Thursday, December 08, 2016

Do You Know Anyone?

Perhaps she's a friend or acquaintance. Maybe he's a relative or a co-worker. They could be in their 20s or their 70s, doesn't matter. What sets them apart from other friends and other acquaintances, other relatives or other co-workers, is that they have already succumbed to a belief in fake news and conspiracy theories. They believe stuff that you realize is batshit crazy.

The problem isn't that this woman or that man has gone a little bit spinny. The problem is that they're in plentiful company and, once they've gone down this path, their powers of deduction and critical thinking atrophy, the void being filled with an appetite for conspiracy fantasies. Collectively they stand as some sort of opposition to those who adhere to evidence-based reason. By the sheer weight of their numbers they assert a degree of faux credibility that is nonetheless marketable in such fields as commerce and politics.

Fake news and conspiracy theory are having a telling effect on something very important - climate science. These pre-conditioned minds are fertile ground for the denialist community. The Guardian reports that radical right denialist web sites such as Alex Jones, Breitbart, the Drudge Report and others are drawing in the feeble minded by the scores, possibly hundreds of millions.

The problem is not that these sites exist but that not enough people seem to know the difference between actual news, fake news, partisan opinion and conspiratorial bullshit. One of those people is the president-elect of the United States.

Either that, or people don’t even care to differentiate between fake and real, especially if what they read taps into their own prejudices.

For decades, the fossil fuel industry and so-called “free market” ideologues at conservative thinktanks have misled the public on the science and the risks of climate change.

Now, the decades of material produced by that climate science denial machinery is finding a new audience. Those talking points are being reheated and screamed, in FULL CAPS.

The lady I know is university-educated and retired. She's addicted to fake news and conspiracy theories. She spreads them around on her Facebook page. I'm told she brings them up in conversation at social gatherings which has already cost her many of her oldest friends. When she is confronted, she falls back with cover lines such as 'who knows' or 'it's important to hear both sides of the story.'


Dana said...

Or it just be that she's an angry old lady.

Anonymous said...

Remember kiddies, unless your news is brought to you by a giant corporation it is FAKE NEWS.

Of course, I shouldn't need to state the obvious, but since we live in the "post-truth era": corporations would never lie to you, get involved in political campaigns, or forward self-serving agendas by spinning narratives and implanted memes in the public psyche.

Corporations are our benevolent overlords! Just look at the beautiful world they have wrought!

Marie Snyder said...

Unfortunately I know people like that who are educators.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, you're missing the point. I've long been a critic of the corporate media cartel and its many failings. That said there are many credible sources from which fake news can be readily discerned. Among these sources are international agencies, NGOs, think tanks, science journals and more.

If you choose to live in a "post truth" world, at least accept that's your own doing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the link, Dana. I'll digest that later. I've got firewood to get in and a few groceries to pick up before the next storm hits.

The Mound of Sound said...

Marie, how could educators, entrusted with teaching our kids logic and critical thinking, succumb to this Gullibilly stuff? Don't their colleagues call them on it? What you've said is a bit disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Fake news from major outlets is a problem?


Toby said...

What I find scarier is that advertising works; people believe what they see/hear in ads. How many of your friends understand that Kinder Morgan plans on shipping dilbit? How many think Kinder Morgan plans on shipping oil?

The Mound of Sound said...

The Alberta government and the Oil Patch were able to manufacture a narrative in which the Athabasca bitumen fields were to be called the "oil sands" rather than the "tar sands." They even got the CBC to use oil rather than tar or bitumen. Given the pre-petroleum history of bitumen, i.e. patching birchbark canoes, etc., it's been a PR coup.

I would like to see someone take an unused tank of the sort you find in oil tank farms, fill it with seawater, pour in one 50-gallon barrel of dilbit and then monitor what happens over 24 hours; 2, 3, 4 and 7 days; 2, 3, 4 weeks and then once or twice every following month. Because those tanks are sealed it would be able to capture the emissions from the diluent evaporation as well as the rate of chemical leaching into the water.

It's such an obvious experiment that I have to wonder why the government or the fossil fuelers haven't already run it if only to prove their product relatively benign. Or perhaps they have run it and they know the answers and don't want them to see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

Do you know anyone?
Yes the Main Street Media.

The omission of news is just as degenerative as false /fake news.