TV Commercials Can Ruin Your Life and Health

TV Commercials Can Ruin Your Life and Health

The question for me was, could TV actually teach? I knew it could, because I knew 3-year-olds who sang beer commercials!
– Joan Ganz Cooney, American television producer, one of the founders of Sesame Workshop, home of Sesame Street (b. 1929)

[DISCLOSURE: The purpose for this article is to make readers aware of the effects of following life and health advice offered by TV commercials. These are science based facts, not opinions. The science part is left out to make it easier to read.]

Children, adolescents, even adults learn about life and life skills by watching television. As odd as that may sound, they have few other convenient sources for information they need. Today’s parents literally know almost nothing about parenting and the needs of children other than food, clothing and shelter.

For most of human history children learned about life from their parents and neighbours as they worked and played alongside their parents in fields and workshops. Today children are separated from their parents for almost all of their waking day, leaving surrogates to do the job of teaching them about life.

TV fills that role magnificently as it seeks to mold the minds of children to become devoted consumers of particular products as they get old enough to spend money. The prime objective of programming is to entertain people long enough that they will stay around for the next set of commercials.

But what are television commercials teaching? Is it worthwhile life advice? No. Do parents realize that they have turned the job of teaching almost everything their children learn over to pathological commercial interests who want people to follow what they teach with the same devotion as people give to their religions or their preferred political party? Again, no.

First, I want you to think about all the TV programs you know. Which among them has role models you believe children should follow? Of course we need buffoons to laugh at and actors to play conflicted characters for drama. Would you change lives with any of them?

As you think about the TV programs you know, one that would interest kids, adolescents or poorly educated adults, can you think of any you would like to represent life in your home or workplace? Even one? I can’t.

TV news is filled with violence and perversion. Shows that emphasize personalities tend to have them conflicting among themselves. Comedies show people with personality problems, social problems, even mental illnesses (never identified as such). Dramas (mostly soaps) show people with lives that no one would want to emulate.

Commercials are where real life teaching takes place. Commercials pay the freight for programming. And they are often better produced. Their messages are meant to be taken literally, also to create a long term following. That’s why you see the same commercials repeated over and over. And over. And over. As a hypnotist would do when putting a volunteer into a trance. The rule of thumb in TV advertising is feed the same message to people ten times or more and they will believe it. Anything.

Let’s set aside anything to do with political or religious advertising as it is filled with so much brain twisting propaganda and distortions of truth that networks and stations should be required to flash warning signs before and after them. Networks don’t bother big advertisers because there is too much income at risk.

Let’s begin our look at commercials for personal care at the top. Hair care companies may have done the most and best research about hair care than any commercial product manufacturer. But their products only heal what other products have broken. In fact, most hair would be best treated with a simple soap wash every few days. The hair of a person who eats a healthy diet will look good so long as the natural elements of hair are not stripped away by chemicals. Wash, rinse with clear water, then leave the hair alone for a few days, other than brushing.

Any commercials to do with mouth care are deceptive, if not outright harmful. I have not seen one teeth brushing commercial in decades that shows a person brushing their teeth in a way that would avoid cavities. On the contrary, the ones I have seen would promote cavities and sensitive teeth. Neither is necessary, but both keep other industries like dentistry and teeth cleaners alive and flourishing.

The mouth (along with the skin) is a secondary part of the body’s immune system. After the major immune system component in the gut, the mouth is the first line of defense against attack by diseases. Kill all microbes in your mouth and you destroy one component of your immune system. Wash your body with soap thoroughly in a daily shower and you will decimate another part. Take doctor-prescribed antibiotics and you will destroy the major component of your immune system. That’s what these products you see advertised do. The advertisers make fortunes on your devotion to their somewhat or totally harmful products. Your doctor will come to know you intimately from your frequent visits.

Skin care products are a travesty against good skin health. To begin, cosmetics for women produce a look that studies have shown men do not prefer over the look of no cosmetics. Men know that cosmetics mean “fake” and act accordingly. Women who claim that they make themselves up to make themselves feel better have self esteem issues. Are they trying to compete for attention with other women or attract them?

