With the rise of “alternate facts” in politics, conspiracy theories, and pseudo science, many people are asking, how have we strayed from the path of scientific fact and reason? An objective examination of economic forces that have shaped our contemporary world will show a pattern of influence that would inevitably lead to a society drowning in information but which is still suffering from a thirst that is often slaked by social media sources that sell “the truth”.
The post war era was a time of unparalleled economic growth, prosperity, and consumerism. With many of the markets reaching saturation points, manufacturers and advertising companies had to find new ways to get Americans to spend money to maintain economic growth. Individuals such as Alfred P. Sloan, Bernard London, Brooks Stevens, and Edward Bernays pioneered the concepts of planned and perceived obsolescence and the advertising and public relation strategies that infected American culture with a feeling of inadequacy that could only be satiated by the purchasing of new products. Advertising has trained us to be unhappy. This constant feeling that we are not complete and we need to find that which completes us, has made a anxiety riddled society that is always searching and vulnerable to individuals with ideas that promise answers and explanations to the feeling that “something is not right”.
The technological age has allowed instantaneous communication and access to information. This has enabled more people to be aware of the forces that influence our daily lives and how much they are the foundation upon which our contemporary society is built. The result of these revelations have empowered some, created healthy skeptics of others, and made some feel powerless and distrustful of mainstream information sources.
Combine a society that has been trained to be constantly dissatisfied and that only the acquisition of the “the new” can complete it with technology that provides unparalleled ease of access to alternate sources of information, and you get a society that questions and believes everything.