This is what it really means to think outside 'The Box'

This is what it really means to think outside 'The Box'
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If a man from Mars came to America and sampled information on the internet and on the news, he might reach some pretty firm conclusions about our society. We might appear universally violent, polarized, racist and more.  

But if that same Martian instead were to travel the United States, minus that information flow, he might reach entirely different conclusions. He’d see some big problems, to be sure. But he’d observe the vast majority of Americans living, working, playing and going to school together in relative harmony, day in and day out.

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It’s not to say we don’t have monumental issues. It’s simply that every day, Americans from coast to coast commonly reach across lines of sex, race, religion, income level and fundamental disagreements to help each other try to address our problems.

The stark difference in impressions might be explained, in part, by the manipulatable nature of what I refer to as “The Box”— information we receive on the news, online, and through social media. In recent years, I’ve researched and reported on the industry that works on behalf of various paid interests to control information within The Box. They do so with assistance from PR groups, think tanks, social media, lobby groups, law firms, nonprofits, letters to the editor, blogs, LLCs, SuperPACs, politicians, Hollywood, news reporters and even comedians.

Their tactics can prove very effective. They sway opinion by making you think you’re an outlier — when you’re not — by portraying extremes as the norm and labeling certain views as unacceptable. They may seek to intimidate and bully you into silence by making you believe your views aren’t fit for pubic consumption. They controversialize those who present and report facts or opinions that are off-narrative.

In short, they spend billions of dollars convincing Americans to largely confine ourselves to the reality they’ve constructed in The Box. That’s the key to their control.

Now, along comes a study that seems to prove the point that real life can be far different from what’s portrayed in The Box. “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” was conducted by a group called “More in Common,” which describes itself as an international think tank dedicated to easing political tensions.

Hidden Tribes found one-quarter of Americans (25 percent) are traditional or devoted conservatives, and 8 percent are progressive activists. But here’s what’s important: two-thirds of Americans don’t belong to either group. That large swath between the extremes is described as an “exhausted majority” of people who “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

The exhausted majority isn’t well represented in The Box.

As another example, the survey also found most Americans — even some among the extremes — consider political correctness to be a problem in American society (80 percent). Even the vast majority of younger people say so. Seventy-nine percent younger than age 24, and 74 percent ages 24 to 29 oppose political correctness. Among racial groups, political correctness is most strongly opposed by American Indians (88 percent), Hispanics (87 percent) and Asians (82 percent).

You probably wouldn’t guess those results, judging by predominant information in The Box.

For me, the findings of this survey are in line with what I typically see when I travel the United States and interact with diverse groups of people. For others, especially those engaged in promulgating certain propaganda and narratives within The Box, the survey is to be picked apart.

Open-minded, rational freethinkers — no matter their politics, or whether politically uninvolved — have one thing on their side: the ability to think for themselves. The interests who seek to manipulate opinion and control information succeed only to the extent they can convince us to live our lives within The Box, receiving and sharing most of our opinions online, socializing through social media, and relying on news they’ve carefully “curated” for us.

I think that now, more than ever, it’s critical for us to not live our lives, make our decisions and form our opinions solely upon the artificial reality that powerful interests attempt to create and shape.

Don’t just think outside the box; be sure to live outside The Box.

Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times bestsellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”