Do you ever wonder why there are so many believers of wild conspiracy theories out there? Are you puzzled about why there are so many gullible, delusional people who are easily duped into believing nonsense?
There is no single answer to this question; as with most things, it is the result of a convergence of factors. However, I would like to point out one factor today, which is a very uncomfortable truth for many of us, even on the liberal side of politics.
Hollywood writers are apparently striking again. They have been unsatisfied with various working conditions. Googling “What is the Hollywood writers strike about?,” I obtained the following answer from Wikipedia (2023 Writers Guild of America strike – Wikipedia):
“One of the main focus points in the labor dispute is the residuals from streaming media; the WGA claims that AMPTP’s share of such residuals has cut much of the writers’ average incomes compared to a decade ago. Writers also wanted artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, to be used only as a tool that can help with research or facilitate script ideas and not as a tool to replace them.”…
Note the later part of the statement, about artificial intelligence. Writers are afraid, with good reason, that they could be replaced by script-writing computers. In fact, it probably comes as a surprise to nobody that artificial intelligence has now demonstrably advanced to the point that it can mimic human script writers, for movies, television shows, and advertisements.
What does this have to do with politics? Aside from the strike itself involving politics and union issues, there is what I feel is a very important connection to culture and politics here. The fact is, ever since radio, movies and television were invented, they have become prime shapers of culture, whether that is intended to be the case or not. The more nefarious, Machiavellian minds among us who have been in a position to exploit this medium for their own edification, in fact have been in the process of doing so, especially through news programs such as “Fox (so-called) News.” This is no secret to people who have been paying attention, but perhaps the public is largely unaware that fictional shows have been messing with peoples’ minds for a long time – probably unintentionally, but nonetheless with massive consequences that can be very detrimental.
The shame of all this is that Hollywood personnel, including writers, actors and others involved in the entertainment industry, are largely liberal in their political philosophies. However, the products that they create, for the most part, are very formulaic, and thus capable of being replicated by computer technology. Furthermore, they are largely predictable in:
A. confirming negative stereotypes (such as about women or certain minority groups);
B. creating unrealistic expectations of leading charmed lives;
C. simultaneously, creating paranoia about whoever or whatever is causing conflict in the script;
D. teaching people to use violence to solve problems (westerns, war movies and “action movies);
E. teaching people that deceiving other people or acting obnoxious is funny and has no harmful consequences (comedies);
F. teaching people that “bad guys are everywhere,” and “crime is rampant and getting worse” (police and detective shows, plus westerns);
G. teaching people to take excessive risks and to be overly aggressive in work and relationships, including dating (most fiction);
H. And finally, for some people, probably blurring the distinction between fantasy and reality.
This is just a list of what I could come up with in a few minutes, and is by no means an exhaustive list of potential harmful effects of fictional stories. Being a social psychologist, I am aware of research which confirms most of these assertions, although others are actually reasonable assumptions based on my experience and knowledge.
It is for reasons such as these, that I have basically tuned out movies, and the large majority of television (or radio) shows. When I do watch fictional stories, it is usually more of a social psychological investigation for me than actual entertainment. Sometimes, I admittedly watch television because I want something to occupy my mind while eating, but I still see it as a window into culture and the factors which shape culture, including the scripts. Interestingly enough, I have seen others recently expressing similar sentiments to my own.
By the way, “reality television” does not escape these criticisms, either. Such shows are clearly, highly contrived situations.
It would be like trying to list all the ways that the bible contradicts science, to go through all the specifics of this issue; that would probably result in a book that is longer than the bible just to explain what is wrong with it scientifically (or the inconsistencies within the bible, even). However, I think that we can all have an intuitive understanding of fiction’s ability to shape peoples’ worldviews, and how this is likely to result in biases which tend to translate into dysfunctional behavior.
One of these consequences, I wager, is that for many people, the distinction between reality and fantasy is blurred, making outlandish claims seem far more plausible to these people than they ought to be.
These are basically the population from which MAGA draws its political strength. Correspondingly, it is not surprising that this “crowd” is paranoid about “brown people,” “trans people,” “immigrants,” or whoever; that they tend to be racist and sexist; and that many of them feel that the use of violence to achieve their political ambitions, would be justified (and that they would succeed).
As I mentioned previously, this is very ironic, given the liberal tendencies among “Hollywood” types. However, it seems to me that there is a disconnect between their attitudes, and their creative products in most cases.
In my opinion, Hollywood needs to be more empathetic, more consistently liberal in their messaging, and far less stereotyped and formulaic. They should not base their messaging on what focus groups or ratings tell them that the public wants, but rather, on their own vision of the future and the way that the world should be. Granted, some artists do this, but it needs to become the norm in the entertainment industry. If they did so, perhaps the writers would not need to be worried about being replaced by compute