I am right, you are wrong
I am right; you are wrong. We all tend to live within echo chambers. These echo chambers sometimes create misinformation and distort perspectives making it difficult to consider opposing viewpoints. Our righteousness is often comforted by confirmation biases. We believe that we are right whilst the rest of the world is wrong. We see this happening all around us. We do it to ourselves, we do it to others, and others do it to us.
Wikipedia defines confirmation bias as the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select the information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.
Where does human behavior come from? Behavior comes from our perception of an event or a situation. Where does perception come from? Perception comes from information received, be it from direct personal contact or newspapers or other media. If our behaviors are influenced by information, how can we be sure that the information we receive is true? What we read in newspapers and see on TV can be very deceptive. The same event can be interpreted in many different ways depending on who does the interpreting. The media is expert in the art of spinning a story to influence public opinion. Does this mean human perception can be controlled?
Wikipedia defines spin as propaganda. “In public relations and politics, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved knowingly providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to influence public opinion about some organization or public figure. While traditional public relations and advertising may manage their presentation of facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive and manipulative tactics.”
Through spinning, it is possible to control human perception; the best way to do this would be to filter or censor the type of information that the public receives or use deceptive tactics such as subterfuge, propaganda, or misinformation to make the public believe something that is not true.
“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent. They control the minds of the masses. If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”. Malcolm X
Every day, we find ourselves in an I am right, you are wrong kind of situation. People are entitled to think the way they want, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. This is the cornerstone of what freedom of expression is. But who knows what is right or wrong? Things are changing all the time; what is right today may be wrong tomorrow. Moreover, it is possible to be 100% right and 100% wrong at the same time. How, may you ask? You can be 100% right about an event, be it good or bad, but 100% wrong about the timing or how you chose to share the news.
“I am right, you are wrong,” these spoken words matter
Some people are so entrenched in their position that nothing will make them change their point of view. But that’s OK; nobody wants free thought or free speech limitations. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights. You can feel free to think and speak the words you want, but be aware that words have energy and power. Words have the ability to help, heal, and educate, but they can also hinder, deceive, hurt, and destroy.
When we hear things that don’t agree with our particular point of view, we should avoid lashing out or brutally dumping the contents of our minds. People are entitled to their wrong opinions, passing thoughts, or half-conceived notions. When we need to talk candidly about something with another person, we should try to speak in a manner that conveys compassion, respect, and gentleness.
“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent. They control the minds of the masses“
Gary Chapman in his book Love as a way of life used the perfect metaphor for words as being bullets or seeds. If we use our words like bullets with a feeling of superiority and condemnation, it will be very difficult to get out of an entrenched position. But if we use our words as seeds, and we speak with compassion and goodwill, the conversation will move from being entrenched to being constructive.
Be mindful of the fact that often people speak words that are full of kindness, understanding, and compassion but act in a manner that is totally out of sync with those words. Remember that action speaks louder than words, so in this particular instance, do not pay too much attention to the spoken words, because there is no substance to them, it is just fluff, but pay a great deal of attention to the action that follows those spoken words. I would also encourage you to pay a great deal of attention to the lack of consistency of the words spoken, people who are doing the very thing they were condemning a short while ago without shame or any sense of self-awareness should not be trusted.
Do you have a soldier or a scout mindset?
When you have a soldier mindset, you will act as if some information or ideas are your allies and, in that circumstance, you want them to win. You think that opposite ideas or concepts are your enemies, and you want those shot down. This soldier mindset is very present in the workplace, in sports, and in politics. When someone judges our team unfairly, we get upset, but when the same thing happens to the other side, we feel that justice has been made. The soldier mindset is rooted in emotions, aggression, and tribalism and creates a pattern of accelerated escalation in all types of interaction.
The scout mindset is about understanding, not defending our beliefs. The scout goes out, maps the terrain, and identifies the real challenge. He wants to know what’s really there. The scout mindset is rooted in curiosity. It is about being open-minded, learning new things, being intrigued when new facts contradict their beliefs, and not feeling weak about changing their minds. When you have a scout mentality you are strong and grounded, and your self-worth isn’t tied to how right or wrong you are.
