It’s election season again, which means almost all manner of social media are abuzz with the latest developments in the world of politics. The newest bit of intellectual delight was Rep Todd ‘Forcible Rape’ Akin speaking out about ‘legitimate’ rape, and how women can magically reject the sperm from fertilizing them. And where did he get that nugget of smarts? More than likely, the Physicians for Life webpage, who proudly tells us that only .1% of ‘forcible’ rapes end in pregnancy. Good luck figuring out how they came to that number, as every other resource in the country has the equivalent of the WTF face in reference to their numbers. This latest incident shows the sad truth, that in an election season, ignorance abounds, with misinformation, half truths, and outright lies. And if there is one thing I cannot abide, it is the wilfully ignorant.
I think it all came from growing up a bit poor. We didn’t have a computer in the house, but my best friend Joe did, and I would spend hours with him poring over the newish internet and everything it could hold. When I got to college, I spent dawn till dusk at the computer lab, reading FAQ’s and waiting ages for ASCII images to slowly load, all to get a sense of what people outside my bubble were like. And as I grew up, so did technology. Libraries scanned in original documents, allowing you to see handwriting from the 1600s. Photo and video sharing software meant people could tell their stories with or without a news network’s help. Possibilities were endless.
But, as the truth could spread, so could lies. Mark Twain had no idea when he said “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” just how prophetic those words would become. In the age where I can access the entirety of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with 3 clicks of a mouse, a mis-truth can spread like wildfire. But, that’s where the technological age shines. You can just as quickly find the primary source for the story you are hearing and discern if it’s real or not. So why don’t people do that?
Several possibilities are available. It could be that the spreader of mis-information trusts their source. When you were little, your mum probably told you the tooth fairy took your teeth, and that Santa delivered your presents. As an adult, if you love Insert News Network Here, you won’t tend to question them. When they tell you that Political Party You Dislike eats babies, you click ‘share’ without thinking twice. It could be that you know what you are saying is a lie, but you’re willing to spread the lie to get what you want. It could be that you are too lazy to see if the thing you’ve just been told is true or not. It could be that you don’t understand just how powerful the thing you are reading this on is, and don’t know that with nearly everything out there, you can find the original source with enough hard work. Or, you could just be too dumb to know any better, and rely on your lizard brain to be scared over any higher cognitive processes.
But trolls and the stupid exist everywhere on Teh Intarwebs, why should it matter to correct them? After all, if they are too lazy or dumb to continually spread mis-truths, they certainly won’t learn. Because while they may be malicious (intentionally or no), the people who read their stuff may or may not know they are lying, and the cycle continues. Let me give you an example…
Willfully Ignorant: “If Romney is elected, he will spend federal funds trying to find evidence that tapirs existed in the modern US, because the Book of Mormon mentions them specifically”.
Me: “Wow, that sounds implausible at best, do you have a primary source for that?”
WI: “I just read it! He’s going to spend 450 million dollars on an archaeological expedition to do this!”
Me: *Checks google for any hint of this, finds a bunch of ‘citizen journalists’ talking about it, but no one has any links to actual factual sources, like a spreadsheet showing money allocated, or even a full quote from Romney about it*
Me: “There is no solid evidence for this, where is your actual proof?”
WI: “WAKE UP, THIS IS HAPPENING! You may be blind, but I know the truth! You must be an idiot not to know this is going down!!!”
Me: *Ah, I’m dealing with a moron.*
Repeat ad nauseam.
So while I can’t stop this person from pulling their head out of the sand, I at least stopped a casual reader from thinking his words were anything less than complete bollocks.
With everything else, when you are dealing with voters, mis-truths and lies aren’t just insulting, they are dangerous. When you spread your Romney/Tapir lie, someone who doesn’t have the time/inclination/smarts to figure out your porkie might actually think there is a hint of truth to that, and may actually vote with that ‘knowledge’ in their heads. And that, to me, is the biggest slap in the face. That partially because of your stupidity, the national discourse falls to a point that elections are decided.
Now, it’s not all your fault, of course. People need to have due diligence to try their hardest to separate fact from fiction. And while you can whine and cry about the ‘lame stream media’ distorting the truth, if each person is in charge of themselves, have some dignity and cop to your mistakes. Because every time you click that ‘share’ button without even taking 10 seconds out of your day to see if it might be real, you perpetuate ignorance. And while you do that because you are a troll, or because you are too stupid to know any better, the end result is the same – people are exposed to your lies.
There are only three or four generations in the whole of mankind where I can think that intellectually the world went backwards, and those were just before the various dark ages. Why would you intentionally try to drag the rest of us back, when so many have worked so hard to help us go forward? The world may never know. What I do know is, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of your porkies, and mis-information. I’m sick of you making the rest of us dumber by your very presence. I’m simply sick of it. Get your heads out of your asses, look up stuff before you open your mouth, or expect me and whole lotta people like me to call you out on your bullshit.
And for those of you who have that crazy aunt that forwards you emails about Romney and the tapirs, or a ‘friend’ on facebook who continually word vomits on your wall, or even that neighbor who whispers over the fence about the newest thing they ‘know’ about the candidates, you aren’t doing them or yourselves any favors by humoring them. You can nicely show them the actual, factual info out there. They may still come to the same conclusion, but at least they’ve been given the opportunity to see the reality of the situation. I’m sure at some point someone should have sat Todd Akin down and showed him that he had been lied to, it could have saved him a great deal of embarrassment. Your friends and relatives deserve the truth, and so do you.