Clothing fashions are another issue of brainwashing. A man or woman who believes that he or she performs better at work because they look better is a victim of effective advertising and self deception. Most bosses look at job performance before apparel. Should you be known for your good looks or your job skills?

Teeth whitening was originally used by movie actors to make them stand out from other actors on set. Teeth whitening, like fashion and cosmetics, was an industry founded by people who wanted to sell something that people did not need, except to impress others. Generally speaking, those with real talent and skill do not subscribe to that kind of fake.

People who whiten their teeth to look better in real life do indeed stand out. They stand out as being needy, prepared to do anything to get attention. Anyone who chooses a life mate based on white teeth, fashionable clothing, beautiful makeup, type of footwear or kind of car driven is bound for breakup when the fake wears off. Yet that is what TV commercials teach in North America, where the divorce rate is now well over 50% and a majority of kids in school classrooms live in single parent households.

Generally speaking, if you depend on TV commercials or programs to tell you how to live your life you will live a troubled life. And probably in debt.

When you think about buying something you have seen advertised on TV, remember that the choice is yours. Will the long term disadvantage of harm to you outweight the short term benefits? Of this you may be certain, the advertiser always wins. The advertiser has no obligation to benefit you, only to make you believe that you will benefit from the product. What will you believe?

You may think that what you have just read is opinion by one person. It’s not. I don’t care what you do or wear or how you live your life. That is your business not mine. I don’t have time or interest in meddling in your life.

I do take an interest in helping people to think about choices they make, what effects those choices have on themselves and on others. If you “dress for success” to impress others, you will have bought into the model that industry leaders want. You will be a follower, not a leader. A consumer, not an independent innovator.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about inexpensive solutions to major social problems. If you have hear the word “sheeple” you understand that what you have read above is indeed a social issue.
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How True Is What We Believe?

How True Is What We Believe?

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)While I like Shaw’s quotation, I would alter that last part a little. We may believe that our country is superior to all others because we have been told that. What we believe is what we think and what we think we believe is true. If we believe something is true, we accept it as true and valid. Yet our belief is based on what we have been told by others.

Once we think something, we believe it. “If I think something and have no questions about it or doubts, it must be true.” If we believe it’s true, we will believe it as fact.

Once we believe something, our conviction is hard to shake. One example might be cars. Some people will go through their entire lives owning few cars that are not Fords. They believe in Ford cars. “GMs are crap.” Other people devote themselves so much to General Motors cars that they wouldn’t be caught dead owning a Ford. That devotion might be based on their experience. But more than likely it’s based on what their fathers believed about GM and Ford cars. Seldom does either group have any hard evidence that their car of choice is the best, though they will tend to accept the advertising of their preferred choice as more true than the advertising of other manufacturers.

For many years my wife and I owned a couple of coffee shops. We believed our coffee was the best. The owner of the company that supplied our system’s coffee also supplied coffee to coffee shop franchises that competed with ours. He told us once, in confidence, that ours was better than the others, even giving some evidence to support the claim. A few years later he denied both the evidence and the claim that our brand was superior. (He even denied the additive that was proven to make coffee addictive.)

Our customers were so devoted to our coffee that they would not buy coffee in other coffee shops. Customers in competitors’ shops were equally convinced that their favourite brand was best. Over a period of years, several of the original stores closed. The customers all transferred their loyalties to their new favourite shops and coffee brands, without hesitation. Their new brand was best, because they drank it (though they would never admit that as their reason).

Because they believed something, it must be true. People don’t think of their beliefs that way, but when you argue them to a fine point, they hold fast that their beliefs are true even without supporting evidence.

Advertising depends heavily not on persuading people that the advertised product is better not based on evidence, but on persuading them that the product is best because they have heard the advertising so often they have come to believe it. In the advertising industry it is accepted among big advertising agencies that a person who receives the same advertising message ten times or more will believe it. Big industries spend fortunes on advertising to deliver the exact same message to your television screen a few dozen times each evening or day. The most bought products tend to be those that are advertised most heavily. People believe what they have been told. Told often.

