After a long day at work, I often find myself tempted to drop into a gas station and buy a bottle of a sports beverage. I’ve apparently convinced myself that the “zero calorie” version is healthier, and that the particular contents of this drink will refresh me. I believe it will restore my energy as if I’m a character in a video game.
Of course, this isn’t true. What I actually need is hydration and electrolytes. The brand isn’t magic, but it is convenient. Drinking more water–perhaps with some salt–would do the trick as well.
My post-work beverage routine isn’t wrong. But I’m only half right. I do need to drink more water, but I don’t need the neon-colored liquid in the distinctive transparent bottle. I’m half right.
Being half right is where almost all of us with politics today. We are are right in that there is a widespread, coordinated campaign designed to pump us with dubious information, load us up with fear and moral superiority, and inspire us to take the to streets. That really is happening. We’re right about that. We are the target of sophisticated messaging.
What we’re wrong about is the actual truth of what’s happening. Yes, there are powerful operators spending tons of cash to change our beliefs and bully us into acting. But it’s not so we can stop a bunch of bloodthirsty murderous fascists. There really aren’t many of those people if any. The goal of the messaging is to preserve existing power structures.
This is hard to accept, especially if you’re convinced that the (party name here) is filled with evil people who will do unspeakable things. The simple reality is that people in power want to stay in power. But you know who benefits from those preposterous claims? The people in power.
If we think about politics like we think about sports drinks, it becomes clear that most of the resources are focused on marketing, not on being healthy. And the more effective that marketing is, the less we’ll think about the simply reality.
I’m half right about sports drinks. Which means, I gotta quit drinking them only because I’m thirsty. And too many of us are only half right about politics too.
Because here’s the most important part: being half right means you’re also half wrong.