chocolate cakes and hot dinners and high heels.  Dad used to smack you around?  No, he didn’t.  Your dad was the perfect, pipe-smoking, newspaper-reading, catch-playing, allowance-giving Leave-it-to-Beaver dad.  (Truth time, I never saw a single episode of Leave it to Beaver, but that’s what it was about, right?)

It feels like science fiction, but it isn’t.  In the short space of my lifetime — and I got started in the eighties — we’ve gone from the height of technology being a little black box on your belt that can receive phone calls but not place them, a hulking computer which could choke when reading a floppy disk — an actual floppy disk that was actually floppy — to almost everybody in the US owning a computer that fits in your pocket.  Oh, and that computer is connected — by fargoing magic, it would seem to our selves from twenty years ago — to a series of computers around the world which give us access to any bit of information we might want, from local movie times to the phases of the moon to the entire history of ancient Greece to entire catalogs of movies and television shows.  Oh, and this computer also makes phone calls.  AND LETS YOU TALK FACE TO FACE TO SOMEBODY ACROSS THE GLOBE.

The cover of Time magazine a few months ago featured the next step in “Smart” technology — a glowing heads-up display embedded in the forearm.  Smart Watches are all the rage at the moment; there are no fewer than dozens of models being hawked in magazines and tech websites now, and you may be getting one for Christmas.  Google Glass, much though it’s stumbling and crashing into the furniture in its infancy much like my two-year-old son, is here and refining itself and not going anywhere.  In a few years, we will hardly remember a time when the computer chips were on the outside of our heads; when conducting an internet search required interfacing with a keyboard and a digital screen rather than the automatic firing of neurons and the insides of our eyelids.wrist-cover

There will be arguments about whether real or “artificial” memories are superior, though it will hardly matter, because the artificial ones will feel so real we’ll be unable to tell the difference.  There will be debates about whether the tech should be usable in certain situations — I can foresee a scandal wherein a kid who’s never cracked a book in his life wins the National Spelling Bee over all the geniuses through the covert use of his neural implants, but nobody will be able to prove it.  The moment you meet a new person, their vitae will be displayed in searing neon text inside your brain, with the option to view a full background history for a small fee, you need only “glance right” and the money will automatically be debited from your account.

There will be no such thing as “off the grid” anymore, because we will be the grid.  You won’t be able to “unplug” anymore, because the stuff will be plugged into you.

I wrote a short story some months ago about a society wherein nobody was able to lie anymore because everybody had a device implanted into his head which blinked if they told a lie.  Make lying impossible, and the ability will disappear.  Except the world needs liars, so naturally, scientists found a way to bypass the very tech they had created to make lying impossible.  Not my best story, to be sure, but it seems relevant to the topic at hand.   At any rate, I go back to that story because it’s science fiction… except that it’s not.  We’ve had technology for years which, through a simple reading of your blood pressure, pulse rate, or even the dilation of your pupils can tell if you’re lying.  How much of a stretch is it to imagine a world where they just hook that stuff up to you at birth to cut out the middle man?

Sure, this means that we’d view everybody as an inherently deceitful and disingenuous person.  But hell, Sam’s Club checks your receipt before you walk out the door, and you pay for the privilege of shopping there.

When we can implant memories — and remove the ones we don’t want — what will happen to the idea of identity?  What will happen to the idea of being a unique person?

I’ve never climbed Everest, but I could easily implant a memory that I had.  And if I remember it — if I can smell the snow and feel the thinness of the air and see the panorama of distant mountain peaks and the world far below — is it not real?  For that matter, if something happened to me in my life and I can’t remember it — did it ever really happen?  Are we not all, at the end of the day, brains in a vat?

Believe it or not, no psychotropic substances were involved in the writing of this rambling blarg post.  Only a deep-seated paranoia about our collective cybernetic future.  I for one would like to preemptively voice my whole-hearted endorsement of our prospective robot overlords, and ask that when they plug me into the Matrix, they make me believe that I am a freaking ninja with a boat and a talking dog.  And a hoverboard.  Because yay, hoverboards.

This post is part of SoCS.  Typed with no editing at all, only spellchecking.  Which I’ve already had implanted in my brain.


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