I have had people tell me that when they want to buy a product they know nothing about, they ask people who already own that product which brand and quality level they prefer. “I would rather take the word of someone who has experienced a product,” they say. They will take someone’s word about a product, even the word of a stranger who has experience with the product or at least an opinion, rather than do some research themselves to learn tested and proven facts about it. They believe something about the product because they have been told.

People tend to vote for candidates in elections that either belong to parties they have always voted for or that have the strongest presentations in the community. The latter means television advertising or lawn signs. The more signs people see, the more they believe that the candidate must have great support. They vote for the candidate they believe will win because they equate numbers of yard signs with popularity. Most voters know very little or nothing about the political persuasions of the candidates they vote for. When their candidate is elected, then later helps pass laws they believe are bad, they simply justify it by claiming that “politicians are all crooks.”

We each like to believe that we have chosen, as adults, the best religion to belong to. In fact, most belong to the same religion (or lack thereof) as adults as they were introduced to by their parents when they were children. When people change to a different religion than the one they were brought up in, it is usually the one in which they find greatest acceptance by others of that religion. Religion is a social association, so attending service with friendly people is a very persuasive factor.

Many people around the world wonder how terrorist organizations manage to persuade individuals to commit suicide as they kill many others in events such as suicide bombings. Studies of suicide bombers suggest that most of them came, alone, from small rural settings to the city to find work. They don’t find work or friends, but they do find a few people who welcome them into their small religious community. That social acceptance begins the process of brainwashing that eventually shows itself in suicide bombing. The bombers believe that the religious beliefs of the sect must be best because they have been accepted where no one else would welcome them. Eventually they believe what they are told about what will happen to them–how they will be welcomed in heaven–when they kill the enemy.

Suicide bombers do not make the connection that life here on earth, in the present, is good because it hasn’t been for them. Except in one case where they were accepted by a group and promised something greater in the afterlife. [I have often wondered how those lonely country boys would fare in heaven if they were “given” 72 virgins. When you think about it, not only does it not make sense, it is totally unrealistic. In fact, dangerous. Virgins know nothing and can be clumsy or insensitive.]

This tendency to believe what we have been told is worldwide. Politicians, religious leaders and advertisers depend on it. If people are told something often enough, most people will believe it. No matter how wrong it seems and how unsupported it may be. Do you suppose that US troops are still looking for those “Weapons of Mass Destruction” they heard so often that Saddam had in Iraq? The believers never thought that someone else would benefit from a lie that was told so often. Told by those who would benefit. And it worked.

The only way to change a society that depends on the gullibility of its people is to teach the children to ask questions, to doubt, to wonder, to investigate, to think. It would not be hard to effect such change. It would be cheap, almost without cost. But it would require people who care to urge those who create curriculum for schools to change the way kids are taught. Today most kids learn to not think, only to obey and believe.

Our kids need to learn differently. Your kids and mine. The people who one day will decide our living arrangements when we are too old to do for ourselves. If we want them to think of us instead of themselves first, we will have to teach that now. Most kids today learn that they are the most important people they will ever know.

Remaining quiet and letting others decide for us is what got us where we are now. What our parents did, which was to trust that someone who cares would do the right thing. So, how do you think that worked out?

Bill Allin is the author of Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for people who want things to change for the better. Social problems depend on our doing nothing, were created because we let others make decisions for us. This book shows a path for change without great cost or revolution.
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Trivia You Don’t Need To Know About Television (but you will want to know anyway)

Trivia You Don’t Need To Know About Television (but you will want to know anyway)

Don’t blame Scottish engineer and inventor John Logie Baird for the lack of decent programs to watch on the main networks of television today. John only invented the hardware, black and white TV, back in 1926.

While our televisions can transmit digital signals with up to 1080 lines of data, John’s little outfit only managed 30 lines. It looked like a peep show moving picture viewer, which made sense because these were popular in his day. It was cobbled together with scraps of wood, darning needles, string and sealing wax. No chewing gum and binder twine–materials commonly attributed to devices assembled in emergencies in agricultural country in those days–because he wasn’t a farmer.

While we think of TVs as being electrical and electronic today, John’s was also somewhat mechanical. He used a spinning metal disk with spirals of holes to take images apart for transmission. Kind of a fancy old fashioned box camera.

