*FUD: See footnote #2
…continuing from the last paragraph of the earlier submission (w_10_bonus_material.doc)1.
…Of course, since it is also subject to the destructive dynamics and politics of group behaviour, the survival of this critical mass (and hence, the movement) depends on its ‘collective character’.
Passive activism and tuning my FUD2 antenna:
The appalling attitude of the agencies involved in the D.C. lead crisis has been very discouraging and has surely promoted a cynical view of the ‘system’. However, the incredible efforts of several individuals who risked their professional reputations to do the right thing gives me hope. As a responsible citizen, I must look beyond my usual duties pertaining to taxes and jury duty and teach myself some ‘passive activism3‘. I can start by overcoming the usual cynicism and lethargy, and truly recognizing the dangers of being too passive, withdrawn into my own world and not participating.
Perhaps I need teach myself to evaluate information critically and watch out for some red flags. I must be on guard to recognize the following manipulative FUD tactics – all of which have been seen in the past few years:
-efforts to ‘muddy the waters’ and attempts to avoid direct responsibility – saying that the situation is too confusing and “we shall never know what really happened”4
-shifting the burden of proof to the other party while a “innocent-until-proven-guilty paradigm for untested chemicals, medicines or technologies (e.g., the vehement denial of the health effects of lead, cigarettes…
-propaganda seasoned with half truths (extremely difficult to catch)
-blurring the lines between real (necessary) and opportunistic measures
-appeal to guilt (“If you love your children, you must buy them x”)
– jingoistic appeal to patriotism (“You are not a patriot if you do not support the xyz government policies…”)
-divisive rhetoric (“Allowing everyone to practice their own religion would gradually erode and threaten your right to do so”)
-pushing ‘temporary’ measures that curb citizens’ freedom until a perceived ‘threat’ is averted
To grasp the real picture, I must seek out alternative (especially conflicting) views about any issue. Social media has made it easy to pool similar voices under one umbrella. However, I also agree with Dr. Reiber that social media has perhaps made it easy to distance ourselves from the opinions, beliefs and ideals that do not align with our own. I must therefore:
-look for missing pieces in the experts’ analysis – look for other ‘expert perspectives’
-be slow to accept an opinion/information, look for facts before forming my opinion
-use my own expertise to help fellow members of the public understand the issues.
-and most importantly, keep the issues alive so that any – in Dr. Edwards words- “Orwellian attempts” at denying or rewriting history do not go unchallenged.
I must meet the same standards that I hold my elected officials to. But, maybe it is not entirely reasonable for me, as an individual, to take up the mantle of a watchdog. Perhaps it is indeed someone else’s job. However, keeping the past lessons (both bitter and sweet) alive in my consciousness – remembering the work that was done and the sacrifices made by committed individuals who fought on my behalf – is my responsibility. If I chose to forget those lessons and sacrifices and start to accept unquestioningly the false, ‘convenient’, rewritten stories that the “experts” dish out, I am guilty of ‘negligence of duty’ towards myself – ‘the public’.
Putting myself in a n00b5 “passive activist’s” and 1337 “expert’s” shoes:
The activist’s soliloquy:
I put in countless hours, fighting tirelessly for what is right. My personal, social and professional lives suffered. My staunchest friends are now my sworn enemies. I am tired and dejected. But I ask for no reward. All I ask is that they acknowledge their mistakes and stop rewriting reality. I will be judged by history, but let me be judged by one that is true, honest and impartial – not one that has been craftily penned by those who I fought against and not by one that is fondly remembered by those that I fought for. I still ask myself: Does it matter? Did I really make a difference? Was I successful? Tired, disappointed, discouraged, angry – is this what success feels like? And then it shows up – another letter, a sincere email, a thank-you-note, a phone call – another small reminder, that my back-breaking efforts, perhaps as insignificant as chipping away at a mountain with a hammer and a chisel, have improved one human life, saved one endangered bird, spoke the story of one person who was denied a voice. And then, I pick myself up with a tired smile, square my shoulders – and chip away – draft that next newsletter, challenge the endlessly propagating FUD, paint that next slogan, write that next blog entry – all the while, remembering what can be “accomplished by tired and discouraged men [and women] who kept on working6”…. (continued… Next week: In the expert’s shoes)
1 I am still referring to the public as ‘I’ and will also be putting myself in the shoes of the ‘activists’ and experts later in the critique.
2 FUD = Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – a marketing tactic originally used (and criticized) in the computer hardware industry, although I find increasing number of parallels of FUD in all walks of life. In the DC-lead-crisis episode, the tactic used by the authorities seems to be the opposite of FUD – a sort of rampant disinformation tactic to lull the citizens into a dangerously false sense of safety – surely more insidious than blatant FUD.
3 This is becoming increasingly easier in today’s ‘blogger culture’. Surely encouraging.
4 e.g., the rhetoric offered by the agencies regarding the health effects after exposure to elevated lead concentrations from 2001-2004. Or Ronald Louis Ziegler’s quote regarding the Watergate during the Nixon administration: “If my answers sound confusing, I think they are confusing because the questions are confusing and the situation is confusing.”, Or Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘known unknowns, unknown unknowns’ speech.
5 Cool-quotient enhancement opportunity: n00b = newbie, 1337 = “l-e-e-t” (i.e., elite)
6 Reference to the quote: “Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”