Cynicism Is Evidence-Based

Or– This Just In: Corporate Media Source Reports That Rejecting Corporate Media Is Irrational and Unhealthy

My attention was flagged regarding an article in the New York Times about conspiracy theories, and about how otherwise “rational” people believe them because of some part of the brain scientists are currently studying. The rather eye-roll-inducing thesis of the article is a follows:

“Psychologists aren’t sure whether powerlessness causes conspiracy theories or vice versa. Either way, the current scientific thinking suggests these beliefs are nothing more than an extreme form of cynicism, a turning away from politics and traditional media — which only perpetuates the problem.”

Never mind that the real root of conspiracy theories is the mountain of examples of governments, corporations, and other institutions manipulating, deceiving, and killing humans and other animals behind the scenes (cf. Noam Chomsky on Latin America and Howard Zinn on North America, and that’s just one hemisphere). The more irksome (and completely insidious) notion is that this “extreme form of cynicism” is not only somehow unwarranted–or indeed, unhealthy–but that the answer is more “politics and traditional media.” This, from the New York fucking Times. A traditional media source. Insightful work there.

Because, yes, there’s nothing to see here. Just fill your time reading more corporate news articles and turning your head in a side-to-side motion watching political ping pong. Just keep intoxicating yourself with Pollyanna shiny happy feelings about the future. The NSA isn’t wiretapping your phone calls. Governments aren’t hiding how bad our ecological problems are while getting kickbacks from oil companies. The Gulf of Mexico was all cleaned up, remember? (Those dolphins being born with no eyes? Um, that’s an, er, evolutionary adaption, yeah.) Corporations aren’t manipulating the legal system and then destroying communities and ecosystems. Companies haven’t killed ninety percent (ninety!) of the large fish in the ocean since 1950.

Don’t be so paranoid, silly! You’re just feeling helpless. Here’s some traditional media to soothe your poor, irrational, misguided soul.

To recap: the New York Times is reporting on a study about the part of your brain that corresponds to mistrust of major institutions, instead of reporting on all of the abuses that people in those institutions, including traditional media sources (woops) have committed–covert, “shadowy” abuses that more than warrant that mistrust. Just checking if I’m reading that correctly.

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