John showed off his colour television a mere two years later. But commercializing cameras and making affordable receivers delayed the popularity of colour for another two decades.

For many people, watching television in the mid 20th century meant viewing moving things in black and white. So what? People who grew up watching black and white television are more likely to dream in black and white than people who grow up today watching only colour TV. As media guru Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” And it sticks, even in our dreams.

The U.K.’s BBC was the first network to broadcast regularly using Baird’s system. By 1936–well into the Great Depression, remember–about 2000 household had Baird televisions. They cost about £26 each, equivalent to today’s US$7700. Not the kind of data we have been led to think of when we think of the Great Depression.

Television extravagance has not abated. Today you can buy Panasonic’s giant (103 inch, nearly 230 cm–greater in diameter than most basketball players are tall) plasma monster for $70,000, should you happen to not have suffered much from the current economic slowdown. While Panasonic has the biggest set, that doesn’t include projection TVs.

Philo T. Farnsworth, who invented the first all-electronic TV, was passionate about his invention. Lest anyone accuse his television of being a product of the devil, he stated firmly that it was a gift from the Lord. “God will hold accountable those who utilize this divine instrument.” Where is Farnsworth when we need him today as a TV critic?

Here’s a fact you will wish you never knew. By the age of 14, the average child in the United States has seen 11,000 murders on television. Let that sink in. The debate never ends about whether life eventually takes on less importance to a child as he sees death so often it becomes commonplace.

TV commercial time has gone up a bit in cost over the years. Bulova Watch paid nine dollars for a 20 second spot for the first ever commercial, in a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies on July 1, 1941. Today a 30 second spot in a Superbowl broadcast–traditionally the most expensive advertising time on TV–will cost around three million bucks.

With all the ways we have of storing video data these days it came as a shock when NASA announced it had lost all the videotapes of the TV broadcast from the Apollo 11 mission (“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”)

The longest running talk show is either Ireland’s Late Late Show, which started in 1962, or The Tonight Show, which began in 1954. The reason for debate is that the latter show didn’t settled into a regular format until Johnny Carson took over, a few months after the Irish show launched.

To demonstrate that copyright for television was an issue long before today’s battles, when Sony launched the first VCRs in the 1970s the film studios took it to court for promoting piracy. The U.S. Supreme Court favoured Sony in the litigation, but the public was not so fond of Sony’s Betamax format. While JVC’s VHS failed in Japan as Sony dominated the market there, VHS (more accurately advertising for VHS recorders) won the hearts of people in North America. VHS eventually had four formats in different countries and they couldn’t play on machines with a VHS format other than their own.

Are TV’s days numbered? While networks switch to digital format for large TVs and about half the cell phones sold today have the ability to receive television signals, billions of streams of TV signals are received on computers each month.

Queen Elizabeth II has her own channel on YouTube. No, she doesn’t sing, dance or take her clothes off. I checked.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to know what lessons their children need to learn about social skills and emotional coping, stuff kids desperately need but usually don’t get at home or in school.
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[Primary source: Discover, February 2009]

Who Is An Atheist?

Who Is An Atheist?

“Samuel [Champlain] has seen other men of the church become as this one: to them, their own insight becomes dogma. Indeed it seems a perversion common to all leadership…”
The Order of Good Cheer, Bill Gaston novelist, House of Anansi Press, 2008

An atheist is someone who can’t believe that something exists that is greater than himself and more mysterious than he can understand.

An agnostic is someone who suspects the atheist may be right, but is prepared to reserve judgment until he gets more evidence, though he usually isn’t prepared to look for the evidence himself.

Which is the greater sinner?

Neither. The whole concept of sinning was invented by religions whose main purpose was and is to control the behaviour of their followers. Establishing “superhuman” control over who qualifies as a sinner and who is a devoted follower who toes the line with regard to all rules of behaviour is one of the most effective ways to control the lives of others.

What’s wrong with being an atheist? For one thing, atheists are the objects of scorn and prejudice from those who profess to be religious. For another, atheists have no rules of conduct to break, so they can’t feel guilt at sinning, as religious people do because virtually every one of them breaks their religion’s code of conduct on a regular and frequent basis. The religionists can always console themselves that atheists are worse.

