Hey John. Yep, me too. I heard yanny at first as well. But I never doubted that fact. I knew I heard what i heard and honestly didn’t give it a second thought until a few hours later when I heard laurel (just as clearly) played a few times on TV. I assume (perhaps naievly? Not totally sure on that…) that most musicians felt the same way about not doubting what they believe they heard. So at first I just dismissed the whole debate as typical internet clickbait crap, as one does with 99% of the stuff that we see or hear about post-internet age.
But then I heard the exact same thing being discussed at (of all places) the daily congressional press briefing. Weird. And Paul Ryan not only addresses the thing, but gets seriously hot and bothered about how insane it is that everyone is NOT hearing laurel. What?!?! What link did HE click on? Laurel? That doesn’t even make sense I thought.
So from the get go I started to suspect that there was some trickery at play. Sociologically this simple slight of hand, despite how innocently it may or may not have begun, could end up becoming an ingenious experiment in human behavior, revealing how vulnerable most still are to the myriad phenomena associated with the internet’s ability to generate or spread “fake news”. We are after all still reeling and drenched in much of the drama associated with this new phenomenon at present, with every other word coming out of the White House having something to do with “fake news”. It’s still very much “a thing”. (Judicial investigations into “Russian meddling” in the presidential elections of the United States..? Seriously? Yes… Seriously. It sounds nuts. But it’s very real. Though in reality very few people actually talk about it unless they’re heavily leaning in one direction or the other politically. And honestly I’m not 100% sure that’s necessarily a “good thing”…)
Then I saw aforementioned Paul Ryan on TV claiming “it’s clearly laurel…let’s get that out of the way. How does anyone not hear that?” he says. What?!? In a congressional press conference?!? He’s talking about THAT? This is crazy. Okay… so now we know something is off. Paul Ryan may be a partisan politician and sure that has certain immediate implications in terms of one’s perspicacity…. and no he’s not a musician that we know of. BUT, one, the guy is clearly not mentally challenged (at least no more than anyone else in D.C….), and two, no one has any reason to believe that he has hearing problems. So what was up? And why the hell did he care so much either way?
It took me a while to figure it out… Honestly I didn’t pay much attention to it until I heard the second news network a few hours later claiming to be playing the same audio clip and literally heard an entirely different word than the previous network. It just made no sense. As clearly as I heard Yanny on the first network and on my phone and laptop etc. I then heard laurel. Trippy. And most likely also tricky. So I too became fascinated by the apparent discrepancy in how clearly each group of people were claiming to hear the words they claimed to, despite all allegedly listening to “the same thing”.
Though I never doubted that i was hearing the word I thought I heard. In all three instances. It all just depended on WHICH instance I heard it… The problem was that I also didn’t doubt those who were claiming to be hearing Laurel instead of Yanny or Yanny instead of laurel. Sure, most people are simple. I get it. They kill each other in mass shootings almost daily now and spend entire days watching complete strangers get married on their televisions and computers and phones even. (And crazier still, they watch these strangers’ weddings because they’re told they’re “royal” and they believe there is such a thing. It’s totally insane. Noted.) But still, that doesn’t make everyone hearing challenged or liars or THAT biologically different from each other suddenly. if people were claiming to hear the word Laurel or Yanny, my first reaction was to believe them, and not just assume that they were wrong or mistaken or just stubborn.
Frankly none of that actually occurred to me. Until I started seeing the mass hysteria popping up all over the internet regarding “who’s right and who’s wrong?” When it turned into a legitimate debate… Similar to the White and Gold versus Black and Blue Dress debate from a few years back. (More on that later….) To me the most logical answer was most likely “Everyone is right. People are hearing both words at different times and just not recognizing that this is a prank.” That started becoming more and more obvious as the day wore on. You could very clearly hear both words repeatedly depending on which website or TV or radio network you scanned. Both words were being played at different times depending on when and where one clicked. Everyone was right. And nobody was wrong.
But the meme had already spread from coast to coast and everyone had already jumped into their respective boxes, hunkered down and were ready to defend their position to the death. Many even jumped from one box to another and then back again in the span of one day, constantly doubting themselves and claiming to be “baffled” by their own ears. It was Democrat versus Republican, atheists versus deists, Israel versus Iran…. hysteria played out in real time all over big and small media regarding something completely irrelevant and inconsequential. Or so it seemed at first.
