We’ve all been in a situation, one time or another, when someone we socialize with, or a colleague at work, will state something that is obviously false. Of course our immediate instinct is to correct the misinformation because it’s too easy, in this day and time, for that information to go viral on some platform and it becomes a Herculean feat to disabuse others of something they’ve come to believe is true, based on little to no evidence. Recently, we’ve all been witness to a smear campaign, by major media outlets and others, towards a group of Catholic high school boys that went out of control so quickly, that even when evidence was presented to show what was believed dod not happen, there are still people that believe the initial libelous statements – from trusted sources.
That’s an extreme example but they are becoming more common because of social media. I don’t blame social media itself, they don’t have a way to effectively sequester those postings that could be labeled fake news because if it’s breaking, they have no idea at the time whether the post or tweet is true or not. What begins as a tiny ripple, ends up becoming a tidal wave of speculation and vitriol. It’s difficult to stem that tide as one conservative blogger recently discovered when he saw a tweet, and responded that what was posted was a lie. Yes, that’s the word he used. He was suspended for abuse towards another person. It didn’t last long because there was an outcry and Twitter responded that his account had been suspended by mistake, but I think the point is made here.
What we seem to lack in society today is a modicum of skepticism. If something is too good to be true, maybe it isn’t. What’s worse is that many have tossed away their critical thinking skills (If they had them to begin with), because whatever it is, happens to fit with their personal worldview. We tend to look for information that reinforces our personal views, rather than change that view because what we have believed for so long is sacrosanct to us and anything that disturbs that consciousness , must be not only not believed, but suppressed as well.
I’ve witnessed this mindset in the area of Social Justice. Disagreement is not allowed, and inconvenient facts are ignored, because it’s more important to believe, than to know. What does that sound like? If we call ourselves skeptics, it’s incumbent upon us to call out those that would, maliciously or not, spread misinformation. If nothing else, we should not be joining the mob, and call for others to wait until we can actually be able to discern what is the truth, For others, we need to call a lie a lie and call those who intentionally try and stir up a mob what they are – liars. Yes, using that word is difficult for most of us, but when it’s applicable, no one should be afraid to use it.
It shouldn’t matter whether it’s online, or in a personal situation. Of course it’s much easier online, since most people I have encountered in my life find it difficult to do what comes naturally online, face-to-face. But none of us should be adverse to the latter; the consequences for silence are the same,