In Demagoguery and Democracy, Patricia Roberts-Miller claims that in a demagogic situation one always remains central to their beliefs; In other words what one identifies with will influence their perception of information they believe is the truth. Roberts-Millers states that one will always reside with their identity even when exposed to different perspectives. She says, “Demagoguery is about identity. It says that complicated policy issues can be reduced to a binary of us (good) versus them (bad). It says that good people recognize there is a bad situation and bad people don’t; therefore, to determine what policy agenda is the best, it says we should think entirely in terms of who is like us and who isn’t” (8). Roberts-Millers is implying that we abide only by the information that is in favor of our perspective and deem it as “good”, and information that is not in our favor is deemed incorrect or “bad.” She is claiming that one’s perception of the truth can not be altered because they will always believe that the opposing side is inaccurate or incorrect.This is an implication that we are subconsciously stubborn and will always remain close-minded no matter how many perspectives we are exposed to. With her perspective of the ‘truth,’ one might question – can your opinion or your mindset be altered even if you have a ‘hardened’ or an already shaped bias? Is it impossible to have your perception of the truth altered or will it remain consistent throughout your lifetime?
Identity, Atlantic author Julie Beck agrees, does play a role in one’s perception of the truth. In “This Article won’t Change your Mind,” Beck claims that one’s perception of the truth depends on their surroundings and the way they think. Beck mentions a case study about a former yoga group member, Daniel Shaw, and his blindness to the abusive allegations set out about the yoga group. Because he was apart of that group, he did not believe in the allegations – He strictly believed in the purity of the group. Beck stated that, “People have always been tribal and have always believed things that aren’t true.” Aforementioned, Shaw’s cling to this group is what caused him to believe the fallacy of these allegations. The members of the group having similar mindsets also contributed to his way of thinking. Beck does state that identity does play a role in one’s perception of the truth like Roose, but Beck also mentions the idea of group-thinking playing a role in one’s perception of the truth as well. Your surroundings influence the way you think. If you are apart of a group that thinks the same way as you (like Shaw), you will continue to have the same mindset, however if you surround yourself with people that have different mindsets or ways of thinking then you will be more likely to change your ways of thinking. Beck uses a real life example of how one’s mindset can be changed by their surroundings. As opposed to what Roberts-Millers was saying, Beck is saying that being exposed to varying perspectives can potentially lead to shifts in how we perceive the truth or our biases.
Similar to Beck, journalist Kevin Roose led a case study about how one’s perception of the truth had been altered through the virtual world in “The Making of a Youtube Radical.” Roose mentioned a young man named Caleb Cain who — like many teenagers and millenials— dedicated the majority of his time on social media, especially on YouTube. Cain was originally a liberal, but because of YouTube he had become a supporter of the far right of the political spectrum for a period of time in his life. Roose stated that, “To Mr. Cain, all of this felt like forbidden knowledge — as if, just by watching some YouTube videos, he had been let into an exclusive club.”The information being fed to Cain by the YouTube videos about the conservatives seemed very engaging to Cain because he had never been exposed to such information or thought of certain things in a different light. He felt as if he was apart of a special group that touched upon topics that he had not acknowledged before, like advocacy of men’s rights. The YouTubers that created these videos spoke about certain political topics in the point of view of a rightist in a very cunning and relatable way. With the help of YouTube’s algorithm and Cain’s resonation with the life story of a YouTuber, Stefan Molyneux, he continued to watch more videos that pertained to the right wing of politics. “Red-pilling,” the idea of shifting one’s political view to the conservative side, occurred in Cain’s case through YouTube’s algorithm. Both Rooses’ and Becks’ case studies suggests that one’s perception can be altered in many different ways. Cain had his political stance shifted through technology and Shaw had a change in mind through group-thinking. Robert-Millers’ claim does not stand as strong once juxtaposed with Rooses’ and Becks’ case studies.