Don’t Believe the Noisefloor

I know, as a sound designer, that silence is relative. That a steady enough noisefloor is eventually interpretted as no sound at all. The fun thing about this, professionally, is that, in a controlled environment, we designers can create the impression of silence in a noisy world by making the world even busier, then dumping the added sounds. An impression of silence follows – one that often actually feels unnerving.

I wonder if hopelessnes is similar. If the world we’re in is so filled with pain that we are manipulated into feeling better by people who hurt us steadily and then stop. “Look! No one is punching you in the face right now! Doesn’t that feel good?” Suddenly, simple kindness feels like deep love, and basic courtesy stands in for the height of human decency. (And then, of course, we use social media to make sure everyone knows about our acts of “deep kindness.” I actually think that’s the entire purpose of Upworthy…)

Hasn’t this has been at the center of right-wing politics for years? They have carried out a prolonged campaign to not only exaggerate what makes (mainly white) people uncomfortable via misinformation about their lives and politics, along with actual policy plans that help keep the poor poor, and make their basic needs (like heathcare, healthy food, clean air) seem like luxuries. Then, they drop in a professional mouthpiece, who tells these people that he sees how badly they’ve been treated (by the other guys, of course), and that he’s gonna fix it. And, after a year, he gives them a tax plan that saves them maybe $100 one time, tells them all how kind he’s been, and then points to other countries and says “those places are so terrible, they wish they could come here and join our amazing country!” And the people rejoice!

This misinformation technique, by the way, is documented policy in North Korea – their government’s publicity arm is constantly telling their citizens how bad life is elsewhere, and, by limiting actual contact with the real world, they can make their people believe. Here in the States, no one could figure out how to isolate the people from reality for a long time. Because the news reports were based on fairly strict ethical guidelines. But, first Fox News, then the entire Breitbartian universe undermined all of that, and now all media comes across as mouthpieces for one agenda or another. And the liberal side of the fence jumped right onboard playing into this noise campaign, because the Fox fans can say “look at HuffPo! It’s just as biased!” The American people began to feel justified in picking information that fits their biases, and simply rejecting anything that goes against their (spoonfed) beliefs.

All it took from there was an incredibly dense barrage of misinformation (thanks, Russia!), a series of deliberately false, though difficult to prove wrong, insinuations, and a few actual scandals, and – ting! A false sense of clarity! They draw back the curtain to show you a prepared version of reality, and because there has been so much noise, apparently simple, (though entirely manufactured) answers are believable as reality.

Creating a tableau of dangerous, aggressive or angry black people, women, gay people or immigrants is a favorite “reality” showing. “Here’s your problem! Don’t look to long – we’ve got another distraction over here before you actually analyze what we’ve just told you!”

And the person so many of us love to call stupid is masterfully stoking the anger and hate, all while promising relief. He’s no idiot – he’s an impresario of manufactured reality. He made his living pretending cut crystal and shiny foil were diamonds and gold for long enough to get investors to pay for his buildings, then cutting and running before reality shone through. He sold bluster and swagger as business skills on his TV shows. He paraded women as trophies he’d won in spite of his clear undesirability. It’s been a long con, but, as all the great thieves know, those pay best. He was the perfect choice to cap this very long play by the right.

And we, as a nation, have become helpless in the face of all this. Because a seriously large percentage of us is so deeply confused and misled. “Why,” we liberals ask, “do they insist on voting against their self interest?” Wake up, people – no one does that. They simply don’t see the same world we do. So many Americans have lost any sense of what’s really out there, verses what we’ve been told is out there.

Put enough noise out there in the world. Then take away some if it, offering a slightly quieter space. Everyone will believe you’re a savior, delivering respite. Just don’t forget to get another layer of noise going as soon as you’ve made your point, or they’ll get used to the quiter environment…

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