According to a study at Stanford University,* people are not very good at telling the difference between real news and fake news..
Since our society believes that critical thinking is as arcane as reading the classics in the original Latin or Greek, it’s no wonder. Besides, it’s how things make you feel that’s important.
Perhaps I’ve always been more skeptical than most, but then, as a child I grew up with advertisements that claimed that nine out of ten doctors recommended a particular brand of cigarette.
There was Senator Joe McCarthy who claimed there were 57—or maybe it was 205—(the number is in dispute) communist party members in the State Department. Of course, he made the whole thing up. In any case, this caused a witch hunt throughout the country; Hollywood actors were blackballed and people were afraid that there was “a Red under every bed!”
Then there was Richard Nixon.
So, you can see why I tend to react to exorbitant claims with, That’s interesting—now prove it.”
Today, anyone can write the headlines. Social media is available to anyone, but instead of acting as an open forum for thoughtful discussion, it has become a “can you top this” free-for-all.
Fact is immaterial compared to sensationalism. In a world of “Breaking News” the web is hungry for ANYTHING to publish, often rerunning stories it published two weeks ago, and a week before that, and . . . .
I’d write more, but now I must go to my secret access to Area 51 for a meeting with Bill Gates, Elvis, and the head of Steve Jobs—kept alive in a jar connected to a constant supply of special nutrients. Together, along with our extraterrestrial business associates, we’re busily working on the fourth world order.
* Read the Stanford University newsletter article and especially the Executive Summary of the study.