Friday, March 16, 2012

How Gullible Are You?

I have, apparently, taken most of this week off from reaching out and blogging/tweeting. It has not been intentional. Sometimes it seems as if the message is stale, and repeating it over and over gets tedious for both writer and reader.

Today, though, I break my silence to comment on citing sources from the Internet and our general laziness when it comes to figuring out if a source is accurate and reliable or not. I got into a plagiarism discussion with The Feminist Breeder (do not visit this site if you are easily offended; she speaks her mind and has posted some controversial things), and I listened to a story on political dirt-digging on NPR. These two events came together this morning when someone forwarded me a ridiculous, completely untrue story from an unreliable source about Pepsi using aborted fetus cells in its beverages (I refuse to post the link. Google it if you must).

It seems that we are so lazy about our information that whenever it comes across our desk, we skim it, believe it and send it along without checking the source, the bias or even pausing a moment to think about its possible veracity; the authors of We're With Nobody call this "truth by repetition." We believe whatever we read because it has been around for so long or we have seen it in multiple places. The fine art of vetting a website remains largely untaught, and people everywhere take at face value whatever they are reading. Even those who follow up with "research" don't take the time to consider the sources they are using to prove or disprove whatever they have read, ending up drawing faulty conclusions based on opinion, conjecture and bias. We are, essentially, looking for sources that confirm what we believe, rather than looking for sources that will reveal the truth.

There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. ~Mark Twain~

The granddaddy of the zinger (Ben Franklin being the great granddaddy) was correct. We can take information and twist it to whatever purpose we have, but that twist doesn't change whether or not something is true; the twist makes it more convenient for the twister. It makes it easier to continue to proceed through life without ever learning anything new, without ever opening your mind to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your assumptions are wrong.

Perhaps if we all sat down and took a hard look at facts we might believe differently. If we combine that hard look at facts with compassion, perhaps we might all act differently. For now, though, I will settle for people simply taking the time to ask the question, "Where did this come from?" before simply forwarding the link/story/soundbite.

Thank you, and have a great weekend!

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