John M. Lane
D-Day happened on May 4, 1944. I firmly believe this to be the case. I think it is the truth, and because I believe it, it is true. D-Day took place on May 4 period. The information and documentation you show me “proving” that D-Day happened on June 6, 1944, is merely your opinion based on your facts. I have my opinion based on my facts, and I have no intention of changing my beliefs.
The above may be an extreme example (I am not sure anymore) of the world of Parallel universes. In 2021, society has entered an “Orwellian nightmare:” WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS TRUTH.” Conflict has been weaponized , expertise is under attack, and the very concept of what is the truth is in question. Expertise is ridiculed and belittled as something to be distrusted. All you need is the belief in your true self and the willingness to follow all-knowing leaders, who in their “gut” know what is suitable for all of us. Germany in the 1930s: “Maybe the time for thinking is over; we must trust the leader.” Staged conflict is now called “Reality TV.” We watch pseudo-sports (X Games, anyone?). We consume pseudo-debates between competing “talking heads” screaming at each other and participate in pseudo-events. At the same time, we count the number of pseudo-friends we have who “like” a posted picture. Pseudo-science now has a place at the table with verifiable, repeatable scientific research and scholarship as legitimate, since, of course, in the world of parallel universes, everything is true.
We now live in a world of “alternative facts.” We consume “news” that validates our view of the world and helps us maintain blind faith in our own “beliefs.” The disappearance of all the 24-hour cable “news” networks and the reintroduction of the Federal Communications Commission “fairness doctrine” (broadcast entities must present both sides of an issue) would both go a long way in correcting the problem of “alternative facts.”
The “nationalization” of news is one of the critical factors that has led to the breakdown of local civic life (especially local newspapers and news outlets) and the growth of parallel universes. The 24-hour news cycle and channels has turned politics into a national “sport.” Conflict and grievance are amplified and exploited to create a continuous sense of outrage and anger. Charlatans and demagogues use this outrage and anger to spread myths, half-truths, and outright lies as “news” and history. Fed a continuous loop of this “information,” consumers of it become convinced of the righteousness of their side and that their opponents must be stopped, whatever the cost, to save civilization. Charlatans and demagogues (across the political spectrum) have been a constant feature throughout history. In the past, they were usually exposed and discredited before they could cause lasting damage.
Today that is no longer the case. Charlatans, demagogues (and state sanctioned/sponsored/tolerated actors) have the Internet. They can create communities that exploit the 24-hour news cycle and channels, draw more followers through social media, and create a Parallel Universe.
Democracy is the most fragile of the systems humans have developed to govern themselves. Democracy, especially democratic republics, like the United States, requires that citizens and the people they elect to represent them are literate and informed by agreed-upon facts and standards. In democracies, competing sides are not supposed to “win” every policy debate. (That depends on whether both sides are interested in policy). Compromise is essential. The rise of Parallel Universes is a direct threat to the continuation of Democracy because compromise is now seen as a sign of weakness.
In a slow, forty-year evolution, aided and abetted by the Internet and 24- hour news, bad policies that crippled the working and middle- classes leading to cynicism and despair, and poor governance across the Western democracies, has left an opening for anti-democratic forces, not only in the West; but worldwide, to exploit. Since the end of the Cold War, the “Democracy” in several Eastern European countries has devolved into one-party right-wing authoritarian states where opposition parties have no chance to win in “democratic” elections. The press is controlled by the state, and civil liberties are severely curtailed. Left-wing totalitarian states also call themselves “democratic”. North Korea calls itself the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Parallel Universes are indeed universal.
As a former history teacher, I found myself on the Parallel Universes culture wars frontlines. Over the past twenty-plus years, it has become increasingly difficult to straddle the line between the Politically Correct Left and the Philosophically Correct Right. (Yes, I think there are two PCs). Facts are no longer necessary to support your version of history. You just must believe that it happened.
As the Parallel Universes confront each other, regular human interaction has become a war of attrition. Each side/person is prepared to have their view prevail, and the other side silenced and defeated. Calmer, cooler heads must step forward and begin to provide dependable, reasoned arguments.
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