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Opinions are the new truths

We ALWAYS perceive the world with our senses. That way, we only see and hear what our filters let through – what we already know and sometimes we notice something unknown. All sensory impressions, including the media, we examine and classify them as true or false. For example, we derive from persons’ visible behavior, expectations, intentions, beliefs, and mental models, which altogether become our actual image of the person. More reliable seem to be the external facts that suggest with their measurability reliable truth. An excellent example of the vagueness of standards are the Japanese room sizes measured in Tatami. The look into a typical room shows six Tatami. This size corresponds to a good 9 m2 in Tokyo and East Japan and almost 11 m2 in Kyōto and West Japan. However, people who do not know, believe that Japan’s standard room is the same size, namely six jō. What remains are the opinions, which are assumed by each and every one as truth.

Statements lose their claim to truth as soon as the audience interprets them. Fact checks degenerate to an additional distortion of meaning due to the filters of the fact-checkers. The following points show the limits to the formation of opinions.

  • Words determine the limits
    Observe your inner images that result from reading the following examples.
    Example 1: A crowd of concerned citizens gathered in the marketplace in order to campaign for a different distribution of support measures.
    Example 2: A group of right-wingers rioted under the war memorial against left-wing alternative groups’ unfair preference.
    Example 3: 45 people; marketplace; stake of prohibition signs, with messages like more justice for families; equal opportunities for all, better sick than ruined, etc.
    Facts can be charged negatively or positively by choice of words, regardless of the particular situation. Authors can strengthen the effect by adding evaluative sense: Freedom fighters or terrorists; state power or security forces; legitimate or unauthorized; all and everyone versus Group-A and Group-B; or currently lateral thinking, which usually means innovative thinking but is hijacked in Germany by conservatives as a synonym for resistance to Covid measures.
  • Image crops move the border
    A picture reporter photographs the event from different perspectives – sometimes on the stake; sometimes on selected signboards; sometimes on combat boots; sometimes on individual persons pressed to the ground by three helmeted police officers; sometimes on single police officers pushed to the ground by several masked activists; from the perspective of the demonstrators on the policemen; from the perspective of the policemen on the demonstrators; from below; from above; from a long shot showing all the demonstrators; a long shot showing the top of the demonstration and not allowing any conclusion about the total number of participants.
    The image crop influences the still image in the same way as the moving image. In both cases, the cameraman decides on the respective image detail.
  • Video edits dynamize the border
    The moving images are cut in the studio and composed as desired. Small sequences of 1 to 10 seconds are created from the original material and reassembled. The resulting cut-outs and the new order produce the truth that will be perceived by the viewer. Whoever lies on the floor first is the victim – depending on the cut, a representative of the authorities or a demonstrator lies on the floor and gets maltreated. Whoever maltreats people becomes the perpetrator, who is defeated becomes the victim. Additionally, the selected image details enforce the effect (see above). The cutters or editors determine the rhythm of the images and the interaction with the sound.
  • The sound supports the border
    Most of the time, movies include sound – original sound, separately recorded ambient noise, music or commentators in the background, and post-synchronized voices – the skillful mix results in the soundtrack of films. The smart design of the sound influences the effect of the images without consciously noticing the sounds – impure voice recordings, e.g., intense noise or reverberation upsets; the tone of the commentary (e.g., fast or slow pronunciation, loud or soft; euphoric or dubious whispering) creates the basic mood; the scale of the music (i.e., major or minor) creates additional feelings; the background noise adds additional dynamic (e.g., the noise of machines; strong or light wind; even splashing of water or thundering breakers; etc.). Sound engineers thus contribute significantly to the mood of a film.
  • Thinking patterns set the limit
    In the end, viewers and listeners decide how they interpret the content provided. The perspectives result in different truths for everyone – depending on chosen words and design. When “translators”, e.g., critics, curators and, commentators, interpret the content they incorporate their opinions involuntarily. This usually happens unconsciously – even if some exploit the vagueness to twist the meaning. For example, the thought pattern of freedom: some understand not being forced to do anything, i.e., to be independent of others’ pressure. Then there are the liberals in politics, who believe they can act freely, which means for them to do with others what they want.

Bottom line: The term ‘Alternative Facts’ describes this new norm perfectly. Populists recognized this term’s value early on and used it to defend themselves against statements from competing groups. It culminates in the claim to have the true facts. Before the printing of books hundreds of years ago, People passed on contents mainly orally. With the dissemination of content by publishers and later broadcasters, the respective institutions took control of what was supposed to be a fact. With the Internet, Pandora’s box has been opened. Everyone can participate today. Unfortunately, many do not understand that by posting something on the Internet, they are PUBLISHING. It makes visible what is going on in people’s minds. The boundaries are determined by choice of words, the image crop, the editing of images, the sound, and last but not least, by the target group’s thinking patterns. This is what makes opinions to the new truths – and we must learn to deal with it, now.

