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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

You Are What You Read

by Tim Murray

You are what you read

About three decades ago nutritionists introduced a new phrase which became a standard cliché of the language. "You are what you eat." But if I was to play the game of reductionism, I would proffer an equally succinct definition of personal identity.

It is has been my experience that you are what you read. What you read, or what you choose to read, tells me almost everything I need to know about what you think, assuming you think.

It is also my experience that most of us read, not to challenge our beliefs, but to buttress them. We have a huge psychological investment in our core beliefs, and when they are attacked or exposed to contradiction, we cling to them like a shipwrecked sailor clings to a Mae West. Evidence doesn't matter.

Before the Internet, before cable TV, when the media universe consisted of just a few major newspapers and TV channels, it was more difficult to hold idiosyncratic or 'extreme' beliefs. We all more or less drank from the same news trough, swallowed the same information, and formed opinions that only slightly deviated from the consensus.

We all watched Walter Cronkite or Knowlton Nash or read the Toronto Globe and Mail or the Calgary Herald or whatever paper that dominated the local market. We were all, more or less, on the same page. Despite the rhetoric, there wasn't much difference between a Red Tory or a New Democrat. Or a Democrat and a Republican. That is one reason why CBC panel discussions and political 'debates' were ideologically monolithic. As Joseph Goebbels observed, "A media system wants ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity." Peter Gzowski's weekly political panel discussion, for example, consisting of the cosy trio of Dalton Camp, Eric Kierans and Stephen Lewis, was assembled to conduct a sham debate to simulate a meaningful divergence in ideas. It was like listening to a mock parliament of high school students.

But thanks to the Internet and the 500 channel universe, the audience or readership have been able to cherry pick among a broad array of information sources, and avoid news that they don't want to hear. Most of us inhabit a "silo" of information that makes dialogue with people living in other silos impossible. When we collide, the argument is often vitriolic, and rather pointless, since a constructive debate must be founded on a shared understanding of what reality consists of, however narrow that agreement may be. If you don't think that the sky is blue and 2+2=4, there is little point in going any further.

CBC health warning logo
CBC health warning logo. Hordes of Canadian blue pillers are trapped in the CBC matrix.

In the wake of a shouting match I recently had with a neighbour who lives in the CBC Matrix, I realized that it would be more efficient to first inquire as to what my opponent reads or listens to. If I know that, I can pretty well anticipate everything he is going to say, and bow out of the conversation. That is why I rarely attend the local "community lunch" near the village. Since I live on an island dominated by the Arts Community, most of the attendees are artists or those who patronize them. So when I sit down with them for lunch, and a discussion ensues, it is like hearing the CBC played back to me. Since I have found that high blood pressure does not aid my digestion, I have made the decision to avoid the community lunch.

I also decided to avoid people who read or listen to the following:
  • The Globe and Mail
  • The Toronto Star
  • MacLean's Magazine
  • The Guardian
  • The New York Times
  • The Age
  • The Sydney Morning Herald
  • "The National" (CBC)
  • CBC's "Sunday Morning" with Peter Enright
  • The BBC
  • Bill Maher
  • HBO movies
  • Rory Kennedy documentaries
  • CNN
  • Alternet
  • Common Dreams
  • CBC "Comedy" shows
  • New Society Publishers
  • The Sierra Club Foundation

The list is not exhaustive.....

It might be argued that by avoiding people of this ilk, I am doing exactly what I despise. I am avoiding ideas that conflict with my own. I am retreating behind a fortress. But that is not quite the case. The reason that I try avoid these people is that I have heard their Party Line a THOUSAND times before, and found it wanting. These people cannot teach me anything or tell me anything that I have not heard before. I can't learn anything from them. The only thing I can do by attempting to converse with them is re-affirm that it is a total waste of my time.

European civilization is on the brink of annihilation, a victim of an invasion that my opponents here would enable and visit upon these shores. The time for talking is over. The battle lines are drawn. The culture war is on. If the culture war becomes a civil war, I promise you, there will no quarter asked for, and none given. I will see you in hell.

Any friend of the CBC is an enemy of mine.

You are what you read.

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