Reclaim the right to speak and the right to know
Freedom of thought is a fundamental right, it is interpreted as the right not to be coerced into believing something, and this includes the right to be wrong and to make mistakes. It is extremely difficult these days to know what’s true and what’s not true, and this is exactly why freedom of thoughts and expression is so fundamental because it protects each person’s understanding of the truth and more fundamentally it protects the search for the truth.
There was a time when everybody thought that the Earth was flat and was the center of the Universe; claiming otherwise would automatically label you as a heretic with all the dire consequences attached to this label. In the early days, scientists who ventured to put forward theories different from accepted theories faced prosecution from the authorities. In 1633, the physicist and astronomer Galileo was prosecuted by the Chief Inquisitor, appointed by Pope Urban VII, for his theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. This belief was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, who refused to accept (despite scientific evidence to the contrary) that the Earth was not, in fact, the center of the Universe.
These days human interaction is more than ever mediated through countless hours online, and we have to navigate our ways through a tsunami of information and sometimes misinformation. The right to speak and the right to know are in jeopardy, and this alarming phenomenon is happening around the world. Article 19.org organization put together The Global Expression Report 2019/20 where they concluded that global freedom of expression is in decline:
Below is a summary of the findings of this report:
- Global freedom of expression is in decline. The Global Expression Metric (GxR) dropped to 50 (on a scale of 1 to 100) in 2019; it shows that more than 50% of humanity lives under a repressive regime.
- The crushing of freedom of expression is both a means and an end for these leaders who suppress dissent and scrutiny of their regimes, with rampant corruption and cronyism being the order of the day.
- Half of the world population now live in countries with a GxR score of less than 20/100 where the right to speak and the right to know are routinely violated. The worst offenders are China, India, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Bangladesh. Countries like the USA are dangerously faltering and creating an increasingly hostile environment for uncensored communication, freedom of expression, the right to speak, and the right to know.
- A handful of companies have gained market control, they wield huge power, creating a context of corporate monopolies that do not respect human rights and acting as the gatekeepers of expression across the world.
- The COVID-19 virus emerged into an environment already fraught with censorship and denigration of dissents or political opposition. Many governments have used the health crisis as a pretext on which to further control expression online, in the media, and on the streets.
- Power over freedom of expression is increasingly consolidated in the hands of a limited number of social media platforms. The focus of authorities falls on policing users rather than ensuring that platforms and companies respect human rights.
- Although the internet has been hailed for democratizing information, the data tells a different story. The number of viewpoints online has increased, but so has a toxic climate of polarization, and misinformation has exploded.
- It is a vital necessity for populations everywhere to access and act on accurate information from pluralistic and diverse media sources.
- The right to information is a shield against corruption. The free flow of information is essential, it enables engaged participation, and the exercise of rights fosters sustainable development, improves economic performance, and makes authorities accountable.
We must reclaim our right to speak and our right to know before it is too late. The freedom to speak concerns everyone’s right to express and disseminate opinions, ideas, and information through any means as well as to disagree with power holders. The freedom to know concerns the right to demand and receive information by power holders for transparency, good governance, and sustainable development.
I want to end this article on a musical note by leaving you in the company of Joss Stone and her song Right to be Wrong.
Right to be Wrong By Joss Stone
Right to be wrong
I’ve got a right to be wrong
My mistakes will make me strong
I’m stepping out into the great unknown
I’m feeling wings though I’ve never flown
I’ve got a mind of my own
I’m flesh and blood to the bone
I’m not made of stone
Got a right to be wrong
So just leave me alone
I’ve got a right to be wrong
I’ve been held down too long
I’ve got to break free
So I can finally breathe
I’ve got a right to be wrong
Got to sing my own song
I might be singing out of key
But it sure feels good to me
Got a right to be wrong
So just leave me alone
You’re entitled to your opinion
But it’s really my decision
I can’t turn back I’m on a mission
If you care don’t you dare blur my vision
Let me be all that I can be
Don’t smother me with negativity
Whatever’s out there waiting for me
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