It’s extremely difficult to characterise different generations and generational shifts in societal attitudes. Not everyone of the parent pre-1960’s generation was a frugal family person nor is everyone of the 2000’s an entertainment junkie. Yet, there are certain signature traits in behaviours, attitudes and values that make up the mainstream and stand for an era.

This interesting piece of writing looks at the rise in supersticious beliefs and the anything-goes society. The author argues that with the dramatic changes in the 1960’s society (sexual revolution, hippies, etc.) a new mentality formed in the US that allowed for unscientific knowledge to become part of the local and national narrative. Especially, Americans became open to conspiracy theories of all sorts that still surround us today. What’s worse, it seems that these have now fully entered politics and the government, shaking the foundations of our democracy.

With Star Trek and the likes an integral part of my (European) youth, it never occured to me that most of the space sci-fi ideas emerged in the US, including UFO sightings, aliens, utopian and dystopian cartoons and documentaries, etc. This is well documented in Hollywood and TV productions from Battlestar Galactica to E.T. Europe was at that time (the 1960s and 1970s) still working on its post-WWII trauma and settled with glorifying the past (empires). There was very little if any of its movie productions that portrayed the futuristic, the out-worldish, or the supernatural.

Whether it is true or not, what the author implies, that Americans today are prone to believe whatever they want, as implausible as it may be, the internet has certainly contributed to the spread of misinformation to the credulous. Recent electoral events indicate a firm rejection of facts and science – to the extent where researchers feel the urge to protest for being sidelined.

What is equally worrying is the decline in reliability of information through the use of “social media” in journalism. I mean the references in traditional and well-established papers to social media “news” on the basis of their virality. This way, a single tweet can transform the worldview of many people – and are we really able to detect all the “fake news”, propaganda, and hoaxes? Losing reality by a variety of (technological) means, e.g. fake news, opinion manipulation via facebook, VR, dark web, entertainment, and so forth, jeopardises our  consensus-based democracy. It seems that different mob-created “worlds” emerge for us to pick and choose, or to create our own – including delusions of caliphates and other tribes.

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