Who benefits from the relocated perspective

For what reasons should we believe that reality is different from what we perceive? We see the coastline in the evening light. We hear the sounds of the seagulls. We feel the wind and the swaying ship deck. We smell the scents of the sea and taste the flavor of the ocean. When we understand that we perceive the environment differently, because we are stuck in the situation with our experience, then we realize that reality is not as real as we think it is. Heinz von Foerster put this in a nutshell: ‘Objectivity is the delusion that observations could be made without an observer.’ This insight makes reality relocatable.

When we consider this idea to the end, we notice that the messenger always consciously or unconsciously coins all the factual descriptions. Experienced communicators make use of this fact. They put their subject matter in a more acceptable light for the receiver by cleverly priming it, a kind of Trojan horse of meaning. For this purpose, they hide their intentions behind the wishes of the recipient. A current example is the pretended welfare of animals, by virtue of which the subsidies are intended to be increased for mass producers of livestock. The following relocated topics put social interaction to the test.

  • Stock shares
    The share is originally a financial means to increase equity. Stock corporations allow investors to buy parts of the company and to participate in its success. Originally a means to an end, shares have evolved into a means of its own – to make money.
    The perspective is relocated. It is no longer a matter of the companies’ well-being, but only about the share price as an object of speculation. It is not the performance of the company that determines this value, but the regular price development of the share. Thus, the actual purpose of the stock has been lost. And the real companies with their social contributions and employees lose their significance in favor of the wealthiest tenth of the world population, who increase their 85% of global assets.
  • Parliamentarian
    The representatives, who are elected to the parliaments by the people, represent millions of voters in the social decision-making process. They are supposed to bring the people’s opinion into the political process. At the same time, however, they are members of a political party and, therefore, subject to line whip, which is forbidden in Germany since everyone is only bound to his conscience – or the voters?
    The perspective is relocated when the party committees determine the direction and an army of professional politicians turn their mandate into repeating temporary employments. They align themselves to the results of the polls – not for understanding what has to be done but to orient their public statements on them. They keep their jobs with the re-election – afterwards, the promises do not oblige them to the execution. In the end, the political opportunists herd the voters into the arms of the supposed commoners.
  • Leaders
    The managers of a company or part of it determine the fate of all those involved. Just as employees perform in the interests of the company, managers should ensure the viability of the company through effective leadership. Survival requires uncomfortable measures – closing obsolete operations, alliances with partners on the other side of the world, and cost-cutting means of all kinds. As a reward, the management receives a multi-digit multiple of an employee’s income.
    The perspective is relocated, when the well-being of the company slips out of focus, in favor of the personal career. While companies survive on average for at least nine years and sometimes much longer, managers remain in their positions for three to five years. After that, they save themselves into new tasks and thus avoid the consequences of their decisions. The crucial factor for renumeration is not the long-term development of the company, but the fulfillment of intentions in the current year. With the existing conditions, it is hardly surprising that companies are losing their ability to face the future. The bill must be paid by those affected, who are powerlessly exposed to this form of individual “entrepreneurship.”
  • Social services
    The deliverables that had always been in the care of the authorities, e.g., health, safety, information, and transport services, were gradually privatized and subjected to market laws (e.g., supply and demand, competition, pricing). It means that an empty bed in a hospital is an unproductive asset since it cannot be charged. A chemical ingredient that is cheap in one medical application and twenty times more expensive in another leads to the compelling conclusion that, given the same production costs, the cheaper medicine should be taken off the market – artificially created a shortage of supply as well as the notions of unlimited growth and the constantly increased earnings of the owners determine the achievable value. After the metamorphosis into companies, our networks (e.g., ICT, transport, energy) no longer ensure the supply of the population, but alternatively, the interests of the investors. They limit their activities to profitable regions – mobile phone networks, as well as train stations and bus lines are only worthwhile where lucrative capacity utilization is guaranteed. The rest is supplied less or not at all.
    The perspective is relocated if the utility services for the community are only aligned to economic aspects. This is the case, for example, when common goods such as water are sold for pennies at the expense of the general public. Subsequently, the water is gilded as bottled water, and the exploited springs are exhausted. Money governs the world – also the society?

The situation becomes particularly visible when those responsible justify their actions by citing systemic importance. This happens when the decision-makers no longer have the situation under control – the banks, the airlines, the automobile companies, the energy companies, and the mass producers in agriculture are only the tip of the iceberg. Mismanagement and lack of future orientation that burden the subsequent generations are the reasons for the foreseeable dystopias. Successes are privatized in such circumstances, and failures are socialized. There is no other way to express it.

Bottom line: It is crazy how our everyday life changes. The functionaries have learned to package even the most unpleasant decisions in such a way that the majority accepts them as inevitable. At the same time, minorities have learned to assert their personal interests according to the principle: “Whoever shouts the loudest is right” – nobody wants a power plant nearby, the important bypass road besides its property, power cables or wind turbines that disturb the view and make unpleasant noises, or radiant mobile phone transmitter masts right in front of the house. But nobody wants to give up the corresponding services. Our opinions are prepared in such a way that we always agree, although we know that everyone has to contribute to our prosperity – of course only the others. To deal smarter with these everyday manipulations, we should get into the habit of questioning: Who benefits? The answer is often provided by the indirect beneficiaries – not animal welfare, but factory farming. This will uncover most of the communicational relocations.