Reading through the bull.
Brian Luedtke - COMMENTARY
blued692@uwsp.edu
How do you know when someone is telling the truth? Can you tell when facts have been skewed?

Fact: the average American is exposed to 3,000 or more advertisements per day. Fact: your brain registers these advertisements whether you consciously notice them or not. Fact: when the U.S. Army was undergoing intensive research into brainwashing and mind control (you know, giving elephants LSD and such), they discovered that moving pictures were by far the most effective means of manipulating peoples’ thoughts, opinions and choices.


Since these discoveries every single person has been manipulated and told what and how to think. Smear campaigns, brands, sporting events--you are constantly told who to vote for, what to buy and how to occupy your leisure time. These schemes can be avoided by recognizing them before they gain control of your decision-making process.
​Photo by Amanda Hays
 

Planting a seed
All it takes is one comment, positive or negative, to shape the way one views and makes decisions about anything. For example, if a friend comments that they like a certain pair of shoes or a hat, you are much more likely to wear those shoes or hat more often.
Another example would be with bumper stickers. Political signs in mass can show that a candidate has a large support base and therefore might be a good candidate. On the other hand, that sign could spark rage and increase support for a different candidate.

Agendas
Agendas, agendas, agendas; everyone has an agenda. In this instance an agenda is a list of desirable outcomes, events, activities or policies. These are the underlying goals behind anyone and everyone who wishes to accomplish anything.
Presidential candidates want to get elected, and to do so they need to please their constituency. A business may want to increase profits, an individual may wish to procreate, an agency may wish to secure more funding. The bottom line is that for each decision, good or bad, there is an underlying agenda which influences actions necessary to make the agenda a reality. Everyone has an agenda, whether they know it or not.
 
Data manipulation
For those familiar with statistics, you may be aware that certain ways of collecting and processing data in combination with varying statistical methods can greatly influence the results that are presented.
For example, not including units or a scale in a graph can make one option seem far superior to another when really both options are nearly identical. Another example would be where methods are not included in the details. Compostable plastics are compostable, but only in intensively managed, industrial scale compost operations. The latter portion is often left out.
In other situations the context is not included. Say a senator votes no for a certain high-profile bill. The main portion of the bill may have been in the favor of the senator’s constituency, but a piggyback bill attached may be completely unfavorable to the constituency. The latter portion is often left out.

How to make decisions for yourself
Step 1 - Analyze
One should ask themselves: Why is this important? Who is selling this idea? Who stands to profit, and what are the impacts of this decision?
Step 2 - Interpret
Examine the presentation, details and context. As the silver fox Kevin Burns says, "The devil’s in the details."
Step 3 - Decide
Is this the best option, or is there a better one? The dollar is the most powerful voting tool out there. Where that dollar is spent shows support and demands more of the same. Spend wisely and the world can change. Sure the options presented may not be the best possible alternatives (diesel vs. gasoline), but they are the choices available now. Making the best possible decision is the best that can be done.

Be the change
Use these tools to decipher, translate and focus on the truth by sifting out the fog of everyday life. As Siddhãrtha Gautama says, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." The dollar is the most powerful voting tool out there. Where that dollar is spent shows support and demands more of the same. Spend wisely and the world can change.