But are atheists terrible people? My experience with atheists is limited and the number of people I have spoken to about their personal experiences with atheists is relatively small, but atheists seem to be among the most spiritually healthy and morally and ethically straight and well balanced of all the people I have met in my life. In short, atheists stand among the most upright and civic minded people among us.

It is as morally wrong to hate or take action against atheists as it is to commit acts or speak prejudicially against people of a different skin colour, nationality or religion. Yet the most bigotted and prejudiced people are those strongly attached to their religion.

Atheist seem to say that “God doesn’t exist.” Yet what they really say is that the God that is portrayed by advocates of every religion ever created could not possibly exist. The God of the Christians, for example, is contradictory, indecisive, prejudicial, favours one group over others, brutal, aggressive and peace loving at once and vindictive, based on the Bible and Christian history. Atheists claim that doesn’t make sense.

Religionists make no attempt to associate what we in the 21st century know about the mystical and miraculous with their explanation (definition) of God. The Church of Rome designates saints, for example, based on events it cannot explain by any other method than as “miracles” after the death of a well known good person. Yet don’t try to find a non-Catholic among the saints, even though events of a miraculous nature occur in association with living and dead people who are not church members. How could the God of the Christians enact miracles through non-Christians if Christianity is the only means to salvation, as the Christians claim?

Religions began in the early days when humans gathered in small bands, then tribes. The religion of each tribe worked because it answered unanswerable questions. That situation in itself should be enough to tell everyone that the religion is or was fictitious. But it didn’t and it doesn’t today. Adherents are asked to “have faith” because the mysterious answers came through someone who claimed to have gotten them directly from God.

If claims such as those made by religions were made in television commercials, about any product or service other than something related to God, the advertisers would be stopped and possibly charged with making false and unsupportable claims. It’s a crime, unless your claim has something to do with God.

The atheist says “This is wrong.” The agnostic cries “Huh?”

While we try to expurgate prejudice from our societies, religions themselves are the sole sources and support systems for prejudice and bigotry. Each religion could easily eliminate prejudice from its teachings, but that would require it to admit that it is not superior to all other religions. Religions, like snake oil salesmen of the past, require their followers to believe that their product is the best, the only true, safe and superior one. This engenders and foments hatred and prejudice.

Religionists never ask atheists why they do not believe the precepts of a particular religion. More importantly, they never ask atheists what they do believe, as that would be risky since the atheists may well have an excellent reply to which the religionists cannot offer a defence or counter argument.

For all the majority of people know, atheists may be the most spiritually upstanding people in the community. Some atheists may even have a better explanation about what God is and the mystery of what we exist than the religions have offered.

But no one will ask an atheist what he or she believes. And if someone does, the religions will make sure that the atheist is socially ostracized and “unfortunately no longer employable.” Historically, that’s how it works. Remember the trials of the “witches” of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692? The evidence, like the charges themselves, were totally fictitious. History abounds with similar and brutal examples.

The followers of every religion can give explanations for the same mysteries. They all believe these explanations equally strongly and fervently. Every religion is built on story upon story, each one created to give the teller power over the listener that he would not have otherwise. Those who make up the stories and those who retell them get paid for repeating them.

Unfortunately, reality is never allow to impinge itself on these stories, on these religions. Too bad, as the truth is so much more glorious and amazing than the religionists could imagine. Truth and reality have no major roles to play in religion. Religions ask their followers to have faith that the old stories are true, no matter how contradictory, how unsensible they are and how much evidence exists to disprove them.

We should not wonder that television has become such a powerful religious medium and its leaders such powerful manipulators of public belief.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who have the knowledge and skills to avoid having their beliefs manipulated by skilled propagandists.
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Censorship Drives Perversion

Censorship drives perversion. Always and everywhere. When we drive sex out of the mainstream we guarantee that all sex is, by definition, deviant.
– Chris, of Atomic Cinema,

While I don’t necessarily agree with the whole of the thinking of the author of this quote, I agree with the observation made in it.

