Preface: This is an opinion piece that I wrote in response to BBC journalist, Marianna Springs’ article published yesterday entitled “How should you talk to friends and relatives who believe conspiracy theories“. Marianna Spring’s job title reads “specialist disinformation reporter”. Her email was previously listed under her name at the top of her article, but upon completing this “letter”, the email has been removed from the site and no contact information is provided. Luckily, there exists the capability to screenshot, therefore I still had the email to forward my response to (phew). Below are my opinions regarding labeling Trump supporters “conspiracy theorists”. Let me know what you think about the topic. I’d love to hear your own personal thoughts or your “red pill” moment, as these are my personal beliefs and experiences.
I’d just like to respond to your article about how to handle “conspiracy theorists” during the holidays.
Firstly, are you located in the US or the UK? I know BBC is a national broadcaster headquartered overseas in London. However, I am curious if a portion of your fellow colleagues live in America while reporting, therefore increasing the potential for more accurate first-hand knowledge and further, permitting a somewhat “realistic” and unbiased interpretation of current events, as opposed to basing said reporting solely on America’s mainstream media network coverage.
Secondly, I’d just like to give my personal opinion on the “conspiracy theory” matter by sharing my “red pill” moment, if you will. Prior to 2016, I did not care much for politics. I did in a minimal way-to the extent that I’d “keep up” with current events by watching ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, or another so-called “mainstream” network. What “the man in a suit” sitting at a desk told me on tv in his perfect “news anchor voice”, was what I believed to be facts.
I had studied journalism in college and interned at some stations in LA for a couple years beginning in 2009 and was determined to be a broadcast journalist. I wanted to report facts and truth to the population and thought it was a wonderful profession.
Fast forward to 2016, where I had already changed career paths. Although I loved writing and reporting, I felt uncomfortable being in front of a camera. My own illogical anxieties overshadowed my desire to report the news and in the end, broadcast journalism just wasn’t for me at that moment in time. However, I still had immense respect for mainstream broadcast journalists and I still do in certain regards.
2016 was obviously Trump’s first year in office. I didn’t love the guy. I didn’t hate him. I just didn’t have an opinion on Donald Trump. I remained neutral. I figured I’d wait to make any rash decisions on supporting him until I had a bit more understanding of the guy.
Like I stated previously, I watched the mainstream media network hosts to get tidbits of political information and news on Trump. To me, these anchors and their “breaking news” segments were the “cliff notes” of politics. The Chris Cuomo’s, Don Lemon’s, Briana Keilar’s, Christiane Amanpour’s. They were smart individuals who simply reported the news and highlighted the most vital information so Americans could stay in-the-know. I trusted them wholeheartedly, because that’s “what people did” and that’s what I had done my whole life. Why would any news anchor have a desire to lie to me? What purpose would that serve? Our whole lives we are “taught” things, the most obvious example being school teachers and college professors. Therefore, in my mind, these news anchors were simply teaching me things I didn’t yet know about various current events. Seemed innocent and logical enough to me. Why should I question that?
Fast forward to the first time I had my doubts about the ethics of journalism. It was regarding Donald Trump and the “disabled reporter” controversy and, unless you lived under a rock during his first term, then you know exactly the story I am referring to: “Donald Trump flailing his arms around, making fun of a disabled reporter”. The news went with it, and they went with it hard at full-speed with zero breaks. They loved to tell that story. Many people jumped on that narrative immediately in the spirit of disapproval for Trump, because anyone who would do something like that was simply arrogant, vile and grotesque..let alone someone who has a 50/50 chance of being sworn in as our own PRESIDENT, in front of thousands of American citizens at a PUBLIC RALLY. The Americans who supported Trump were also labeled hateful and disgraceful because how could they support someone who teases a disabled person? They were “obviously” sailing together in this like-minded, politically incorrect, “I’m better than you”, boat where, if you cared about humanity and were overall a decent, moral human, you wouldn’t be caught dead on that sailing ship.
I had watched the rally in its entirety prior to seeing the mini clips and opinion pieces from mainstream media networks, tearing apart this so-called “monster” of a Presidential candidate and his vile, deplorable, inhumane minions. The way the mainstream media presented and this edited front-page story, without any given context, would convince you that Trump did, in fact, publicly mock disabled a disabled report. However, in reality-Trump was simply making a hand movement and a face in which he was portraying an individual who didn’t know what they were talking about and were further putting forth false information about Trump.
In regards to his gestures, Trump stated (about the Washington Post reporter) “His recent statement, to me, seemed like (again without knowing what he looks like) he was groveling and searching for a way out from what he wrote many years ago before. I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.” A little research into the history of Trump’s famous “mocking” hand gesture and sarcastic “fumbling of words” would prove that Trump has done this multiple times before when describing an ignorant or illogically invalid individual. It’s like when someone responds to statement repeating what the other person said with a foolish, childish tone in a “I’m making fun of your ignorance” type-of- way. Childish? Sure, I’ll give you that if you are offended. Hates disabled? Now that is a stretch..a risky and dangerous one, at that. One that you’d better be entirely certain of before drawing that claim.
