Stuff that makes things seem true



There are three main ways to get people to believe something:

  1. Volume
  2. Repetition
  3. Quantity

These are all, essentially, a kind of magnifier. The truth ought to be somewhat obvious on its own, particularly if we can see it with our own eyes or weigh it in our own minds, but you can magnify a lie and make it overwhelm the truth. I can see that the cat is black, but with skill, you can get me to swear that it is orange. And you use those three things to do it.






Volume could be a reference to amplification or to capacity. I'm using the amplification aspect, and will reserve the latter for when I talk about quantity.

As I've said before, you can have 1000 people screaming a lie, but despite the noise, it won't make it any more true. However, we tend to think if that many voices are making that much outcry, there surely must be something true about it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and all of that. We don't consdier if the people are being paid or coerced to say the same thing, we don't take into account what they have to lose if they don't say it--we don't consider much about the machinery behind the curtain because we're overwhelmed by the noise.

We assume it is true, instead of that it might be true.

Social media, through keyboard activists and hashtags, has made it easy to build volume even to the thinnest or most ridiculous of ideas or concerns. Issues of little real importance to most people are amplified into a roaring beast and we take the burden on ourselves to believe we must care, that we must add our voice to the din.

As a Christian, there's no doubt in my mind that God insists we get away to where it's quiet to be with Him because there's this noise going on that can deceive us by the sheer volume of it.

Volume is difficult to stand against. If you are one person with something odd or unpopular to say, the crowd will drown you out and use your lack of volume, the fact that no one heard you, as proof that what you had to say was false or not important.






Repetition is saying the same thing over and over.

It might involve having multiple sources saying the same thing, or it might be one source that never veers from staying on message. Repetition creates a rhthym. It can lull you into feeling safe and secure because you keep experiencing what you already know. You don't have to stop, think, and recalculate.

There's a place for repetition.

Practicing the piano. A daily routine that helps you get out of bed even if you're depressed. A habit of generosity. Going to church on Sunday. Learning about new things at school. The reason repetition works so well on us is that God created us that way. Our week is set up with a repetition of work six days, rest one. He encouraged regular festivals to celebrate important remembrances. We are encouraged to memorize His Word, to hide it in our hearts (which we do through repetition). We are told to form godly habits (which come from repetition). We operate very successfully, efficiently, and effectively with repetition. God meant good from our ability to find structure in repetition.

So of course that gets used against us. A door that lets in a flower delivery can also let in a skunk.

You can lose control of your mind (an unbiblical thing to do) by repeating chants through various meditation. And you can also lose control of your mind by letting those around you do the chanting for you. It's numbing, really, the amount of repetition we're exposed to. We have so much to think about that it's easier to let the repetition of something--some idea, maybe--to be accepted as ours without questions.

I don't know if you saw the video in which someone gathered a bunch of news broadcasts from around the country and revealed how they all must have had a talking points memo of some sort, because every single one of them said something President Trump was doing was "extremely dangerous to our democracy." The interesting bit was that so many different stations were saying the exact same thing at the same time. You could flip through the channels and finally believe yes, it must be true.

Or, all social media or the search engines will serve up is the same thing. We know Google games search results; everyone who has worked in search engine optimization (SEO) knows the algorithm changes, they penalize some sites, and whatever else. Your website might exist, but if Google refuses to bring it up in search results, good luck. After a while, when searching on topics, if we only see similar repeated results, we believe that must be the truth. It's like going into a library and assuming the first shelf of books they have is the end-all statement on everything.

Repetition is a known advertising technique because it creates familiarization. It gets people to buy stuff. Repetitive ads, the use of earworm jingles (I'm constantly singing the jingles to Liberty Mutual and Farmers Insurance), branding and labels, placement in stores -- these are techniques that work because when something becomes familiar to us, it feels safe and trustworthy. Something that is new, something that is different -- that can be scary.

There's this thing called repetition blindness which refers to a visual phenomenon in which we don't catch repetition. As a writer, I know this to be true; I often write the same word twice in a row and even reading through it, I won't catch it. Additionally, when we see a sentence with a word missing, we often don't see that something is missing because our mind fills in the missing word. For whatever reason, our minds don't always pick up on when repetition is happening, and is so geared towards a pattern that we fill in missing pieces. In this vein of thinking, consider that when we're used to something, we don't see the glitch (lie) in the pattern because we aren't even aware repetition is happening. It's as if we're so well trained in expecting the pattern that a little something can sneak in and we'll recreate the pattern and fill in the gaps and be comfortable and fine with the result, not aware of the pattern or the glitch in the pattern.






Stalin understood that sheer quantity had a purpose all of its own. 

It surely does.

Supposedly this quote refers to when the Soviets attacked the Nazis with tanks. The Germans had better tanks, but by sheer quantity of cheap tanks (and human beings), the Soviets were able to stop the Nazis. You don't have to be the best, you just have to have the numbers.

There is strength in numbers; even the Bible will tell us that. But strength can be used for good or for decimation. Quantity is about power and strength.

You state or share something online. Some guy comes back with link after link to prove you wrong. You pretty much want to say that you're simply providing alternative information for those interested in considering something else, but this guy believes the quantity of information he can easily find is a proof in and of itself, no matter what the articles say or if they even address each item in what you shared.

"When I look up X on the internet, I find a ton of stuff that says X is bad. You shouldn't believe X."

The Nazis had the better equipment. No one would argue that. But if you looked at a tally you might say that since the Soviets "won", they clearly had the better machines.

How do you argue against quantity? How do you defend your post-it note theory against twenty full bookshelves?

Well, you can't. 

Not unless someone is truly interested in hearing additional information outside of the vast quantity of repetition that feels so safe and secure.

Quantity is connected to volume. When things are loud and in massive numbers, it's basically impossible to be heard over the din. You can't make people listen, especially people who think a tally determines truth, or who are unable or unwilling to extract themselves from the crowded din.

+++

Just because you've seen it a lot. Just because you've heard it a lot. Just because people shout you down even though you find what they say unconvincing. Just because they have truckloads of "proof"-- it doesn't make it true.

IT DOESN'T MAKE IT TRUE.

It might be true. It might not. Volume, repetition, and quantity don't determine truth; they're numerical measurements at best.

Internet news. Websites use to prove and shutup. People silenced. People distracted. People herded, controlled, and confused. People trying to prove something by pointing out that it gets repeated the most, repeated the loudest, or that the quantity of proof they see available is greater. 

Careful, now.

You might simply be mistaking four cups of flour for finished cookies.

Comments