The problem we have, aside from the stunted and psychologically backward thinking of those who want to bury anything to do with sex in a public sense, is the expression of sex in our public media.

In movies or television programs–ones rated for a general audience–sexual intercourse is portrayed in ways that may be titillating and provocative, but would be impractical and insulting in the real world of our personal lives. In a soap opera, for example, two people rip each other’s clothes off to engage in coitus as quickly as possible so that the act doesn’t take up too much time in a half hour of programming that amounts to 22 minutes of show.

Ripping each other’s clothes off amounts psychologically to mutually agreed upon rape. It’s a way to release accumulated hormones. It allows nothing for gentleness, for caress, for the buildup of interest by each person for the other, for the tenderness that makes sex the wonderful experience it is rather than a few moments of climax.

It certain says nothing about love, which is seldom portrayed in a genuine way. Television and movies teach sex, not love.

Our visual media show two people about to engage in sex as hunter and prey. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish which is which because both want to be the hunter and the hunted.

I have not done a careful study, but my impression is that of all the people we could see engaging in sex on television over the period of one day, most are oversexed, sexually repressed and/or promiscuous. If that’s what narrow minded people want to drive into obscurity, I applaud them.

Sex sells, so the saying goes. So sex is used to sell TV drama, comedies, music shows, even sometimes the news as well as products in commercials.

I don’t have a problem with that, in principle. The problem I have is that adolescents growing into adults who want to take their place as sexually healthy members of society use movies and television as their main sources of information about sex. That is unhealthy.

In practice, we need to give our young adults information about sex in the form they most prefer it, visually. Porn doesn’t satisfy that need, but it’s used as a substitute for visual information about sex because better information is hard to find.

Nothing improves by driving a publicly popular habit into the position of being illegal. If the problem is lack of good visual information about sex, then those who complain about bad sex in the media should encourage film makers to produce something good. Until they receive encouragement to produce good stuff, they will continue to grind out crap that appeals to the lowest common denominator, which is why most television networks have lost audience and movies have become more extreme in the first place. Not enough people demand better of the producers.

When we produce television programs and movies that best suit perverts–in terms of matching wants with product produced–while not providing better material for the majority, we get visual products that deserve to be driven from the marketplace.

Censorship is not the answer. Except for the lazy people who want to do nothing more than to control the behaviour of others by harping and bitching.

Our visual media produce little that we can be proud of as a society. Let’s tell them we want to be proud, not embarrassed.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to grow emotionally and sexually healthy children for tomorrow’s world.
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The Night The Moon Will Appear Square

Those who understand only what can be explained understand very little.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Austrian writer of psychological novels (1830-1916)

We live in a world molded to a great extent by both science and economics. They don’t control our moment to moment existence, but they form the framework around which we tend to build our belief system.

For example, science creates a drug and physicians (some of whom derive a commission by prescribing that drug) prescribe it, while the patients accept that taking the prescribed drug must be necessary as the only way to heal because a respected professional recommended it. We believe because we trust the source, or think we must.

Almost every major newscast on radio and television includes a stock market report even though its content bears extremely little on everyone but a few who may be listening. However, many listeners will believe that the rise or fall of the share price for Microsoft or Exxon has some magical effect on something that influences their lives, somewhere.

Scientists and economists, indeed all people in the traditional professions, work with factors they can understand and manipulate (or could if they had the power). The scientific method (hypothesis, testing, conclusion) depends on the users having factors they understand and can work with (“massage” in the case of economists). What they don’t understand, they can’t manipulate, thus isn’t important.

That extends to what isn’t important to them–as they have so much influence on our lives–being considered as non-existent or unimportant to us. In fact, some people claim the inability to prove the existence of God using scientific method as evidence, even as proof, that God does not exist.

That thinking is an easy sell for people who believe that science has the answers (proofs) and for those who understand just how much fraud has been perpetrated on simple minded people over the past millennia of human history.

Just as the fact that because someone robbed a bank means that banks are unsafe places to save our money cannot be accepted as valid by most people, the perpetration of fraudulent “facts” and imagined history on people who will not take the trouble to investigate for themselves should not make anyone believe that God does not exist. Even if science searches for evidence of God, but in places where God has no interest, though people have made fantastic claims about God working in these ways, that does not prove that God does not exist.

