Myanmar, for a long time, was a closed country ruled by a ruthless junta. Information was tightly controlled and thought was tightly regulated. But with revolutions and evolutions around the globe, Myanmar eventually opened up and information started to flow. First with magazines. Followed by satellite TV. And most recently, with the introduction of the Internet. Theoretically, more information and freer information is supposed to be a good thing. But it also has a dark side.
Let me use my Dad as a case study. My dad lives in Myanmar and has access to satellite TV, the Internet, and a smartphone. My dad had a resurgence of spiritualism and religion around the same time that he got access to the Internet. He also had a natural interest in Science. Guess what? He’s now full-fledged paranormal white supremacist anti-vexxer with a smidgen of paranoia towards various industrial complexes. Funny thing is he not even white.
My Dad, just like members of the baby boomer generation, has had a challenging time against the digital propaganda, clickbait, and social media recommendations. Between the pretty news anchors of Fox News, Facebook and YouTube, my poor Dad didn’t stand a chance. The saddest part about the whole digital propaganda and the media is that my dad was never their target. Fox News doesn’t promote its white supremacist and pro-Russia messages for my dad. It’s for Americans and residents of the United States. Facebook and Google don’t make money from my poor dad who doesn’t participate in the free markets of the first world. My dad is just an inadvertent casualty of Western politics and corporate greed.
In the glorious style of Trump, when Fox News sends its people on air, they’re not sending their news anchors with the most integrity. They’re sending news anchors that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us, the world. They’re bringing falsehood. They’re bringing hate. They’re bigots. And some, I assume, are good news anchors. But boy, oh boy, the sexy, handsome and confident news anchors are very convincing, especially for the baby boomers. They are so good that even some of their migrant viewers and international viewers start to believe in the bullshit mountain and their gospel of hate. My dad hates all the people that Fox news hates. My dad uses the same talking points on Fox News to make his arguments. My dad lost his hate virginity to Fox News.
Then, Facebook and YouTube reinforce the budding hatred and conspiracy theories with clickbaits and recommendations. It takes only one click or one search for Facebook and YouTube to start serving you a life-long series of content on hate and conspiracy theories, in the name of clicks and views. One click/search! And my dad didn’t know how to make Facebook and YouTube stop serving him bad content. And I don’t blame my dad. Most people don’t. Before my dad even knew what’s going on, he’s already placed well within the echo chambers of human indecency.
Mind you, my dear readers, my dad is a well-educated individual with a strong sense of morality, righteousness, and patriotism. He’s a Buddhist, who went to Catholic K-12 school and spent half a decade in a Muslim country helping people. He’s the kind of man who will help out people without basking in recognition. He’s a proud and patriotic man who believes in freedom, human rights, human decency and most of all the Buddhist moderation, the middle path.
He’s still the same man at his core. But now, there are many things and people he doesn’t like. He believes his country is under attack from Islam and migrants. He believes that there are global conspiracies perpetrated by corporations and governments. Does he still help people? Yes. Is he still a kind man? Yes. But is he psychologically corrupted? Absolutely, yes! And I am sad. Sad to realize that the man I looked up all my life as a moral beacon has embraced hatred. I still love him, warts and all. But the freedom of information had harmed him more than it helped.