Implying A Mandate By Faking Big Crowds
On Trump and the GOP’s attempts to distort reality — and what we can do to maintain a fact-based, collective truth.
Whether it’s Trump’s inauguration or the #MarchForLife, there sure has been a lot of debate over crowd size recently. Many have called it “a distraction,” but the fact is, everyone is pretty aware of everything that’s going on right now. I can’t tell you with certainty that the argument over crowds is definitely not a distraction, but I’m sure of at least one aspect of agenda:
It’s meant to make you think they have a mandate.
If there are significantly more people who want abortion outlawed than not, it’s hard to argue for its legality — regardless of whatever system of government is in place, be it democracy or a monarchy. Loud, angry crowds of hundreds of thousands would be a really big problem for any leader, no matter how they acquired their power.
Now, when you don’t have crowds of hundreds of thousands (or millions, if you keep in mind there were over 400 Women’s Marches all over the United States) supporting you, but you still want to ram through legislation that reflects your views, one has to figure out how to get people to accept it — or one will get into trouble. In order to convince the public there is actually some kind of fight taking place between two equally-large, equally-energetic, and equally-demanding sides, one might need to try to make one side look larger than another.
What we’ve found in a world where “information is power” is that people like to make up their own information to appear powerful. That’s exactly what both Trump and the #MarchForLife have done in regards to crowd size.
If that’s the path the people behind a cause wish to take, there’s one big hurdle to overcome: accountability. The past year or so, these types of people and groups have managed to evade it, though. We’re living in an age where some have realized that reality is a human construct, and therefore can be individualized. This causes facts to be subjective rather than objective, or relative rather than absolute. This is incredibly scary, because it puts us in a position where essentially whatever gets the most attention is regarded as fact . This is a situation that has been taken advantage of a lot recently, through the usage of lifestyle marketing, algorithms, and the hyper-individualized targeting of today’s marketing.
When everyone is living in their own customized, individual reality, they decide what is real.
This is a danger of full-on individualism that I’m not sure any previous generation has ever had to grapple with, as technology never enabled bubbles this small. Sure, “lifestyle” entertainment and marketing has always existed in some way, but the realities used to be targeted at much wider groups like “men” — see old sexist ads and commercials for reference.
We really didn’t realize we were in this state of existence until someone who already had realized it ran for president and won.
In order to attempt a collective reality — that is, one where we have constants that run through all people’s experiences that we may one day again call “facts” — we have to stop allowing liberties taken in measurable or verifiable information. The first time misinformation is brought up, fact check it. The second time, call it a lie. Don’t fact check it again, otherwise the only thing you do is create a situation where you can repeatedly look correct — wow, you contradicted something that has already been contradicted repeatedly! If the furthest we go is “a fact check,” then, well… that’s where resistance actually stops. We never move on to the next thing because we treat every claim as if we’ve never heard it before — and we have. Repeatedly.
Something I heard frequently on January 27th, 2017 is that the #MarchForLife — the regressive, anti-reproductive rights Alt-Women’s March — is how monstrously large the crowds are. Huge! Massive! Amazing! Luxurious! Well, maybe not luxurious, but I just wanted to draw some parallels you couldn’t miss.
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In a customized, individual reality, I’m sure it feels wonderful for all these people to show up somewhere and represent themselves as the biggest march that’s ever happened. For these folks, it’s probably awesome to think that there are as many people who are just as passionate about restricting women’s bodily autonomy. The problem here is, that’s their reality.
If we frame reality as collective circumstances — not as individual circumstances — then we can’t ignore contradictory information that is verifiable. In the case of the #MarchForLife, the size of the crowds is really only big if you aren’t comparing them to other recent events in the area (photos from Earthcam):
For reference, here are photos of the same area during the #WomensMarch:
It’s not a 1:1 comparison regarding angle, but it’s as clear as the (big) nose on my (goofy) face that nothing on the scale of #WomensMarch happened at #MarchForLife.
In fact, every photo I’ve seen showing the #MarchForLife crowds as "massive" utilizes some kind of trickery. For instance, this was taken w/ telephoto lens (notice lack of “fisheye” distortion and flat look):
It’s easy to look like there’s a sea of people by combining that very flat, stark look with a certain angle that compensates for crowds that look like... Well, this:
The closer to a crowd you are, the more impressive it is. The less wide of an angle you take, the less you see. That’s why you aren’t seeing them publicize any photos looking like this one taken at the #WomensMarch:
It’s because there aren’t any. There are other methods of showing large crowds turning up for the #MarchForLife, though. For instance, tweeting photos of Obama’s 2013 inauguration and claiming it’s photos of your own event, as Buzzfeed editor David Mack pointed out on Twitter:
What we have to realize here is that there is a reality an individual can choose, or a collective reality that is constantly actually happening. One has to realize that some things are beyond choice — like climate change. You can choose not to believe that, but you can’t choose not to displace the human population sometime in the next century. It’s going to happen.
Yes, people all have different experiences and it’s important to maintain perspective. Having real opinions and beliefs is not bad. It’s good, in fact, for a human being to act like a human being. Our institutions, both public and private, are pushing everyone beyond beliefs, though. We’re being painted into corners with information that can’t be trusted and the agenda is making us opt-out of the collective reality that humans all should be sharing — it stands to reason more would want to improve it that way.
I very much understand why people would want this kind of personalized fiction. Dealing with the world in verifiable, collectively accountable terms is not nice. It’s not a constant stream of cat photos; that is to say it’s not customizable based on how you feel. But ultimately, if you are attempting to create a mandate to repeal the rights of your fellow Americans, it doesn’t really matter how you feel.