I was always fascinated by magic and mentalism: not because I wanted to trick others, but because it was fascinating that people could actually be fooled. I wanted to know the structure of such deceptions so that I would be a better verifier of truth, reality, and the perceptions and interpretations of each. I studied magic and mentalism since I was a kid, and though my hands were always ridiculously too small to be able to do the actual magic adequately (I did consider being a professional magician a viable career choice at five after I discovered that a job as a superhero was not realistic), I did have the consolation skill set of being able to figure out the feints and ruses of the profession at first glance ever since.
What magic helped me understand was that our brains must contend with several threads: truth, reality, perception, and interpretation. Once I began to study psychology at university, I learned about the mechanisms of each, especially how easy it was to deceive perceptions to influence interpretations of both reality and truth. When I became a journalist, I saw the next level of this singular weave: that there were people who were adept at hiding truth and reality in places other than a magician’s stage show.
Like in the journalism product itself.
PR firms were the ultimate masters of psychological deceptions. Corporations spend billions of dollars studying how people can be influenced to buy certain products, believe certain ideals, and vote for certain candidates. They have their focus groups and experiments, hooking people up to lie detectors and even brain scans to see what people think and how to shade truth and reality to nudge them into believing that those artifically induced thoughts are their own.
The message was always the façade and the cover. The actions of the messenger could be in sync with the message, meaning the message could be accepted at face value. As a journalist, I interviewed enough people with zero media training or experience talking to journalists to know how “experimentally naive” those interview subjects happened to be.
And then I interviewed people who had plenty of PR training and experience talking to journalists — sometimes because they were in journalism. Those subjects had a completely different code and approach when dealing with a reporter like me. How they phrased things and handled questions were nothing like the way untrained people behaved.
When I began to analyze interview subjects, I would actively compare and contrast the answers because how they answered my questions would determine how I would go about verifying their comments to me.
Double-checking the naive subjects was almost always a simple and straightforward affair. They would tell me “X happened this way”, and in the majority of cases, X happened that way.
But double-checking the worldly ones took much more work. Phrases would often be parsed, questions would be dodged, and there would be all sorts of subversive feints to analyze, and in each “dodge”, there was reason to have it: the truth would usually reveal exaggeration or something to weaken a subject’s narrative. From the truths I gleaned, I would write what I could verify and be ready to fully defend should anyone question me. I had to stand by my work with confidence.
I almost always found that the dodgers knew how to say certain things far more positively and progressively than the more rough-hewn sources, but when it came to the actual verification, the opposite was true: those who did not have the sophistication of experience had far more honest observations and truths than the ones who said one thing, but practiced the opposite.
I learned for sources with media training and savvy, what they said was, in fact, a subversive form of sarcasm. It was like a parent telling their trusting four year old with absolute seriousness that the monster under the bed would punish them for not falling asleep right away. The kid takes the words at face value, but does not notice the smug little smirk on the parent’s face. There is a certain power knowing that you know the truth of your narrative, but your audience doesn’t, and completely trusts you with whatever nincompoopity you spew.
Or, it is a like a hormonally-driven teenaged boy assuring the guillble girl he wants to practice sex with that he really, really loves her and respects her because she is special to him. He doesn’t, of course, and when the inevitable happens, she is devastated because she didn’t see the obvious coming. She heard the words, but the actions and motives leading up to the false promise would have completely revealed the truth. He is a mentalist and a magician in a dark and interactive magic show, and he will smirk and laugh when he sees others like him make the same promises to an audience that sees only what it wants to see.
But for all those not in the same frame of mind, they smile and gush over young love.
The Harvey Weinstein nuclear bomb has become fascinating fodder for many reasons, but a big reason is that the once flawless magic show the communications industry snowed the public with for decades has been uncovered and the audience got disgusted — not just because the consequences of rape culture really is that disgusting, but because an audience has been exposed to being naive fools themselves.
They bought the act without question, and now the world knows how absolutely preposterous it was to believe the act in the first place.
You would think the audience would learn their lesson, but there is a lot to process. This scandal should, if handled correctly, completely force every Western media outlet to completely get rid of the old guard and old structure and have to build from the ground up.
If anything less than that happens, it will all happen again, only worse than the last one.
To wit, Vox was always a online rag filled with silly and pouty chilidsh sophistry. It is a poor-man’s version of the equally intellectually-devoid The Atlantic. It is an outlet where those who proclaim to be progressives get to preach about lefty things, except it isn’t genuine, but an unreasonable facsimile of progressive beliefs. It is the Left’s version of the Fox News Channel, and something I know quite a bit about as I had written a book on that Right-wing propaganda machine over a decade ago.
The FNC proved to be a hinky place to work if you were a woman, but boy, did the vixen network’s white boys preach and preach about all things morality. They were looking out for the women, yes sir, until it finally came out that the network had to shell out tens of millions of dollars to settle sexual harassment claims over the years.
In other words, it was all hogwash from beginning to end.
Vox is absolutely no different, just far less successful. It is the mirror image of the FNC in many ways, mostly writhing in agony that they were all for Hillary Clinton because they were the moral and feminist Left, and when that buffoon Clinton proved that even a grandpa with a Twitter account could wipe the floor with her, despite all of her cunning movie villain moves, Vox became very, very sad.
And oh, how they whined and threw a big fit with a knee-slapper diatribe all about how misogyny won in the 2016 US presidential race.
The piece is full of logical and factual goofs. Had I been a professor having to mark this tripe, I would have gloriously failed it and unleashed my intellectual righteousness at the author before agonizing at what point did I completely bomb as an instructor in not properly communicating to the student the importance of actual and real thinking.
But why did Vox think this piece of tripe was worthy of publication?
Because they have no idea what feminism is. If they had a clue, they would not be caught up in a sexual harrassment scandal of their own.
What would Vox know about feminism if this is the sort of acceptable behaviour that went on — and only stopped because the dam broke and the abused finally roared their agony.
Had people like Rose McGowan not kept up with the battle, Vox would have still had unprofessional employees among their ranks.
So shame on Vox for manipulating the optics for so long. If you have people like that as news producers, they will never report on truths and reality because their truth and reality is very ugly; so they must deflect attention by manipulating perceptions and interpretations of reality.
When they tell the sad readers that Clinton was a victim, they were, in fact, making fun of their guillible flock for believing it.
Vox is no better than Fox. They play the same games, and a mirror image is the same beast, only moving the opposite hand in their act.
Journalism was always a patently sexist operation. It needs far more than change. It needs a revolution. Pseudo-hip dreck like Vox is in no position to tell the world how to think.
We need something other than yet another magic show to deceive us to the point we begin to think the lies we are told have anything to do with the truth or the reality we live in. So far, we are coming up short.