“Don’t Look Up”… Why do people not believe the facts before their eyes?

In the primary grades, we learned a story about a liar child, who decided to go to the sea and then scream for people, claiming that he was drowning, everyone rushes to save him, but as soon as they reach him, he laughs saying that he was joking with them, people get angry but they leave him alone, after several days the child repeats The same scene, and people rush to save him, but he laughs again.

The matter is repeated several times, and in the sixth time the child is very tired because of swimming and playing for several hours and already begins to drown in the sea water. Imagine him pretending again.

In the new movie, released by “Netflix” on December 24, Leonardo DiCaprio plays astronomer Dr. Randall Mindy, who, along with his doctoral student (Kate DiBiasky), discovers a comet with a near 100% probability that it will strike Earth. Within about six months, at first glance, we imagine that we are in the atmosphere of a new “Apocalypse” movie, during which the heroes of the earth, usually Americans, led by a man similar to Bruce Willis, will rise to destroy this destructive coming from afar, but this does not happen in the movie “Don’t Look Up.” (Don’t Look Up), quite the opposite.

From the first moment that the two scientists sit in front of the President of the United States of America, we realize that things will turn into chaos. The President and her supporters take a direction that denies the potential danger of the comet, while the two scientists take an opposite path that demands people look at the sky and see the comet, and although everyone sees him there coming to strike the earth, They – like the unfortunate incident of the child a while ago – did not believe it, perhaps because they were told about it in advance and nothing happened.

where is the truth?

The film talks about post-truth politics, a term that is very interesting, first used by the American journalist Steve Chase in “The nation” magazine in 1992, when he wrote (1) an article talking about some American political scandals such as Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the future of American politics thereafter, and commented on this, saying: “As for us, as a free people, we have decided freely that we want to live in a post-truth world.”

During the following decades, this term gained popularity in press circles, then academia, until 2016, when the Oxford Dictionary chose that term “post-truth” as the word of the year (2), because it was the most popular and controversial, especially after the rise of Donald Trump. to power and the radical change it brought about in political discourse.

Simply put, the term refers to a tendency that depends on the interaction in the political debate being based on individual emotions and playing on the instincts, feelings and beliefs of individuals, regardless of the facts or facts. , to deliberate, persistent, and extensive falsehoods or disinformation in support of those political tendencies to which they belong, even if they are false allegations.

In this emotionally charged atmosphere, objective facts become less influential in public opinion, and thus truth becomes a totally worthless coin, or, as Michael Deacon, editor of the famous British Telegraph once said: “The facts are negative, the facts are pessimistic, the facts are unpatriotic.” .

Over time that word, “post-truth,” has become more than just a political jargon, it has become an official representative of the era in which we live, the post-truth era, where people lie, deceive, and mislead almost everything as a habit. daily or lifestyle, in that state of chaos we have no reference but to be able to raise our voice, or whet our passions to the extreme, only to win personal battles.

An ocean of lies

At that point, let’s consider what three young researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) accomplished when, several years ago, they decided to search (3) behind the prevalence of false news online. They collected 126,000 stories from Twitter between 2006-2017, and examined the extent The validity of that news via a range of specialized platforms.

The results of that study, which was published (4) in the famous journal “Science”, came to say that the spread of false news was clear by a huge difference compared to the truthful one, and that the rate of spread of natural news was only a thousand times in some cases, while the rates of spread of false news reached to 10 thousand times. The spread of fake news was not only greater, but faster, deeper and broader than real news in all categories of information, especially in political matters, followed by terrorism, natural disasters, scientific myths and financial information.

If there is something that we can consider a major representative of the current era, it is undoubtedly the false news that we are exposed to daily in different ways, and worse than its existence is our ability to believe it, as it is certain that each of us – no matter how cultured – has fallen into the captivity of one of them even once. at least. At this point, Jay Van Bavel of New York University intervenes to say that it is not only related to the ordinary citizen’s ignorance of the facts, or the ability of false news to be more impressive or strange than ordinary boring news, but it goes beyond that. All to deal directly with our identities, or our beliefs about ourselves.

This idea is called the “identity-based convictions model.” When we are exposed to a group of ideas about one of the topics that we care about via Facebook, Twitter or television, we give an assessment of it based mainly on our political inclinations or convictions. At that point, what determines what is right and wrong for Ours is not objective facts, but the extent of prior agreement with our inclinations. This is no longer shocking, as almost all of us will be inclined to believe a false news if it is in line with our convictions and supports the party or political orientation to which we belong.

In fact, the quality of the news presented to you does not necessarily mean that you will believe it, no matter how backed up by facts or reliable sources, because you may tend to belong to your own at the expense of accuracy, at that point a group of studies that spanned about ten years ago indicate that Sometimes it may extend to outright opposition to the facts.

When we present false news to a group of American citizens that includes, for example, a claim that the United States has found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a split will occur among the people. Mass destruction in Iraq, after presenting the facts to them and informing them that it was false news, they will be more clinging to their ideas than before, as experience has shown. This means that confronting people with facts may not convince them to change their opinions, but rather, on the contrary, may make them more clinging to them.

This is called the “Backfire Effect”, and it’s a cognitive bias that says that confronting people with proven facts that negate their convictions causes them to hold onto those beliefs more in backlash. This is a form of confirmation bias, in which one tends to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that only corresponds to his previous convictions, while, on the other hand, he does not give equal attention to facts or evidence that stands in contrast to his convictions.

The effect of the adverse reaction was monitored in several experiments. For example, the people who supported an electoral candidate (7) were more supportive and trusting of him when he revealed negative facts about him. Also, the parents (8) who refused to inject their children with vaccines were more refusing after a group of Doctors have scientific data that proves this idea wrong in front of them. The same applies to experiments (9) that included public opinions on tax laws, stem cell research, marriage, divorce and abortion laws, and others.

the culprit when he arrives

The matter, then, is not about facts, but rather about the way the world is run, where the effect of the reverse reaction is more evident in cases of severe political polarization, for example during elections or wars, or ongoing political debate, which is something that the whole world is currently experiencing, including our countries It is weaker in cases of relative stability, but what if political leaders used lying as a tool? And what if that is their way to reach their party goals and personal interests, which usually unite with the interests of business and financial tycoons?

At that point, the facts are completely absent, and despite their extreme clarity, like a luminous comet in the sky that every eye can see, the facts are one thing and believing them is another thing, all that objective facts can get in this contemporary world is to turn into a “trend” or A challenge on Tik Tok or a torrent of tweets does not stop, on both sides, on both sides, as if it is a controversial topic open for discussion.

But the facts are nothing but facts, in the end the comet will arrive and kill everyone. As for smoking, it will kill millions year after year, although scientists have indicated since the fifties to its severe damage, and with regard to climate change, it will humiliate peoples in the literal sense of the word, although we know for three quarters of a century that it will do However, what happened is that some of them referred these two issues, and others, from facts to matters of “controversy” for decades, only to serve their political interests.



  1. Post-Truth and Its Consequences: What a 25-Year-Old Essay Tells Us About the Current Moment
  2. Word of the Year 2016 is…
  3. Fake news spreads faster than true news on Twitter—thanks to people, not bots
  4. The spread of true and false news online
  5. How political parties influence our beliefs, and what we can do about it
  6. The Backfire Effect
  7. Hot Cognition or Cool Consideration? Testing the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Political Decision Making
  8. Effective Messages in Vaccine Promotion: A Randomized Trial
  9. When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions

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