by Roman King | U.S.
You have an orange, and you have an apple. You are prompted to pick. How many choices do you have? The average person would say two; the more astute will recognize that there is much more than just picking the apple or the orange. For example, you could pick both. You could not pick either. You could pick something completely different.
That example is quite benign, but when massive companies use this knowledge, this idea that their consumers will box themselves into only having two options, what is the consumer to do when companies aggressively market to them using this technique?
To what amount of downfall will political organizations use the false dilemma to herd and divide the population into hyper-partisan groups? What is the thinking man to do when the most powerful organizations in the social order are legitimately bending reality to fit their best interests? This, of all things, is a much bigger question than that of apples and oranges.
The fallacy of the false dilemma is everywhere in modern society. In political campaigns, corporate marketing, mainstream news organizations, and even day-to-day social interactions, people will use the false dilemma to pit one demographic against another. You’ve almost certainly experienced it, even if you haven’t recognized it yet. Apple vs. Samsung phones; the two companies alone have an almost unbreakable grip on the smartphone market, solely because they have marketed against one another to stoke the flames of their fans. Republican vs. Democrat; the two major United States political parties have seized control over the entire political climate simply by campaigning on hyper-partisan platforms and not good ideas. Dichotomies like these are what has lead to the increasing tendency of Americans to view problems as black and white, ignoring nuance and the middle ground.
Consider how toxic these false dilemmas are. The Apple vs. Samsung debate often leads people to blindly spend thousands of dollars on technology that will become obsolete in a handful of years, often intentionally. The decision to make this purchase is not done with every option considered; either you own the Apple or you own the Samsung, says the tech insiders and clickbait journalists. None of them will tell you that you could choose something else or not buy at all, and save your money — that would mean sacrificing profits for the wellbeing of the consumer, something large corporations seem to be strangers to. Instead, the tendency is to spend money we don’t have on a phone that won’t be technologically viable, according to the technologic capabilities of the era. Similarly with the current American political climate, two options present themselves as the only choices — the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The way the current system is set up strictly discourages any straying from the political duopoly they’ve instituted into modern society. Voters often go to voting booths not to vote for an individual candidate and their merits (or lack thereof), but for an idealism constructed by their party of choice — this is how Donald Trump, a business oligarch, was still the heavy favorite of rural voters in 2016. It is strictly impossible to make an informed decision if you subscribe to the political duopoly, but to many, it’s all there is. The Republicans and Democrats gain nothing from suggesting that you, the voter, could vote independent or not at all.
In both of these circumstances, the two “options” perpetuating the false dilemma are in a mutual system of benefit, masked by a vague sense of opposition and rivalry. If both parties involved openly demonstrated their monopoly over their fields, we might just get a clue and open our eyes, but if there a public farce of competition, what reason is there, other than self-taught personal enlightenment, to think otherwise? Not only are these parasitic systems being parasitic at your expense, they are also feeding on the collective ignorance and will to absorb narratives from groups or people in a position. It is an incredibly toxic form of social engineering, designed to consolidate power within themselves, to create an environment beneficial to the continuation of existing power structures.
False dilemmas often mean that there are two organizations colluding in a mutually beneficial relationship to increase their own wealth or power at the downfall of the lesser informed. This is yet another reason why I have stressed beyond belief the importance of taking the effort to inform and enlighten yourself — if you don’t, you are at the whim and mercy of possibly predatory organizations.
Keep your eyes open, and when you’re presented with only two options, be wary.