Updated: Feb 16, 2020
Why ignorance is louder than logic.
This is my first ever blog post, I have never thought it to be important to share my opinion in regards to the world until now. Hopefully one day I can look back at this and remember the crazy time this text existed and think ‘I am glad balance has been restored’. However the more the world enjoys pushing fascism and ignorance to the forefront of the public sphere I may well think ‘The title of this post was so true!’.
This is loosely inspired by listening to Amanda Carneiro, Curator at MASP Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She was talking at an event on the 21st of May at Central Saint Martins in London about decolonizing the University, Museum and Gallery space. It was a fantastic symposium however when she mentioned that MASP would be adopting a self censorship policy, after a backlash of hate speech from the far-right on social media, I had to disagree with the strategy. She mentioned that this would be in effect until there was a change of administration. For me that kind of policy alludes to the phrase ‘Brazil, Land of the future’ coined by Zweig, leaving the problem to future thinkers, is just not good enough. These kind of policies lower the bar for society and give into the concept of ignorance. A Museum or Gallery is supposed to be a cultural space inclusive of any partisan positioning.
It can seem frustrating that the far right never have much of an argument in regards to any given topic. It is sort of a monotonous drown of opinion to fear of ‘The Other’, which some are passing off a bravery. For example the discourse we hear time and time again “ I am the only one ‘brave’ enough to talk about .. securing our borders, to speak out against Islam, to talk about controlling immigration”. The Irony is that these statements are the exact antithesis of what it is to be brave. Surely it is more brave to challenge your world view in regards to pre-existing prejudices you may have. To admit to yourself that you may be wrong. Confirmation bias is a very difficult phenomenon to overcome, however in my opinion we should all strive to do so. Especially if you’re a middle class white man like myself.
I’m extremely privileged in the regards that I was brought up and educated in a system built for people like me, white and male. I learned all about how the empire was good for Britain and next to nothing about the pillaging and decimation of the majority of the planet under European imperialism. I will go into this more in another blog post as I do not want to digress too much from the discourse of ignorance. However please do stick with me, there is a link which starts with education.
Paulo Freire once wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed “Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection”. For me this is a perfect quote to deconstruct in order to speak about the far rights ignorance. As a child if the knowledge you are brought up with is framed to favour values which oppress minorities, you will only be able to take a one-sided understanding of the topic, as the voices of the minority will not be heard, so what is left to discuss or reflect upon?
I use Paulo Freire here as he is currently coming under scrutiny from the far right for his contribution to the education system in Brazil. The depressing fact is that most of the people who disagree with him, have never read his work. I have to say that this is not a new situation with ignorance having the loudest voice. Just look at another intellectual Issac Asimov in the ‘Cult of Ignorance’ article published in ‘Newsweek’ of January 1980; “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
This for me is perfectly phrased, if you enter into a debate having not read the source material you do not have a legitimate opinion. I could also draw on Afra Hirsh the Journalist and Broadcaster who has constantly expressed her frustration with being placed on television debates with racists. On Frankie Boyles BBC2 show New World Order she said ‘Racism isn’t a legitimate stance’ She is completely correct. Unfortunately it is very sad that her statement has to even be said on national television. This ignorance over logic is a worldwide problem and has been for a long time. The only difference is now we have social media. Which at its conception was a fantastic tool for information and democracy. Twitter and Facebook helped with numerous causes around the world, it is easy to mention Twitter and the Arab spring or Facebook with Black Lives Matter. However there is a darker side to everyone having a timeless space to voice an opinion, especially when you put advertising revenue into the mix. Let's use Youtube as an example here. When Youtube was founded, the platform helped you become your own personal broadcaster, without having to adhere to a governing body such as Ofcom. This basically means you can say what you want with very little consequence. When you couple this with a void in mainstream conservative media (which if present still has to answer to governing bodies), you breed a generation who feel disenfranchised and seek out other like minded individuals who agree with them. Once this stage is complete Youtube’s echo chamber algorithm comes into play. For example if you were to watch a video on Youtube about football, when that finishes Youtube will then recommend another video about football to you. The idea is to keep you on their platform for as long as possible in order to put more advertising in front of you. This becomes even more interesting when you consider that advertisers do not know what videos their advertisement will appear before. Meaning that if a far right flat-earther makes a video with a sensationalist title, people are more likely to click on it, regardless to the content. Once this happens the Youtube algorithm will then start putting advertising before that video, a percentage of the revenue will then goes back to the creator.
I should also mention at this point that Youtube also funds well constructed and factually accurate content, but does not differentiate from ignorance, fake news or hate speech. If you would like to know more about this in 2017 Carlos Maza of Strikethrough made a very good video about this for Vox (Link Below).*
It is this kind of click based advertising on social media which is driving ignorance and misinformation on a global scale. When advertisers fund ignorance it creates the world we are currently perplexed by. In the Brexit referendum the bulk of advertising on Facebook for the leave campaign made it sound easy to ‘Take Back Control’, Or Trump’s electorate too ‘Make America Great Again’. Another simple slogan was Brazil’s Bolsonaro’s “Brazil above everything. God above Everyone”. All of these phrases in political campaigns are very dangerous and are made to strike a cord with the marginalised and uneducated. This Ignorance on social media has disrupted democracy. In Jaime Barletts ‘The People vs Tech’ he discusses the notion, if you do not understand what fake news or mis-information looks like, how can you be informed on policies when voting? This concept puts weigh on the argument that we should strive to put more pressure on platforms to stop funding hate speech and mis-information. I understand this can lead to opening pandora’s box when talking about censorship on the internet but if there isn’t a shift, we will have to get used to this perpetual nonsense.
Ignorance is an easy slogan, logic requires critical thought. In order to change as a society we need to learn how to contextualise information which seems too simple to be legitimate. The world is a complex social, economical and political environment which we should all be proud to learn the history of. Unfortunately until we all aspire to question more, read more and listen more, ignorance will always be louder than logic.