Remember Tim Leary’s motto: Turn on, tune in, drop out?’ I said to Camp who was relaxing with a pint in hand. ‘It could fit today’s political and social media environment. Turn on your brain, tune in to reality and drop out of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.’
‘You got a point there but old Tim was talking about psychedelic drugs. Today we have a toxic cognitive environment where the wildest conspiracy theories and unfounded claims find more traction than the boring truth and facts. ‘
‘Exactly. As a US professor who studies polarization and extremism said: We now have a population that is unable to discern what is true and what is not. People are willing to accept conspiracy theories when they reinforce the narrative they already hold in their minds.’
‘Just look at Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter who has just committed a cardinal sin. He supported a whacko conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi’s deranged attacker, claiming that he was in fact a gay prostitute and that they had a fight. The San Francisco police chief called the conspiracies pathetic and disturbing and completely untrue. This was a vicious attack by a deranged Qanon believer – a Canadian at that – whose actual target was Nancy Pelosi. For Musk to support such a heinous and dangerous narrative should make everybody jump off the Twitter platform right now. GET OUT! should be the battle cry.’
‘Half of the US population is slithering towards a fictional universe where the good guys are bigots, misogynists, racists, climate -change and covid deniers and outright liars while the bad guys are those seeking dialogue and sticking to facts and science. In other words the educated and sane against the basket of deplorables,’ I said.
‘The republican party is turning into a cult where believers swallow wholesale the twisted gospel of righteousness and lies as preached by their deranged priests. Over 60 percent of US jurisdictions have an election-denier on the ballot this November. Imagine that. Those people could be running elections in the future.’
‘It’s a cultural civil war in the making,’ Camp said. ‘While there are thousands trying to get into the US from the south there are many who just want to get out towards the north, escaping the mass shootings and gun culture, right-wing extremism and abortion deniers; a country that is tilting dangerously towards a fascist dictatorship with you know who in charge of the parade.’
‘Once again we’re preaching to the choir,’ I said. ‘I find that I cannot even talk sense or argue with people who have jumped down the rabbit hole of conspiracy cults. It’s like trying to explain that a ball is not a flat disc or that fossils have not been put in the ground by God on the sixth day. Whatever happened to basic education and critical thinking?’
‘Those are skills missing from many people’s basic toolbox. The US ranks 125th for literacy among all countries. 22% of adults are illiterate while 54% have a literacy below grade 6 levels. It’s all got to do with systemic poverty. According to the Seattle Post 22% of children in the US live in poverty and this in the richest nation on earth. When they don’t even know how many days are in a year or can’t think of a country that starts with ‘U’ then they certainly cannot distinguish facts from fiction or truth from lies.’
‘What you’re saying is that more and more people don’t read and get all their information from their social media platforms in the form of video clips by talking heads and U-tube productions. Nobody needs to read anything.’
‘Do you read any papers?’ Camp asked Vicky when she brought by our refills.
‘I don’t really follow the news. It’s all so depressing.’
‘But you’re on Twitter and Facebook?’
‘Yes, isn’t everybody?’