The article is not about the existence of God, but about how easily people’s minds and belief sets can be influenced by convincing arguments made by determined people.

If I were to tell you that our moon will appear as a square rather than as its usual disk on August 1, a considerable number of people would make a point of checking out the sky on that date. Because they believe the moon will appear square? No, because they believe me as someone with authority on one subject, so I might have expertise in another. How many predictions of Armageddon go unfulfilled each year around the world, despite the fact that many people prepared for the Final Event in each case?

In the investment business there is a saying that “If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.” That should apply to what we believe as well.

Asking followers to “just believe” or to “have faith” that something that sounds unbelievable is real or true should be a tipoff that a fraud is in progress. Or at least a distortion of reality. Though there are many examples of this in religions, more happen every day in television commercials, in unsolicited mail in our mail boxes and email inboxes, even in movie promos that precede the feature we went to watch.

Those who understand only what can be explained not only understand very little, as our Austrian writer stated, it’s more important for us to know that they may not be capable of understanding more than they can manipulate in their minds. They form beliefs based on what they can and cannot manipulate with their minds.

Let’s take a common example that has been foisted on us for decades. Science fiction movies have made us believe that if “aliens” came to earth from a distant planet, they would almost certainly want to harm us, to obliterate us. According to these movies, the only viable action we should take is to destroy them as soon and as completely as possible.

Other movies have humans travelling through space to other planets and approaching them in peace, with the objectives to make contact, to share and to help them if we can.

Apparently in the movie business only humans are civilized enough to travel with peaceful intentions. Peace, just like here on earth, right?

Those two possible scenarios have been repeated dozens of times in movies, even though together they are not just hypocritical, they are absurd. Yet one of our major forms of entertainment perpetrates this absurdity on us again and again. We go in peace, everyone else comes to destroy us. We find enemies not just on earth, but we invent them in space.

If Moses or Jesus of Nazareth or the great prophet of Islam were to return to earth today, how long would they last before they were killed in some manner or another? Half the people alive in the world today purport to believe in these people and to follow their ways and their words (which differ very little, except in ritual). You can be certain that one of the “believers” would be the murderer, not someone who doesn’t believe in that person in the first place.

Do we really believe that peace is possible in the world? Our media don’t present us that way. Should the real heroes not be those who can bring peace where none existed before, not those who can defeat one invented enemy after another? Which is the greater accomplishment, bringing peace or making war? Heroes should save lives, not destroy them.

If we will ever make sense of a world that is trying to twist our minds into knots, we need to teach children how to think critically and to not be bamboozled by frauds, charlatans and propagandists. We could never teach the older ones, the adults, because they already believe what they have been told to believe.

Beliefs are at the centre of the life of every human. Everyone accepts that we need to teach beliefs to children. I propose that we need to teach how to distinguish among that fraudulent claims made by many people and many sources about what we should believe. The only way that could succeed would be to teach children before their minds get tangled, twisted, molded.

That change would not be hard to enact. But we can’t expect schools to change themselves because teachers get paid to teach what is on the curriculum and teachers rarely have the final say about what goes on the curriculum.

Talk about it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who can avoid becoming automatons, products of corporate interests.
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Do You Know Who’s Bending Your Mind?

By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic American
education. … From television, the child will have learned how to pick a
lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long,
get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety of
sophisticated armaments.
– Russell Baker, columnist and author (b.1925)

Could Baker possibly be right? Is it that easy? Surely making contact with people who could facilitate any of the illegal situations he mentioned would prevent most people from even considering the acts as possibilities.

Children six years old can find people who will sell them marijuana and other drugs, right outside of their schools in some cases.

Anyone who knows how to use the internet can contact someone who will provide them with anything. Of course you, who are reading this, would not likely search for a web site that offers plans to make a dirty bomb, or access to fissionable materials, or war weapons of any description. You don’t want those things, so you assume that no one else does either, other than very bad people.

You may even assume that web sites that offer free education within a warm brotherly group of people who will support the joiner every step of the way (perhaps until the person ignites the explosives strapped to his or her chest) are monitored by government agencies somewhere. And they are. Some. But new ones come into existence every day.