Eventually smaller minded “media outlets” started jumping on the story, attempting to explain it “scientifically”…. And this is when one could claim that the experiment started to become genuinely disturbing. Or at least surreal. And perhaps even important.
Then the pseudoscientific psychobabble started… Millions of people started reading — and sharing — these alleged articles purported to be authored by revered scientists. And many started to sincerely believe all these crazy pseudo-scientific explanations, instead of just trusting their own ears or their own better judgment. It was astonishingly easy to compel people to doubt themselves and their own senses, and at the same time doubt the sensory abilities or sincerity of those around them. Even within the same families people were fighting over this thing. Not kidding. Mass hypnotic insanity. In a matter of just a day or two. If you’re in the future, look it up. It’s mind boggling I know. But true.
As the debate waged on, bigger and bigger media began to step in, purporting to deliver sharper smarter more technologically advanced scientific explanations of “the phenomenon”. Even the New York Times jumped the shark with this one. More than once. Not kidding. <a target=”_blank” href=”https://mobile.nytimes.
Tons of hubbub about “our ears hear different words depending on the soundcard in the device we’re using” or “based on frequencies the human ear is accustomed to hearing or based on the age of the listener, people can hear words differently or even hear words that aren’t even there…”. Much of it sounded silly if you’ve spent the majority of your life working with sound and music. But maybe it really did fool non-musicians…. (?) It’s hard to tell. It seemed to. Because it became a “thing” so quickly. It easily carved out it’s fifteen seconds and then some. But were people really being fooled? Or were they just eager to be fooled? Or perhaps just eager to choose a side about something, anything, and vehemently fight over it? It was hard to tell.
The mainstream may never take the time to research and establish that a few lines of code could create a simple program that had two completely different sounding words play randomly to different groups of people and once you accepted one of them into your browser’s memory, that word got locked in. It didn’t matter how many times you listened to it. There was no way you were going to hear “the other word that “other people” claimed to be hearing”…. because your browser was set. As too was everyone else’s. Along with all the browsers being used by all the various television and radio networks that ran the story.
One thing became clear though, through all the techno-chat. The origin story about the actual piece of audio that everyone was fighting over kept changing every few hours and every new day. New data. Different data. Changed data. The story never really took hold and found a basis in reality. Still hasn’t. And surely that’s half the fun of it.
In the end all anyone had to do was clear the cookies from their browser in order to hear the other word. A simple fix. But that train had already left the station. Answers to that particular mystery were no longer important as the public’s attention quickly abandoned the debate and shifted to yet another mass shooting in an American public school, sadly, and then on to a wedding of some random member of a so-called “royal family” in England (which yes is an equally mysterious and disturbing social phenomenon to be sure).
Looking back, it seems a really simple and some might say a pretty lame trick in the bigger picture. Two or three lines of code and a disciplined commitment to shutting up for a few days about it? But nonetheless it turned out to be a deceptively simple but elegant illustration of how easy it is to split a population in two using this new “fake news” phenom that the internet has suddenly enabled. (Yes, that DOES beg the question as to why NOW? What happened to suddenly shift the entire species into being so easily duped by totally bogus crap? Was there a trigger moment in mass consciousness that we can look back on? Fascinating to ponder…) And it did have people literally doubting their OWN EARS and their own reason, judgment and sanity at times. No doubt about it. That’s as incredible as it is disturbing. Perhaps an historical landmark moment when we look back in future years on the event in terms of the bigger picture ramifications of it.
There’s more…. As there almost always is. Which I began to discover and contemplate toward the end of the evening. If it was indeed a prank, see above. If it was not a prank and indeed ONE WORD was used and one word alone is what is floating around on every link out there, then it speaks volumes about not just a very real Cultural Relativism (reality being subjective based on indoctrination and beliefs…), but also perhaps even a Biological Relativism (measurable qualitative and quantitative differences within a species creating perceived reality…) that could be responsible for many of the most heated and hated debates and disagreements in human history.
There’s a lot there. I know. But I’m tired. Will explore it more tomorrow. Until then.
– Posted by Ed Hale as The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone