A little overkill? Anti-lockdown protestor armed with a ROCKET LAUNCHER and two pistols in giant holsters becomes an internet hit as he takes time out from North Carolina demonstration to order a Subway (Daily Mail, 12th May 2020)

Maybe these people are idiots. Maybe the fake rocket launcher is a dumb flex. But responding with see it, mock it, dismiss it approach, however tempting, is a bad habit to indulge. It can become a system of confirmation bias. By excluding everything disagreeable, we end up engaging only with the agreeable i.e. confirm what we already knew and block out any chance of learning something new.

The world, if we try to take in its entirety, can be information overload. We’ve no choice but to curate the data we engage with.

What should we use as criteria for curating the world of stuff that won’t descend into confirmation bias or alienation? Popularity is one metric. But the ultimate in popularity is viral content, and we know what’s viral is often bullshit.

Popularity is also highly subjective, but from the perspective of an individual at its epicentre, a popular belief feels like fact, e.g. in the country of Atlantis, the citizens believe in X. In every other country, the citizens believe X is nonsense. X becomes an accepted fact in Atlantis, and a strange custom of delusion everywhere else. This shouldn’t be a reason for hostility towards Atlantis.

Being locked into seeing world only from a first-person perspective is limiting. Most of our beliefs come from facts of life we absorb unconsciously, on trust, from our peers and our surroundings. Some people were lucky to have had an upbringing with both access to facts and an education in the tools needed to test them. Some were unlucky. It’s crass to deride the latter, uncivilized to show sympathy only to the former.

It’s good to practice seeing through other people’s eyes. Imperfect, but worthwhile. Find the point of empathy with the person behind a dispute is the key to sympathy (which makes communication better) and solution (if there is a way to reconcile the disagreement).

We must put popularity in its place. It is never a justification, if you care about ideals like truth and fact and moving forward in life. The popularity of a thing may be the reason you know about it, but should never define how much time you much time engrossed in it.

It’s up to you to pinpoint objective reasons to value the popular thing, independent of “everybody else is into it”. There’s only so much time in the day. We must make choices about what we engage. Use familiarity and not popularity to decide how much time you give.

Rule of thumb: if it’s not familiar, make yourself familiar if it’s significant enough to deserve your finite time. If it’s familiar, give less time or no time at all. No point thinking over things you’ve thought through before. It doesn’t make you smarter and reinforces confirmation bias.

How much time should depend on how important it is to your life and how important it is to other people’s lives – if those other people are important to you. There’s no point researching an unfamiliar thing that’ll never affect your life and isn’t important to anyone else you love (or hate).

If we apply see it, mock it, dismiss it” to everything outside an immediate circle of everyday familiarity, it’s a recipe for never evolving beyond the orthodoxy. As time goes by, a brain limited by orthodoxy becomes a brain marked by ignorance.

Cults commonly teach see it, mock it, dismiss it” to cult-members as part of brainwashing, protecting against truths that risk undermining the cult’s agenda. Polarized society eventually absorbs the same brainwashing. It is tribal loyalty self-policing the edge of in-group orthodoxy, ring-fencing them against a better understanding of anything and anyone identified as out-group.

By making out-group connections less and less likely, polarization grows. Everybody loses in that dead-end dynamic.

Take these protestors in North Carolina. Life experience (peer pressure) conditions them to use see it, mock it, dismiss it against threats to their team’s orthodoxy.

They invent vaccines to enforce socialist-like collaborations and then make injections compulsory to drug the gullible population. They impose indiscriminate lockdowns as a power play, to control people. They using the ‘we are in this together’ lie to train citizens to be subservient sheep. Meanwhile, a shadowy transnational cabal continues to lay the foundations of the New World Order.

There is a constant stream of media to define the orthodoxy. Daily news cycles respond to the need for detail on how to respond to every topic (according to your team or tribe). Conformity is a form of unquestioning, docile acquiescence, and through this truth gets rewritten by a political agenda. Common sense data on virus spreading, infection demographics, lockdown pros and cons: servants to the orthodoxy never engage.

Combine total conformity and constant social media conditioning and the individual drowns in cruel pastiche: whining social justice warriors, virtue signalling cryptofeminists, gun-toting anti-vaxxers, flat earth religious fundamentalists, Antifa bullying the elderly and the solo journalist, white supremacists enslaved to self-important conspiracy theories.

We can do better.

