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Why do people automatically believe the first thing they hear?

It seems to be a really common trend lately to believe only the first thing you hear and not listen to opposing viewpoints. For example, look at the case of Sami Al-Arian. After he was arrested on charges of helping fund terrorist groups in Palestine, people tended to automatically assume that he was a terrorist. This perception has continued even though he was not found guilty on any charge due to lack of evidence. yet people still want to assume that he did do something related to terrorism, which is inherently wrong. It’s one thing if you find people not guilty because there wasn’t enough evidence. It’s another thing entirely if you find them not guilty because there was no evidence.

This is not the only case where such a thing has happened. The same deal happened with the Holy Land Foundation trial- no evidence whatsoever.

So why do people want to believe otherwise? do they want to believe the worst in people? Do they see certain kinds of people as a threat to them even if it is a minority of that group who has performed such actions? Why should one person be criticized for the actions of another?

I’ve got an opinion as to why this is so. I believe it is not because people want to believe the worst in people, but because they have either not heard about the real story behind something or because they have not heard enough evidence to the contrary. Let’s take for example the al-Arian case.

People have not really heard the evidence that was used in the case. According to the movie “U.S.A. vs. Al-Arian”, most of the evidence was usage of imagery of suicide bombings and witnesses who had lost close friends or relatives in said blasts. That, whi le heart rending, isn’t really useful evidence. In addition, all of the tapes that were collected of phone calls did not indicate anything substantive in regards to evidence. So there really was no evidence against the defendants. People don’t believe that because they haven’t seen any hard proof to suggest that he was not involved in terrorist activities. So people will continue to believe the worst until they see otherwise.

No comments yet to Why do people automatically believe the first thing they hear?

  • Doris

    You are right. Keep your open mind, and ask others for the basis of their opinions. Almost five years after his arrest, trial and the “not guilty” verdict, Al-Arian remains in jail. Many don’t know this. Why does he remain jailed? Talking with those who knew him as a colleague, a teacher and friend, you find he is a man of deep faith and a believer in human rights for all. An outspoken advocate for the rights of Palestinians who to this day suffer under Israeli occupation, some with influence wanted him silenced. Since 1994, the gov’t tapped his phone and had him under survelliance. Using “guilt by association” reasoning perpetuated by the media the public was led to link the word “terrorist” with Muslim, and to think in terms of “all or nothing.” PIJ, for example, was given as “all bad, no question.” What people need to know (though few are interested or can take the time) is the basic meaning of the word “jihad,” its contortion and the history of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Keep questioning and speaking out.

  • Our legal system is heavily flawed, however just because a man is not found guilty does not mean he is innocent. The public only knows what they are told and from that limited information, they must make the best possible decision that will have the best and safest outcome. Much of what you see at a trial is sometimes only a fraction of the evidence that makes it to trial. A portion of some of the best evidence to free or prosecute is suppressed do to some relatively insignificant flaw in the collection, handling, or timeliness of presentation that is exacerbated by some glory-seeking leech of an attorney. Stereotyping may be ethically unjust nevertheless; if 70% of the people crossing the street are hit and killed by cars and 90% of those cars are red. It would be foolhardy to see a red car coming down the street and still feel safe in crossing without care or concern. I understand the issues and I certainly sympathize with you to a point however when you are in a crowd of people and one of them intends to do you harm, it is far better to have some way of narrowing down the possibilities because your life may depend upon it.

  • roz

    It has been my experience that people automaically believe the worst about what they think they see or hear because of their own unresolved issues surrounding a subject or their own sense of guilt about some flaw in their personality or past actions. Any topic that contains emotionally charged subject matter will cause irrational thought. What is a true tragedy is that assumptions ruin the stability and well-being of others who may be innocent and directly affects at least 10 others who are close to them. This covers the most personal matters right through to international political chaos. If people could only keep their mouths shut and reserve or eliminate judgement until the entire story is told, many conflicts could be avoided or resolved with minimal damage.

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