In regards to the surrounding controversy, the media did not discuss the further details either due to ignorance or the desire to sway the public’s opinion by utilizing emotional tactics and playing off people’s moral compass. ‘If you’re against making fun of disabled people, then you are against Trump‘ is what the media boiled it down to. Without presenting the other side and allowing Americans to come to their own revelations, they were in turn, presenting a biased news story to the public. I won’t go into further detail on this matter or who said reporter is, but I will state that the discussed clip was utilized in Hillary Clinton’s ‘Anti-Trump’ campaign ads in 2016.
I noted this instance of biased journalism and one-sided opinions, but I didn’t take it to heart. I told myself I’d let this little media slip up “slide” this once and, in turn, I would start to pay more attention to these stories regarding Trump in the mainstream news by personally fact checking the primary sources myself.
Time after time, the media let me down. It’s not hard to find full length speeches, rallies, hearings and live video on the internet. It’s a blessing that technology nowadays allows us that privilege. I utilized my own research skills to fact check each mainstream narrative about Trump. 99.9% of these stories were either A) full on lies, or B) so insanely biased that you had to render the story a mere opinion piece based off of what the journalist was telling you that they interpreted based off of their own thoughts and feelings. If you didn’t fact check yourself (and no, fact checkers like “Snopes” don’t count) then you would expectedly have zero idea that the information being funneled into your consciousness was largely, if not entirely, false (hence the term “fake news”).
The media has a fabulous way of telling people what they should believe and further, convincing those who do blindly believe, that anyone who may challenge this “system of truth” is an illogical, “off-their-rocker”, “watch out for the crazy”, “tried and true”, “one-flew-over-the-cuckoo’s nest” conspiracy theorist. I personally know many great, kind-hearted people who prematurely label Trump supporters “conspiracy theorists” simply due to the fact that those beliefs go against what the news has told them (and ironically, the news tells them that those “other people” are what you call a “conspiracy theorist”).
Personally researching current events yourself is undoubtedly a time consuming process. It requires willpower, critical thinking skills, determination and a real desire to clearly read both sides of the coin. Listening to a 5 hour hearing is exhausting and frustrating at times, but to know the 100% truth because you heard it firsthand and formed a logical opinion based on direct evidence, is what makes everything worth it in the end. That’s what red-pilling is. It’s not falling down a rabbit hole and waking up in a trippy alternate “Alice in Wonderland”cult universe filled to the brim with flat earth theories, “Mandela effects” and alien possessions (although at this rate, I will not knock anything unless I can prove it’s 100% validity by personally verifying from a primary source or my own personal experience).
The red pill moment is realizing that if you do your own research, you are going to find a plethora of information out there that goes against your previous upheld beliefs. It can be an uncomfortable feeling for many, because one has to personally admit that they were interpreting everything through a biased, one sided and false lens. No one really likes to be wrong; it can be somewhat of a “humbling” experience having to reason the actual reality of the world with yourself. Yet in the end it is freeing as you are finally able to understand the truth for what it is.
Labeling Trump supporters as “conspiracy theorists” is understandable when you have been taught to automatically accept the mainstream news as part of your “daily summarized information upload”. This is why many Trump supporters refer to finding out the truth “waking up”. Your previous dreams of a ‘perfect world’ in which ‘those in charge ‘tell the truth because they care about you’ is a mere fantasy.
Whereas the news tells you what to think by providing poorly edited, snipped together, clips as evidence..those who have “woken up” to reality simply say “do your research”. Don’t blindly believe CNN, Fox News, BBC, Time Magazine or the Washington post. Don’t believe right-winged media either. And don’t believe me. Fact check it yourself with those PRIMARY SOURCES. If you refuse to, then you really aren’t qualified to make an opinion on the issue at hand, whatever that topic may be. It takes work. That’s the whole point of forming a hypothesis. You have to go through the steps and it takes time-lots it it. You aren’t getting financially compensated for the research, but the intangible reward from the knowledge gained is much more valuable than any financial return (well actually… depends on how much $$ we are talking about here😉)
But in all seriousness, try to understand why half the American population believes in what they do. I know I don’t speak for everyone who shares my beliefs about the media and politics, but none of what I write comes with an air of arrogance or a feeling as if I’m “better” because I have “woken up” and I see what many others don’t.
If anything, I’d like to share my experience and letter to encourage others to think for themselves. I’ve been in that “trust the media/they have integrity” boat and I know it’s difficult to jump off when it’s all you’ve known your whole life. We have been “programmed” since birth to believe that movies and tv shows are fiction, but the news is facts.
I challenge everyone to investigate current events for themselves. Put on your little investigator coat and get out your magnifying glass. Question everything. Don’t let someone else tell you what happened. YOU are smart enough to find out what happened yourself. It’s like the “telephone game” that you more than likely played when you were a child with a group of friends or classmates. One kid comes up with a phrase and whispers it quietly to the person sitting next to them; you continue to whisper the phrase to the next person until the very last remaining person in the group says what they heard whispered to them. The final “supposed” sentence is almost always different than the initial one for a variety of reasons. As news trickles down, it gets skewed, whether intentionally or not.
I could sit here all day and debunk false stories about Trump but, instead, I challenge you to think outside the box and spend some time with those good ol’ primary sources. Don’t short yourself, your brain is capable of amazing things. Take offense to the fact that people who don’t even know you, assume they can tell you what to think and that you will believe it. The truth does exist, you just have to be willing to search high and low till it’s found. But don’t take my word for it; trust the process and you will be amazed at all the things you will find.