Let’s take a hot button issue with established orthodoxies: gun control. The Second Amendment is not a simple subject but most people have chosen a simple answer “no guns! guns are a prison!” or “yes guns! guns make us free!”. Opposing orthodoxies reframe every opportunity for nuanced thinking into a purity test for in-group, out-group tribalism.

The gun hating orthodoxy disallows empathy with the right to bear arms and the gun loving orthodoxy disallows sympathy with outgroup good faith. When every subject is cast in this polarized dynamic, society becomes perpetual lockdown in the same unchanging stagnant pattern. Individuals naively questioning an orthodoxy become casualties of the mob.

How do we push back?

Reforming an orthodoxy from within is, ironically, far more difficult than making personal connections with people and beliefs outside of the ready-made in-group answers. To a point, you can research without being noticed.

The protestors in North Carolina weren’t violent. They were polite enough to ask permission to eat at Subway. They were intelligent enough to be aware their armaments could threaten; and sensitive enough not to want to intimate the Subway staff.

The opposing orthodoxy casts them as “neocon right-wing” protestors i.e. gun-toting, racist, anti-vax luddites. They show no sympathy. No mention in the public conversation of these protests being against erosion of freedom, that it’s an undemocratic enforced imprisoning of an entire population. Surely even if you disagree with the protestor politics, the ideal of freedom championed publicly by individuals should be worth more than being part of a censorious bandwagon condemning the individuals in a deafening cry of conformist subservience.

Small wonder the protestors become defensive, their tribal orthodoxy reinforced by the relentless mob negativity. The anti-lockdown protests may be misguided, but it shouldn’t be hard to find a point of empathy with the corresponding stereotype of “sneering, blue-pilled liberals” serving the agenda of a perverted New World Order lizard-leadership.

The protestors are ideologically but not socially conditioned so their public display is childish, e.g. contrast of fake rocket launchers and polite survivalists needing lunch from Subway. By accepting reductive ideological polarization, we feed into it. The protestors wear the weapons in a pig-headed (but not insincere) attempt to connect. It’s easy to dismiss them as infantile, potentially dangerous morons. We should resist doing so.

We’re led to practice see it, mock it, dismiss it to the North Carolina protestors. Much of the media works to reduce them into out-group caricature, to coerce us to dehumanize the individuals. Good luck finding sincere reporting on the protestors putting their case. Nowhere in articles will the “reporter” offer anything to understand the protestors (or their protest). Perfunctory soundbites don’t count. They will repeat the same ones in a thousand outlets, typically cherry-picked to play to the stereotypes.

It’s a depressingly common misuse of mainstream media. Their gig is to turn stories into orthodox-serving clickbait for the good for the owner’s politics and the profit of the organisation’s advertising business. Provision of news is secondary. Truth subordinates to corporate direction, which is simple: political agenda plus profit, unless political would mean no profit, in which case profit comes first.

Ultimately, none of these cartoon versions of the world are helpful to the honest citizen, whatever their political tribe. Both comic strip orthodoxies ring-fence confirmation bias, conditioning the protestors in North Carolina and the conformity-police condemning the misdirected expression of public spirit. Different sides of the same echo chamber.

It should be counterintuitive for us, as individuals, to subordinate ourselves to media business model and uniform tribal identity. Yet we do, because the media model and the in-group out-group orthodoxy are ubiquitous. Two sides of the same divide-and-rule coin, both reinforces the stagnant, unchanging pattern of polarized society.

As freeborn individuals (for now) we’re not forced to have such low, xenophobic standards. Divide-and-rule is an authoritarian axiom, to atomize a population. If we don’t resist it, future generations will exist in an ever-decreasing circle of free choice.

Reach out. Listen. Research. Understand the out-group, ideally from their in-group perspective. It’s easy to do, and it does not mean agreeing with the out-group. It’ll reveal new (and better) reasons motivating both sides.

Put yourself in the group and find the angle that’d satisfy you, personally, as motivation for public protest against lockdown in North Carolina, with a prop rocket launcher on your back and a conviction the government was not governing in your best interests.

Take yourself beyond the slogans to the actual substance of why one side is right and the other side is wrong; or why both sides are versions of right and wrong. Also, it humanizes the out-group individuals in a way that undermines the agenda of divide-and-rule authority as nothing else.

Nothing in the real-world is black and white, but many things are swathes of gray and silver.

The “see it, mock it, dismiss it” mindset is a lazy affirmation that goes nowhere but divide-and-rule tribalism. When you use it, you are training a corrosive, tardive dyskinesia of the brain – the in-group, out-group habit – that eventually becomes chronic and irreversible.