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 personal experience, newspaper or media. If our behaviors are influenced by information, how can we be sure that what we receive is information or disinformation?
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 receive, or by using deceptive tactics such as subterfuge, propaganda or misinformation to make the public believe something that is not true.
The “Carrot Myth”
According to conventional wisdom eating lots of carrots will magically enhance your vision?! While there is a little bit of truth in this, the ‘Carrot Myth‘ was engineered by British Intelligence and popularized and reinforced by the British Ministry of Information – the government department responsible for publicity and propaganda – during WWII.
During the 1940 Blitzkrieg , the Luftwaffe often struck and bombarded London under the cover of darkness. In order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets, the British Government issued city-wide blackouts. The Royal Air Force (RAF) were able to repel German fighters in part because of the development of a new secret radar technology. The on-board Airborne Interception Radar (AI) was invented and first used by the RAF in 1939 and had the ability to pinpoint enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. To protect their secret weapon, British Intelligence invented a propaganda campaign that claimed that British Pilots could see in the dark because they ate a lot of carrots!
There is no denying the fact that carrots, by virtue of their heavy dose of vitamin A (in the form of Beta Carotene) are very good for the health of your eyes; but this truth was stretched a little by granting carrots the “superpower” of improving your night vision and give you the power to spot enemy planes in the dark?! The truth is that eating carrots does not help you see better in the dark any more than eating blueberries will turn you blue. That said, the carrot campaign of subterfuge helped hide a new technology that was critical to the Battle of Britain, a major campaign fought entirely by air forces and the first defeat of Hitler’s military forces, and to the eventual Allied victory.
Information and Disinformation Overload
Today, we are living in a world of information and disinformation overload; data about almost anything is available at the click of a button, we are constantly bombarded by streams of information (and sometimes disinformation), making it very difficult to know what and who to believe.
Hoaxes, hysterias, misinformation and scams have been around a long time. Con men and Ponzi schemes are in every corner of recorded history. You might think that our access to vast oceans of information on the internet would change that, but it hasn’t. In fact, humans are just as gullible and easily led as ever. Skepticism is just as rare as any other time, and most people are willing to believe something they read on the internet, heard second or third hand, without subjecting their curiosities to even the most basic fact-checking.
It is important to remain skeptical. Some people may dismiss you as a cynical, but that’s likely to be the person who’s actively trying to influence you or sell you something. There are no awards for coming to a conclusion the fastest, so take your time, and don’t form an opinion based on emotion. Here are some quick ways to keep yourself in check:
- Check your sources
- Understand the difference between opinion and fact
- Beware of anecdotal evidence
- Ask a lot of questions
- Question your beliefs
- Turn to history for clues
Skepticism is healthy. Be discerning about the information you receive and the medium through which it is transmitted, they are skills worth developing.
And this, my Dear Companion, is Your Quest!
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