People fighting for control of the collective narrative these days are sounding an awful lot like cult leaders. You try to indoctrinate the pigeons by isolating them in various ways, from changing their habits so they can no longer mingle with the outside world to being told anyone who does not applaud their beliefs and actions as they question them is an enemy, what we have become in 2018 is the Cult of the Chicken Suits.
We are separated away from mingling from various flocks, and told a slew of scary stories how if we do not believe in silly things or do even sillier things, the world will implode. To protect ourselves and identify ourselves to other true believers, we are told, we must put on a chicken suit, and for many people, that's what they do.
And when they are mingling with other flocks to warn them of all the horrible danger, people point at them and ask don't they feel silly wearing a chicken suit, and instead of questioning themselves why is it that they are wearing a chicken suit, they throw tantrums and will waste their entire lives to try to prove that the chicken suit is glorious and divinely right.
No, it's not. The chicken suit looks silly, is unnatural, uncomfortable, unnecessary, overheats you, and has blinders on.
The current climate right now reminds me of the Creative Writing elective I took at j-school taught by our dean, the late Peter Desbarats. He gave us a word that was to inspire us to write a short story, and the word he gave was "cold."
It immediately reminded me of my early grade school years in a peculiar way: there was a boy who was the same age as me, and for whatever reason, he always called me "Mommy", and he would hold on to my arm in class, but also he would hold on to the belt sewn at the back of my winter coat and walk behind me, and eventually, the belt would come undone, and my grandmother would sew it back on, and he'd cling on to it until it fell off again. He called me Mommy from the first grade on for several years.
So I thought I would write a fictionalized short story about that part of my childhood, calling it "Mommy." It was a Roman a clef, with the names changed to protect the children.
We had to submit the story to the office, photocopies for everyone were made and placed in our mailboxes the night before, and then when it was your turn in class, you'd read it out loud at a round table so we could all face each other and talk, and then the dean and the rest of the class would discuss it.
Sounded simple enough. I didn't think it was a controversial or offensive story I wrote, nor did I want to write a provocative piece. It was about children being their eccentric selves, and considering I lived it, it was all very mundane to me.
And then came the day when it was my story's turn.
One of my male classmates who I never had anything to do with until that point, and who I never saw lose his temper, marched in looking livid and sat right across from me, giving me the evil eye, but said nothing. I thought very little about it as I hadn't said or done anything to or about him to his face or behind his back. We all have bad days and diva days, and it wasn't my place to meddle in a stranger's affairs. He was average in every way, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about him. Absolutely common and unremarkable, and the kind of face you would see in every mall in North America.
I read my story, and when the dean asked if anyone had any comments, that absolutely common and average classmate tore into me like nobody's business, and pounced before anyone else had a chance to open their mouths.
In front of the entire class and in front of the dean, he wildly shook his finger in my face, and Yelled Very Loudly that my story was Very Offensive because no six-year-old boy would ever call a girl of the same age "mommy", and my story was, and I quote, "unrealistic."
The anger in that voice and those eyes was unmistakable. You normally see that kind of rage when someone finds out they lost their entire multi-million dollar life savings in a scam, not when they hear a short story that's not even about them.
Normally, if someone out of the blue screams at me unprovoked with some misogynistic tirade, I unleash my righteousness back something fierce, but the word "unrealistic" made me howl with laughter, and I lost it, laughing so hard that I could not see straight.
"Unrealistic? That happened to me!" I managed to say after my laughing fit.
Well, he retorted haughtily without skipping a beat, just because it happened in the real world, that didn't mean that I had the right to write a fictional story about it, and I should have absolutely made her older, or him younger. The end.
And he spent the rest of that class stewing and throwing me a variety of dirty looks, as I promptly classified him under Loopy where he remains in that mental drawer to this day. Before that, I had no opinion on the guy as he left no impression on me until that surreal episode, and after that, I kept my distance for the rest of the year and beyond.
I have no idea to the motives or the real reason that he found my story so incredibly offensive to all boys and men in the universe to the point of deliberately sitting across from me so he could download every single one of his sexist demons on me with reddened face and all, and quite frankly, I don't really care. I shooed them away, called them silly, and laughed them out of my face.
