“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States.
Lincoln had a way with words, he could summarize basic human behavior in a simple, easy to understand sentence. Lincoln knew that most people will figure it out, that a deliberate campaign of misinformation will eventually fail, and false “facts” will be corrected. This basic human ability is a problem for propagandist. We saw this play out in the “debate” about the harm of cigarette smoking. The cigarette companies had every advantage of money and modern advertising, still they lost the public “debate” and smoking is now socially discouraged and legally constrained. The majority of people figured out that smoking is bad for your health, even with all the misinformation and false “facts” produced by the cigarette companies. The cigarette companies produced advertisements with medical Doctors, Santa Claus, John Wayne and even Ronald Reagan. The cigarette companies produced research showing no link with cancer, indeed, they produced impartial studies claiming “Smoking had not been proven to be injurious to health”. After billions spend on advertisement and medical studies the cigarette companies lost the battle in the advanced nations, only to continue their fight in the third world.
We still have this talent for correctly figuring out complex issues with massive misinformation, even when delivered in a coordinated campaign. We will reach a collective decision about ObamaCare (ACA), anthropogenic climate change, the theory of evolution and supply side economics. All these topics have well funded adversaries and political supporters following the cigarette company’s playbook. As the cigarette company’s claim of “no injurious health problems” fell to smokers cough, the claims of supply side economics is falling to the smaller paycheck.
At some point, direct observation trumps fake facts. I do not need a scientific instrument to see climate change in my daily life; I do not need expert guidance to observe the benefit of ObamaCare for my children and nephews, and trickledown economics is shown wrong with each passing pay period, while the claims of Creationists are pushed aside by observable data. The cigarette companies wrote the playbook for misleading the public, in the end they lost because they were wrong. As they wrote the playbook they also poisoned the water, today many remember the campaign and now distrust any similar effort as soon as they recognize it.
We each carry within our brains a Better Angel and a Rational Self. These two, sometimes conflicting attributes, will guide us to the best decision. As I see it, our better angel cares about our planet’s health, the massive income inequity, the limited access to medical care, and most have faith in other people. Our rational Self accepts scientific data, remembers observed events, and makes predictions based on pass events. These two human traits will guide us to the correct understanding of highly complex issues. You cannot fool all the people all the time.