No law enforcement agency can act to indict until they gather enough evidence to prosecute the perpetrators and put them behind bars. How often do you hear of that happening? Rarely, if ever? Yet there are dozens of sites waiting to “help” people out there. (A majority of suicide bombers are rural young people who go to the city and find thsemselves lonely, without jobs or friends.)

Russell Baker was only partly right about television being the primary source for “basic American education.” What the television also purveys is propaganda (called advertising) designed to help people fall into a dependent lifestyle where they believe they need various kinds of products to make them beautiful or young, or at least to smell good all day long.

Television has nothing on the internet as a source for information and even products that most of us would call totally anti-social.

In general, what we call terrorists gather together into cults based on contacts they make over the internet. Criminals source whatever materials they need without having to see the supplier using the internet. Charitable organizations find people willing to contribute to worthy causes on the internet, though the organizations themselves may be bankers for terrorist organizations.

Organized crime gangs are the source for most of the spam we receive in our email inboxes. Yes, that same spam that takes so much of your time to delete. Yes, including the young girls who are bored and want to talk to lonely men by email: “Here’s my email address!” Write so I can learn that yours is a valid address. Yes, the same outfits that send heart wrenching messages with cutesy graphics that ask you to forward it to everyone you know (and, by the way, never remove the email addresses that came with them because those emails call home to the gangs with all those addresses).

Does that mean we should close down the internet entirely and return to a simpler time? It couldn’t happen. For one thing, the very organized crime gangs that send the spam and gather personal information have enough money to bribe enough politicians and bureaucrats to prevent the internet from being closed down.

Should we have a new version of the internet that is monitored by authorities to ensure that nothing bad is available to people? A new form of internet is coming, but it won’t have those safeguards. The bad guys will cry “invasion of privacy” and “loss of our constitutional freedoms” in the media and in advertising so no future internet will ever be safe. They will get good people they can dupe to do the crying job for them.

I get very little spam on my computer. I could count on my fingers the number of times it gets hit with viruses, spyware or malware. Why? Because I know what to expect from the internet and I avoid the kinds of activities that will cause me grief.

Can everyone’s computer be as free of viruses, malware, spam, trojans and disk-destroying codes as mine? Yes. That would require everyone to learn what I know and what others who operate their computers safely on the internet know.

Having everyone know that much requires our education systems to teach this information. It requires parents to encourage school boards to put it in their curriculum. Parents will never know enough and will never be able to keep up with advancements in technology (including rogue computer code) so it would have to be taught in classrooms.

That’s not likely to happen either. Our culture teaches us not to take responsibility for anyone but ourselves. And maybe our children, which some do obsessively, making the kids permanently paranoid. Look at the number of people who daily harm their own health with tobacco, drugs, alcohol, lack of exercise and self-adopted stress to see that many people don’t even look after their own best interests.

Don’t expect those people to help you change school curriculum. Or to change anything.

When was the last time someone consulted you about what should be placed on the curriculum of the schools in your area? Likely never. A few people make decisions like those with very little input from outside, even from politicians.

Find out who makes the major decisions within your local school system, your department or ministry of education. Propose these ideas at political meetings where politicians meet the people, such as before elections. Speak to the leaders of Home and School associations in your area. These people can all work behind the scenes to make changes happen.

Don’t go to the head of the local elected school board or the director of the local school system. These people effectively have no influence over curriculum decisions. They will listen to you, then ignore your requests.

Curriculum change is a political issue, not an education issue. If you want change, you must act in a political way. Acting in a reasonable way with well reasoned arguments with the wrong people (those who don’t matter) will gain you nothing but frustration.

It doesn’t require a revolution to change school curriculum. It requires people to talk about the subject they want changed, and talk and talk until enough people know about the need for change that the decision makers in the back rooms decide it’s a good idea.

Change is hard, which is why school curriculum changes very little over long periods of time (though its methods of presentation change). Talking is easy.

So talk. Tell others you talk to to spread the word around as well.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who won’t be naive victims of bad guys who sound really good on the television or over the internet.
Learn more at