"I don’t care for your paranoid,
us against them,
fearful kind of walls
I don’t care for your residue from the price tag,
Gimme, gimme appetite
On those two opposing thoughts in my mind."
Where’s The Meaning?
In his signature upbeat, island style, Jack Johnson’s “My Mind is For Sale” remarks on the antagonistic rhetoric employed in mainstream discourse. The meaning is powerful, yet simple, that institutions are producing and selling content that is directly aligned to the behavior and belief systems of their core demographics. While this is not inherently bad, as political polarization amongst individuals increases, so too does the content – as the content is geared towards audience demand. And thus Jack John alludes to a ‘polarization paradox’.
With media outlets across the political spectrum churning out news that is more emotionally inflammatory than factually based, presumably for greater click through rates or higher audience viewership, it is becoming tougher to separate fact from fiction. Further, with algorithms intentionally designed to show us content that we already like and frequently engage with, we are becoming isolated in our own web of obfuscation. Jack Johnson presents this concept succinctly in his title: our minds are for sale. It is safe to say that defining the success of news stories in terms of quantity rather than quality and verifiability has resulted in inflammatory and polarizing content focused on emotion and entertainment rather than information.
Don’t let the smooth and feel good sound of Jack Johnson fool you, behind these melodic vibes are serious and profound undertones. His message – that factual uncertainties have fractured our beliefs and that under the deluge of emotionally charged content being pushed out by the minute, the “real estate in my mind is for sale, it’s all been subdivided, divided into reasons why my two opposing thoughts at once are fine.”
- Take a moment to scroll through your social media news feed ads. What content do you see there? Is that content you have normally engaged with? Can you see a pattern, across your social media channels, of algorithms showing you content that you’ve previously engaged with?
- While it may sound too obvious to even think about, what is the definition of a fact and how can you tell fact from fiction when reading news?
- Can you think of two opposing thoughts that are at once fine? How do you reconcile this?
- On a more macro level, how does this incongruence affect the way you view major institutions within society (e.g. government, media, business etc.)?