Saturday, November 25, 2023

Learn difference between right, wrong

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for October 22, 2023)

Someday you may have to stand up for something you know is right, or against something you know is wrong, when it appears the whole world is against you.

You may not believe you’d change your position in that situation.

There was a social experiment where test subjects were told to choose from three choices the line which was the same length as another line. The experiment was designed so the correct answer was obvious. Only one person in the group was actually a test subject, though. The others were actors instructed to choose the wrong line. Many of the subjects-- one-third of them-- went along with the crowd even when they were giving an answer which was clearly wrong.

What happens in society when the right answer isn't so obvious? Well...

In recent years we’ve seen this effect over and over. We are shamed if we don’t go along with the experts, who have been politicized to the point of zero credibility. Then, to seal the deal, actors reading the script-- usually sanitized government press releases-- on television news programs tell you which answer to choose. Politically biased accounts on social media chime in with the same chant. They scold you to "Trust the experts."

They seem determined to convince you wrong is right, war is peace, and slavery is liberty. I wish only one-third of the public fell for the trick!

When those conducting the experiment claim to have the magical quality they call "authority" the fraction of the public susceptible to the manipulation seems even larger.

In the Milgram experiment, test subjects were instructed by a person in authority to give electric shocks as punishment for wrong answers to a person they didn't know was an actor pretending to experience pain. Most-- 65%-- turned the dial all the way up to what they were told was a potentially fatal voltage. This shows how far people will go toward abandoning what they know is right if someone in authority tells them to.

Mark Twain once observed, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

The majority isn't always wrong, but it's wrong more often than you may suppose. If you need proof, just look at the outcome of elections.

If you can't tell right from wrong, learn the difference. Then choose right and reject wrong even when everyone is against you.
I couldn't do this without your support.