I often use this clip from the documentary Fastball to introduce one of the primary functions of mass media and their ability to dangerously disassociate us from reality. In the following clip the physics of a fastball baseball pitch are broken down to dispel the notion claimed by many batters that certain high-speed pitches actually rise as they cross home plate making them that much more difficult to hit. However, what is actually occurring is a miscalculation based on initial presets or definitions of reality created as one’s brain seeks to fill gaps between what the eye can see and compute and what actually happens. Because the pitch moves too fast for one’s eye to see throughout the entire flight of the ball the brain uses its preset definitions derived from an initial set of data to fill in the gaps as the ball actually leaves the calculable view of the eye and, therefore, creates a rupture in the eye-to-brain communication of information. The batter is forced by their brain to then determine their swing or action based on those initial presets or calculations – the first location of the pitch as seen by the eye as it leaves the pitcher’s hand – but because it is all happening too fast those calculations are incorrect causing the swing to miss and the batter to think they see the pitch rise above their bat as it crosses the plate. Most the pitchers and hitters interviewed, some of the greatest of all time, remain convinced that science is wrong and that their preset beliefs (that the ball rises) are correct.
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This is precisely how media work. They provide us with presets and definitions of reality that are simply incorrect causing people to come in conflict with what we are told the world is or is to be and what we actually experience and then to attempt to explain that difference through the prism of misinformation about ourselves and our environments. Tremendous power is afforded to those able to set those presets or, as Dr. Huey P. Newton once explained, “Power is the ability to define phenomena and have it act in a desired manner.”