Dangerous Times for Truth
These are dangerous times for truth. Especially on the internet. The internet can make you crazy. It can convince you of things that just aren’t true. Like that Obama is a mom’s jeans wearing secret evil Muslim who wants to outlaw all your handguns and kill your grandma to save health care dollars. Or that the Kardashians are an interesting family.
The internet is basically an out of control digital grapevine with super powers when it comes to spreading bull shit lies and misinformation. And most people won’t bother to fact check things because they want to believe them so bad. For some reason, it makes us sicko human beings feel good when our worst suspicions about people we don’t particularly care for are reinforced…in any way. Even with lies.
For example, I really wanted to believe this one Facebook post that supposedly quoted Donald Trump saying that Republicans are the dumbest group of voters. I could see him saying something like that. I would love it to be true, so I could happily share it with Republicans who think he should be President, who would of course believe every word of it and immediately switch parties and start liking Bernie Sanders and stop screaming about taking their country back and would actually begin to consider some common sense changes to gun laws and income tax loopholes and other important issues we should be addressing instead of debasing immigrants and minorities. But it just sounded too good to be true and when I checked snopes before actually sharing the post, I did the right thing. I didn’t share it and I commented that it was a bogus post. But for some strange reason, it didn’t feel as good as just sharing that piece of shit post about Trump would have felt.
This is what the internet can do to us. It can feed our worst appetites. It can encourage our basest beliefs and prejudices. It can reduce us to our lowest human common denominator.
We all suffer, some more than others, from confirmation bias, which is the tendency to believe things that support what we already think is true and to reject things that don’t. And the internet is the perfect enabler for this. You can find sites that pander to just about any pardigm, prejudice, preface or position. No matter how radical, rabid, reactionary or unreasonable a particular bias might be, someone is out there supporting it with web content. And of course, being the internet, where everyone is an expert or a commentator or a paid shill, the content doesn’t need to be true to be believed.
Most of us who write on the internet, and here I am too, are too lazy to be good journalists. Most of us write commentary. I have no issue with commentary. I prefer to write commentary because I didn’t study journalism and I like writing a little more than researching. I don’t want to share false information, so I just share my opinion about things. But I do take issue with commentary and Op Ed that masquerades as journalism. Too many people read web content with a lack of critical thinking. They take what they read, IF it agrees with them, at face value and run with it. They post it, share it, comment on it and even tuck it into their heart like a little love note of affirmation.
I get it. We all hate to be wrong about things. We all have opinions. But more and more it seems that opinion is stated as fact which is shared as truth which is repeated, regurgitated and reinforced with more of the same, on and on and on, until myth becomes legend, becomes history, becomes gospel. And truth is lost and so is integrity and with it goes reason and reliability. And then we end up here. With a divisive, disingenuous slayer of truth and reason and civil discourse wanting to be our president. With a good man in the White House who really only wanted to make the world a safer more equitable place for his daughters and their future families to inhabit being demonized by otherwise decent citizens. It’s a strange place we are in. Maybe we deserve it.
Truth isn’t always easy to discern. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always what we would like it to be. But it’s necessary and it’s worth searching and reaching for. It would serve us all well to respect it more. Because it is what it is.