Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s axiom, “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say”? These were wise and true words in their day. But that was before TV, sound bites and social media. And a population without critical thinking skills.
Today, it’s the opposite. As long as you scream loudly, most people won’t notice what you actually do. Even if you lie. Especially if you lie.
Most people are oblivious to this, as long as the lies are congruent with the memes they’ve been infected with. Or if those lies confirm their foundational beliefs or fears. Many people are easily manipulated because of something we discussed in the last post, their capacity for (or lack of) discernment.
Donald Trump is running as the candidate who will deport 11 million undocumented immigrants to protect American workers from losing their jobs to foreigners. Yet Trump actually manufactures the goods for his own companies in China, flies in foreign workers to staff his Florida resorts, and he used illegal workers to build Trump Tower.
Trump boasts that he will be the “unity” candidate, yet he disparages women, Mexicans and Muslims, mocks people with disabilities, and uses insults and name calling against anyone who disagrees with him. He may institute more lawsuits and threats of lawsuits than anyone on earth. He is possibly the most divisive and un-unifying person you could find.
He claims he’s self-funding his campaign and is beholden to no one. As I’m writing this, he just tweeted out, “Remember, I am the only one who is self-funding my campaign. All of the other candidates are bought and paid for by special interests!” But of course he’s taken millions of dollars in donations and has “Donate” buttons all over his website. (To be fair, he has put a small amount of his own money into the campaign. But he has done almost all of it as loans, so he can pay himself back from donations later.)
How can a person like Trump present himself as a candidate so the exact opposite of what he really is?
Because people listen to what he screams, and pay no attention to his actual actions. They read the labels, and pay no attention to the ingredients.
It’s really not much different than the guy working at the gym with a shirt that says “Personal Trainer” on it, but a body underneath that proves otherwise. People accept the headline, slogan or label at face value, with no discerning thought.
When President Bush wanted to gut the environmental regulations to appease lobbyists, he billed it as the Clean Air Act. When he wanted unconstitutional powers to wiretap and read the emails of all citizens, he titled it the Patriot Act. President Obama enacted the most expensive health care plan in the world, but of course he billed it as the Affordable Health Care Act.
If you feel jaded, skeptical and lied to, you can be forgiven. It’s hard to believe your own government would use the same manipulative, scheming, and deceptive techniques you would expect from a tobacco company, but they do.
The tobacco companies suggest that e-cigarettes are a much healthier alternative for you. The soda companies would have you believe their genetically modified corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are good for you. The studio wanted you to believe that Gods of Egypt was a great movie.
You have to be discerning enough to see through the surface evidence presented to you. You have to discern the difference between slogans, promises and pronouncements, versus actual motives, actions and results. And you have to go back to Emerson’s wise words and actually apply them again.