The 1999 film The Matrix depicts a dystopian future where humanity is trapped in a simulated reality created by evil machines.
Fast forward to our world today on the cusp of 2023. While we may not be living in a simulated reality created by intelligent although evil machines, we as a country are certainly living in a reality created by the news media, social media—and the fact that most of us exist in our own mental bubble with our heads buried in our cell phones.
Fifty years ago, or so, the news was reported in somewhat of a straight-forward manner; facts were presented, and we were asked to draw our own conclusions. There were, of course, opinion pieces in the newspapers of the time and by commentors on TV—but the difference was that we were told that what we were hearing was the opinion of an individual with certain biases. That was fair enough.
Today, both the Left and the Right present opinions disguised as unbiased news, or it is done in a wink-wink manner to tip off those who would be in agreement with what is being presented.
Certainly, it is part of the American experience to vociferously give our opinions—it is part and parcel of our history as a people and the freedoms we enjoy. But over the past few years Americans have been the object of sophisticated information manipulation by both Big Tech and the government. Twitter, Facebook and Tik Tok have all joined in to carefully forge a certain level of beliefs, or to suppress others that are deemed reactionary or unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the various administrations in Washington have given us at times information that is so obviously untrue as to be laughable. Witness the Biden administration telling us that our southern border is “secure” while video evidence shows thousands of people crossing our border, being processed—and then being shipped out to cities and locales all over the country.
We were told that if we were injected with the Covid vaccine, that we would not get the virus. When that proved to be false, we were told that it would prevent us from getting seriously sick or being hospitalized. We continued to hear how “safe and effective” the vaccine is, despite evidence of large-scale issues with myocarditis and blood clots.
And on it goes.
The question that Americans must ask themselves is simply this: are we truly victims of forces larger than ourselves, or have we ourselves created an atmosphere where we are willingly fooled?
It was once part of our collective conscience to question every idea or statement; it was a healthy way of preventing ourselves from being hoodwinked. There was also the notion of the common good.
During the height of the civil rights movement of the 60’s, there were voices telling us that all could be well if things were “separate but equal,” or that segregation was “natural and good.” Those with good sense rejected these notions out of hand, racism was exposed for what it was, and civil rights laws were passed. Racism may ultimately be a spiritual problem, but concrete steps were taken in an attempt to irradicate it so many could live as whole Americans.
Today, we do hear voices raised in protest, but seemingly, and eventually, those voices dim, shrug their shoulders, and pass into the night. As a people we have become so internalized about our own daily affairs, that the bigger picture of justice and fairness is often put on hold, or forgotten.
So, considering these things, what is the way forward?
While America has been guilty of a number of grave injustices—slavery, imperialism and unnecessary wars—it has always somehow retained the notion of liberty. However, the idea of liberty and justice is not a spectator sport, and we would be foolish to think that these concepts are issues for others to fight for.
Perhaps it is time for Americans to return to the good values that have sustained us through many dark hours.
Part of those values is to question, and when something is not right, to act.
We must emerge from our glass bubbles and once again protect our freedoms.
Joseph M Bianchi is an independent journalist based in Greenville, SC. His work has appeared in various national and international publications.