One of my favourite cartoons on the internet is from xkcd, called ‘Duty Calls’.
It features a man who refuses to leave his computer, because “Someone is WRONG on the Internet!”
If you wave across the image, you get the caption “What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they’ll keep being wrong!”
We’ve just gone through half a decade where misinformation has been quite deliberately spread – on the internet, in social media, and in mainstream media as well.
Which is why I think it’s timely to bring back a post from 2016 entitled “But that can’t be right!“
OK, folks – quick quiz time: complete this saying: “Pride goeth before….”
If you said “a fall”, you’d be wrong. And yet almost everyone would say that.
The actual quote is “Pride goes before DESTRUCTION, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) – but we almost always shorten the verse.
It’s a bit like “Money is the root of all evil” – which should be “THE LOVE of Money is ..” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Another misquote is “Power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – which takes away the nuance of Lord Acton – who actually said “Power TENDS TO corrupt …”
So why am I mentioning this?
E.D. Hirsch made famous the phrase ‘Cultural Literacy‘ for the shared ‘base’ of knowledge and experience that we need, in order to take part in the society in which we operate.
But what if that ‘shared knowledge’ is wrong?
And worse, what if people willingly participate in the spread of that ‘wrong knowledge”?
Just about every day I see a post on social media that is almost certainly wrong.
But I find a dismaying number of people simply don’t bother checking – they just breathlessly pass on whatever the latest outrage is.
I often add a “that’s not true” post, with citations – but more and more, I’m telling Facebook not to show me posts by the worst offenders.
Because the wilfully wrong information that is passed on is not just a nuisance, it’s actually dumbing us down.
If the ‘cultural literacy’ that I referred to is incorrect, then our culture is weakened by that.
If we are willing to pass on things which we suspect may be incorrect – but couldn’t be bothered correcting – then we can’t complain when our leaders lie to us. After all, we have been lying to ourselves.
You may be willing to accept a society that has “Well, who cares if it’s true – I’ll share it anyway” at its base.
But I’m not. And if you are with me, then please – when you see a post that you suspect is wrong, check it – and post a correction.
Because otherwise, we will end up with a society where candidates for high office can just make shit up and spout out any nonsense in order to get elected.
Oops. Too late.
Each week, on Thursdays, we are going to ‘throw back’ to a blog-post from previous years – and see if anything has changed. And in this case? Not much 🙂