I, myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had access to foreign newspaper, especially those of London, Paris, and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that not withstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and mislead it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can realize how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had been warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer (Life in the Third Reich 1933-1937 pp146-147)
We live in a world where if we look on line for a particular item, say a guitar, we will get a constant stream of advertising offering to sell us guitars. Should we show an interest in particular point of view the artificial intelligence of the internet will see to it that our information bubble will show us information reinforcing that bias.
In a real sense we all live in information bubbles which shield us from information which might impinge upon our particularly bias.
I just watched a show on Vice about abandoned shopping malls in Cleveland, heart of the Rust Belt. When one lives in the prosperous urban enclaves of mostly the East Coast and West Coast but also scattered around the large urban areas that dot America one becomes blind to the destruction that has overtaken much of the industrial heartland over the last 25 years or so. Mostly we see images of people who live lifestyles impossible on the pay check of most of the working class, many of whom work retail and are on call rarely getting 30 hours of work a week with no benefits.
The privileged elites with their degrees and salaries look down their noses at the people who were once employed by the factories that made the many products we used to buy but who now work the concrete floors of the big box stores where they sell products made in China and other countries where they pay workers pennies per hour.
We get to sort of more or less pick the information bubble that feeds us our propaganda. But where is the real news? Have we become so post-modern as to buy into the lie that there are no real truths, only interpretations?
There is an old Russian saying from the Soviet days when people got their news from Pravda (Truth) or Izvestia (The News): “In Pravda there is no truth; in Izvestia there is no news.”
In such a world there can only be cynicism and nihilism.