Sunday, November 1, 2015


This "brony" video is a little disturbing in that it is sending a political message in what was supposedly a children's show.

In the "rants and raves" section of the local Craigslist, this incoherent rant:
"How is it that our country has become so damn ignorant people like Hillary Clinton running to take our country how is it the our country has become so damn ignorant you got people like Hillary Clinton running to take our country straight to hell I do not understand people's ignorant since in the evil and this administration America is over if Hillary Clinton takes office wake up people watch the news"
What struck me was the last line - "watch the news" - as if watching television (and presumably Fox News) would keep one "informed" as to what is going on in the world. 

At about the same time as I read this, I went on YouTube, which using an algorithm based on your previous viewings (talk about indoctrination!) it suggested a Brony video for me (the one above).   Since I had previously done some research about this "Brony" phenomenon and watched a documentary on YouTube about it, YouTube assumed I was interested in Bronyism.

The video appalled me.   I am not sure if the message was anti-fascist or anti-communist.   All I thought was, "this is some pretty heavy shit to be showing little girls".   What I also thought was disturbing was that the "equal sign" that was used by the fascist/communists in the video was reminiscent of the logo used by the Human Rights Campaign.   What exactly were the Brony people trying to get across with this video - that the desire for equal rights was somehow evil?   Was this some sort of Libertarian agitprop from Rand Paul?   WTF???

But then it struck me that one of the best things I ever did in my life was to give up watching television.   And this point was driven home that evening when I met with some television-watching friends and tried to have a conversation with them.   It was difficult to say the least, as every discussion, if not centered around a television program (that I had never heard of) or a television celebrity (ditto) was referenced to or based upon something they saw on TeeVee, or some news show on TeeVee (the worst sort of information on the planet).

I started thinking about this and how our brains are wired.    We are walking and talking neural networks, programmed to find patterns.  Our brains do weird things - for example, a big chunk of our minds is directed toward facial recognition, which is why we see Jesus in a taco shell or Mary in a mold stain on the side of a church.

Unfortunately, our brains are also a feedback-loop, as neural networks are.   The nodes in our minds are constantly adjusted based on inputs and feedback from outputs.   So it is quite literally possible to "program" someone's mind by feeding them certain data and feedback.   We are all constantly indoctrinated and conditioned by our environment and the resultant feedback.  And for the most part this works well, unless the feedback is entirely out of whack, which occurs in schizophrenics and people who watch Fox News.

A lot of people like to deny this.  They claim, for example, that playing murderous video games or listening to denigrating lyrics in rap music have no effect on people.   They claim - with a straight face - that you can look at hours and hours of gore and slasher movies (which thanks to the Internet, are often real videos of people being killed) and it won't affect you one whit.   Blaming the video games or the videos, they say, is foolish.   It is all society's fault.

In the same breath, however, many of these same people will argue that watching pornography can be addictive and desensitize people to sex.   And no one seems to dispute that going to Iraq and seeing your best friends blown up in front of you tends to mess with your mind.

Yet, all of these things will condition, program, and indoctrinate your mind, at varying levels.   Of course, horrific personal experiences, such as war, will have a more pronounced effect.   But I think continuous feedback of violence in your life (watching violent movies, violent video games, etc.) will have the same effect. 

It is said that serial killers often start out early in life by torturing and killing small animals.   Some say this is an early sign of their disorder.  Perhaps.  Or perhaps it is an early part of the brain-training process, the desensitization to violence and the pain of others.   And over time, as their brains are conditioned, they escalate their violence further and further, until they leave behind a trail of bodies.

But the point of this posting (and I am sure I had one, when I started) is that your brain can be programmed, even if you believe in things like "free will".   And one way to program your brain is to constantly expose yourself to various images and ideas.  If you spend all your time on conspiracy websites, you will become a conspiracy theorist.   If you spend all your time on "men's rights" websites, you will eventually be charged with date-rape.   If you spend all your time on Fox News, you will eventually become a tea-bagger.

And sadly, today, there are so many cubbyholes and crazytowns you can visit on the Internet.   Even sites like Twitter or Facebook have their own little cubbies - and you can go down the rabbit hole in very short order.

Unplugging from the media as much as possible, is the key.  I gave up watching television because I felt it was programming my brain to consume, consume, consume - as well as obsess about trivia and nonsense that didn't affect my life - every night in the "News."   No, I am not less-well-informed for not watching television, I am more well-informed.   Because the larger issues in the world can't be told in a 10-second sound bite or in a two-minute "story".

And for the same reason, I unplugged from Facebook and discussion groups.   I felt I was being programmed (what some call the 'internet circle-jerk' where everyone reinforces each others viewpoints) rather than really thinking.

Maybe we can't control how our brains are programmed.   However, we can choose what programming to watch.   Turning away from toxic ideas, marketing, and indoctrination is a good first step.   Thinking about what you are being programmed and affected by is a good second one.  Whether or not we have "free will" to avoid being programmed by our environment, well, that's a really good question which I don't have an answer for.

So, what does this have to do with finances you say?   Well, if you watch television a lot, you will start to think that leasing a shiny new SUV is a swell idea.   It isn't.   And one way to avoid getting this idea is to not watch television.  Ditto for "rewards" credit cards and other nonsense they sell on TeeVee - and increasingly, on the Internet.  Unplug from the media as much as possible - and realize when you are being marketed to, whether it is online or through product placement.  Sometimes your mind is your own worst enemy!