I took my AP European History exam last Friday and for those that don’t have any idea of what AP European History is like — it’s supposed to be hard. It’s a class to get college credit so of course it’s challenging. But to be completely honest with you, I felt like I did pretty good despite few questions that were worded in a confusing way. On the document based question (DBQ), I answered about Louis XIV’s absolutism and went further by connecting it to Peter the Great of Russia for my synthesis. Peter the Great was a tsar (or czar) of Russia that westernized his nation and brought in modern, western culture at the time when Russia was behind the rest of Europe due to its isolation. He put effort on military reforms, as well as church and educational reforms, and he found the city of St. Petersburg as Russia’s new capital. I can go on and on and on about the topic but I’m guessing European History isn’t everyone’s favorite subject so I’m going to stop around here. But my point is, it went well.
No I lied, that’s not my point. While reading that, you might’ve thought that I’m a pretty good student who just wanted to brag about how well I thought I did on the exam. Some of you might’ve thought that I’m a nerd with most likely less friends than an average high school student. Others may thought, ‘What a try hard!’ or ‘Oh wow, they sound pretty intelligent and diligent.”
But I never mentioned how I procrastinated hard and only studied the workbook for it the day before or faked I was really sick the day before and went home during school to get possibly as much time as I can to
study cram as much information as I can into my tiny storage room. The intro was my attempt to manipulate you into thinking I know some stuff about European history when in reality, I waited and waited until the last day and felt like I did well for a student who only studied for a day while others have studied for weeks or sometimes even months.
Leaving out certain information, wording certain phrases differently, the tone– All these things can combine to control the writing so the audience thinks a certain way. And a lot of times, the audience is manipulated into thinking what the creator wants them to believe, not the truth. Imagine all the social media, news, books, rumors and movies that enter your brain on a daily basis. What if all those information are “fake” and are merely manipulated knowledge that are being soaked in your mind like a sponge? If that is true, then how do we determine manipulated writing from the truth? What if your life was a lie? What if it was just a huge, manipulated game? No one likes the feeling of being controlled, being manipulated into thinking one way, and our minds and brain being played.
Yesterday, I read an article on the Wall Street Journal about Facebook workers censoring conservative news stories from the “trending” news section and the workers preventing stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mitt Romney, and other conservative topics. With over 1.6 billion users, Facebook definitely has a humongous impact on the thoughts people shift towards and their actions. If this were really true, millions of people around the world (of course, there are exceptions) are being manipulated even in impactful fields such as politics.
Let’s set the Facebook article aside.
Conformity— Humans have a tendency to imitate the behaviors of others. If you want to know more about the reasons for conformity and human behavior, here’s the article written by Jerry M. Burger of Santa Clara University. People shift towards what society pressures them to do, what their peers do— they don’t like to stand out. Considering this, it’d be very easy for people to control the behavior of society and force them to go one way. If a couple hundred people are protesting against Trump on Facebook, then it’d become thousands and eventually millions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be treated like objects.
As I was reading these articles and looking into manipulation, I wondered if the media such as newspapers are being monitored by the government and the articles presented are only what they want us to see. Then how do we know which information are accurate?
I also read somewhere that authors don’t give out their 100% “key” to happiness or success because they don’t want to give out everything.
Then does that mean the only things we can trust are what we directly see before our eyes? What can we trust? What is the truth?