A few years later, Mommy would be published in a folk literature magazine called Canadian Stories -- just as it was with both children being six-years-old. It was a male editor who published it, and he liked my story and did not find it offensive in the least.
But that temper tantrum stayed with me all the same.
Because here was a simple, non-political and non-ideological story that was nothing more than a slice of life that actually happened. I did not look down on the boy at the time, though I thought he was being a bit too self-indulgent at my expense. I was friends with him, and invited him to my birthday parties. I never wished him ill.
And yet, here was one adult male earning an advanced communications degree who had a public meltdown over it.
Because it was a story where there were two children, a boy and a girl, who were the same age, and the boy was emotionally weaker than the girl, but still brave enough to endure teasing by calling her Mommy in public. At the end of the story, the girl becomes more understanding of her friend.
The same way I did in real life.
The idea that a female could be seen as a guardian to a male her age challenged every one of my detractor's core beliefs, and he did not want to be exposed to it, even if it was truth and reality.
If other men in the class didn't like it, they said nothing to my face, probably because his over-the-top tirade would have been a huge discouragement, and my laughing pretty much signalled that I would not actually care. I had more than one female classmate who said they liked it, and my dean liked it enough to give me the special assignment of writing a sequel where the boy and girl were adults because he wanted to see what made me tick. No one else behaved that way.
But that story inadvertently pressed one person's unhinged button. Somehow and some way, that story pointed out that the tantrum thrower was wearing a chicken suit and looked silly, and the alternative perspective drew attention to it -- and he didn't like it one bit.
These days, governments are trying to gain control of their populations by making them wear the same silly suits -- but are trying to prevent their isolated flocks from hearing that their cowering in their chicken suits is silly.
This article in the conservative Washington Free Beacon was very instructive:
America’s Adversaries Are Weaponizing Information, NSA Director Warns
U.S. needs a whole-of-government effort to counter foreign influence and cyber attacks
Here is the meta-propaganda word "weaponize" so you can become paranoid of everything you hear unless it is the sanctioned authority to do all your thinking for you as you wear the issued Chicken Suit.
The fear-mongering begins ominously enough:
Foreign adversaries have stepped up the use of information warfare to control populations since 2011 and the operations are one of the new threats in the digital age, according to the director of the National Security Agency.
Are you serious?
Now there is some serious attempt at inoculating your citizens from considering information from outside sources, preventing them from see outside sources as legitimate.
You are not going to turn into a mindless zombie if you hear information -- and yes, even propaganda -- from other sources.
How do I know?
Because I worked as a journalist and work as a nonfiction author who does incredible amounts of research.
And I can be exposed to lies and truths from internal and external sources, and still independently verify and analyze information before I draw my own conclusions. I can spot Russian propaganda and American propaganda with equal ease. I can also spot Russian information from American information, too.
You do not blindly follow information and run with whatever the meme propaganda tells you. You have to do your own thinking. Contrary to what the image consultants say, perception is not reality. It is our perception of reality, and perceptions can be fooled.
That is the reason you find the reliable and valid baseline by comparing and contrasting what you have with what other people have, and then testing what you have before you make a decision.
Because journalism did too much press release spewing, they never learned how to challenge their own beliefs or how to really cut through the layers of manipulation and deceit.
You don't just run with what any authority tells you, but you do not ignore it, either. You have to question why are they presenting certain facts over others, and then see how logical or plausible it is.
Because even if someone lies to you, there is a lot of truth to be found out, such as why is this person trying to deceive you? Are they weaker than you and trying to get something from you? Are they trying to isolate you? Form an unnatural habit in you? Do they want you to do their dirty work for them or do they want to take things away from you?
And when you figure out the real reason for the ruses, you learn more about your situation and the reality around you, you can better prepare yourself.
And just because someone throws facts in your direction, doesn't mean you have to interpret them the way they are packaged to you. Once you learn to break down narratives and verify facts as you find more, you can be exposed to anything and you are not afraid of any of it.
Because you are not supposed to be.
It doesn't matter if it is your in-group, it doesn't mean what they say is true, nor is your out-group deceitful by default.
You find facts, and you verify them.
Without fear or childish meltdowns because someone is brave and kind enough to point out that cowering in a chicken suit is a waste of life activity...