Will this ever change?
Is there a prospect for a more enlightened future, one without popular myths instilled in the public?
Certainly we are at the cusp of real change. The internet (or whatever the global computer network will be called in the future) provides a completely unprecedented means for disseminating ideas as well as critical analysis, in a way impossible with the printed word. To put it one way, it ties all of the cynics of the world together, and lets all the rest of the world eavesdrop on their discussion. This has put the preeminence of the press and television quickly on the wane, as well as their ability to ignore those challenging their pop mythology and sound-bite mentality. It is our greatest hope.
However, it is possible that gullibility is simply a factor of human nature, and that there will always be crafty groups of people around willing and capable to exploit that. The economic, political, and other sinister motivations to promote falsehoods and hysterical thought will not disappear simply because of the internet; that will require far more profound change. In fact, these people will likely attempt to dominate the internet at some point, just as they did print and television. The internet was given birth primarily by intellectuals, technicians, and others typically dedicated to skepticism and rational thought. This has set the tone for the internet so far. There is no guarantee that it won't be inherited by panderers.
My impression is that the cultures most capable of clear thinking are those in which its members are inculcated with the philosophy of individualism. When a person is taught from childhood that they can stand on their own and rely on themselves, only then will they likely grow to trust their own critical thinking and reason, and shun the irrationality of society, if need be. Socialist cultures, conversely, encourage dependence on mass-thinking and reliance on popular ideas. Obviously, the herd mentality that the socialist approach inspires is the worst possible breeding ground for mass hysteria and mythology (for example, NAtional SoZIaliste [NAZI], or "National Socialist" [in english] Germany, was the culture in which the Aryan racial mythologies, Jews-as-subhuman mythologies, and political witchhunts, flourished in a land otherwise known for its intellectual accomplishments.)
In my view, individualists in the United States are decreasing in number, but solidifying in their belief. Socialists are increasing in number, but their devotion to socialist ideas are weakening with time. Overall, it is hard to tell what the effect of that will be.
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