Don’t Be Afraid To Fight For The Truth

Politically speaking, if you want to see how the extreme other end of the spectrum lives, go spend five minutes on the Reddit subreddit dedicated to president Donald Trump.

Here’s the link: https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/

Go ahead. I’ll just wait here.

Done? Need to bleach your eyes? I can’t blame you. It’s really, really hard to read content you know is false that is being passed off as truth, while, at the same time, you watch an entire community of people radicalize around untruths. These same people log off from their computers and then go interact with those around them in the same communities in which you and I live.

It’s not a stretch to think they try to impart their fake beliefs on other, weak-minded individuals they encounter in their day-to-day lives. And, no matter how ludicrous these beliefs are, all it takes is one person to believe to continue a false narrative.

That’s why fighting for the truth is so important.

I used to think I was a jerk for calling out friends and family members for sharing fake news that could easily be debunked with a simple search on Snopes.com.

No one ever thanked me for showing them the error of their ways. If anything, they secretly despised me for the public shaming and doubled-down on their path toward ignorance.

But in my mind, I was doing what I thought was right.

Put it this way: If your child’s math teacher constantly taught your son or daughter that 2+2 = 5, to the point where they believed it, I think you would take issue with the legitimacy of the teacher.

So why are we not showing the same outrage when ideas and stories that are clearly false are spread rampantly?

Just like being taught the wrong answer to math problems, there are real consequences when an internet subculture tries to brainwash others into believing in the lies.

If anything, we need to be skeptical of everything we see and hear, all the while giving a slight edge to those institutions that have earned the right to be trusted.

So, I give you permission to fight for the truth, even if you think nobody listens.

Read it. Share it. Flout it.

One day we might look back and wonder when we lost this privilege.

Do your part.

Chris Cornell Showed Me How To Live

The first time my brain broke was in the summer of 1994.

My cousin had just gotten his hands on a new album called Superunknown by a band we had never heard of called Soundgarden.

Up until that moment, my musical tastes sucked. I was living on a diet of M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice because I knew all of the lyrics to the songs and they were popular. I had no idea there existed this completely separate universe of music that was, quite frankly, fucking awesome.

When I heard the first chords to Let Me Drown emanate from a Sony CD player in Steve’s backyard, my entire worldview changed.

My eyes were opened to new possibilities. My ears embraced the sound and the fury.

I experienced, for lack of a better term, a musical nirvana.

From that day forward, I devoured anything I could get my hands on that could be traced back to the Soundgarden family tree.

It seemed like every day came with its own musical awakening. I liken it to falling in love with a book and realizing the author wrote 35 other books that are just as good, if not better, leaving you with a lifetime of works to discover and enjoy.

As the years went by, and I struggled with the usual things that most adolescent boys struggle with, I always found peace when I listened to that album. It reminded me that, no matter how bad things seemed, there was always a possibility you would uncover something amazing that would renew your spirit and give you focus.

All of us (I hope) own the records and remember the music that transports us back to days when everything seemed new and possible.

For me, that album is Superunknown.

I never got to see them perform in concert, nor did I go out of my way to listen to Chris Cornell’s solo stuff. But I always had that first album; the “gateway drug” to the music that truly defined me later on in life.

Bob Marley once said about music: When it hits you, you feel no pain.

I don’t think there is a better way to put it. I hope Mr. Cornell has been freed from his.

RIP Chris Cornell

 

No, I Will Not Stop Paying Attention

I get asked this question quite often, when it comes to discussing the current state of our country: “Why don’t you just stop paying attention for, like, a week?”

It’s usually posed by people with whom I disagree, as if not paying attention to the fallout from the most divisive election in my lifetime is going to make things better. If they can be comfortable in their decisions, that’s great. I can’t.

Speaking from the point-of-view of someone who has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, my brain does not allow me to stop paying attention. If anything, I need to pay more attention so I can convince myself there is nothing I need to worry about.

That, my friends, has been a challenge.

So instead of hiding away from it, I’ve embraced the challenge of staying smart on current topics, if only to be well-informed when the need arises.

This need to stay informed is why I recently subscribed to the digital versions of the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Both publications are fair and balanced. And, they are not in the business of theatrics when it comes to reporting news like certain news establishments that lean heavily to one side or another.

Not many people will argue with your take if you cite one of these two institutions, unlike what would happen if you used Huffington Post or Fox News to back up a point.

The way I see, you can continue to stay ignorant, or you can stay informed and try to use your knowledge to change the world.

So to answer the question: No, I will not stop paying attention.

And neither should you.

Nine Quotes From Really Smart People On The Topic of Fake News

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a panel titled “The Role of the PR Practitioner in the Era of Fake News” that was arranged and hosted by the Detroit chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

As a PR practitioner and concerned citizen, fake news is always on my mind. It’s a topic that is not going away and will only gain more scrutiny as we go through more election cycles and continue to rely on our Facebook friends to tell us what is happening in our communities.

I consider it my duty to tell friends and family members they are sharing fake news when it warrants, even if it means I sound like a jerk. The ability for the media to remain trusted and relevant is important for the public, and not just because my job sort of depends on it.

A free and fair media is a core tenet our country was founded on and I want to fight for it.

So, when I heard about this panel, it was not a difficult decision to attend, and I’m glad I did.

On the panel was Ron Fournier, editor, Crain’s Detroit Business (and fellow University of Detroit-Mercy alum!); Matt Friedman, co-founder of Tanner Friedman; and Taylar Kobylas, a PR professional who works for Finn Partners in Detroit.

What follows are nine quotes I tweeted during the panel, from the panelists, that accurately sum up the gist of the discussion. For the record, I will be using the term “cognitive miser” as much as possible in everyday discussions.

“People are cognitive misers. We use pre-existing cognitive beliefs to decide what information to accept or reject.”

“In this day, when the truth is pragmatic, it’s important to tell people there is another way to think about it (the truth).”

“Fake news is not new. What’s changed is the media and how we consume news.”

“Fake facts are being pushed on the public. Those who can say it’s fake (the media) have been discredited.”

“If all we talk about is how excited we are to leverage synergies, how can we (PR pros) earn the public’s trust?”

“Nobody should get their news from social media, they should get their news via social media.”

“We have to learn to be intellectual gleaners and have the courage to confront our biases.”

“Cable news has become pro wrestling.”

“Fake news is a social issue. We have to decide, as a people, to be skeptical.”

We Are All Trolls

Wikipedia defines an online troll as “someone who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people…with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.”

If that’s all it takes to be labeled a troll, you would be hard-pressed to find someone on the Internet who doesn’t act like one.

They are everywhere.

Here are just a few examples:

The anonymous eggs on Twitter who support Mike Pence’s stance to never eat dinner alone with a woman, or attend an event where alcohol is served, without his wife by his side.

The Facebook users who take time out of their busy days to start flame wars with other Facebook users in the comments section of the Detroit Free Press.

Heck, I’m acting troll-ish every time I post something negative about the president on my Facebook page. I don’t do it to bring attention to his ineptitude so much as I do it to bring his supporters out of hiding so that we can get into an honest-to-goodness discussion on the Internet about their justification for supporting him.

I know it’s not a great look, but it’s what these past 103 days have driven me to: acting like a troll.

I need clarity. I need to understand why people I’ve known my whole life have vastly different views than I do on what it takes to lead a country.

To get to that point, I’m willing to troll my friends into an emotional response.

Am I doing it right?