How the internet gets it way wrong sometimes
A letter to a friend:
People (including me) sometimes sit at their computers and merrily type comments which seem innocuous or possibly humorous to them – but to other people they may be very thoughtless, offensive or downright silly. For that reason, I almost never use Facebook to express opinions on controversial topics – especially politics.
I was telling you about those two characters in my family, my nephew Brent (Ruthanne’s boy) and my nephew Rusty (son of my cousin Virginia). They are from the same general gene pool - but Brent is a bit to the right of Adolf Hitler, Barry Goldwater (remember both you and I supported him in 64!) and Attila the Hun. Rusty, on the other hand, makes Bernie Sanders, Che Guevara and Karl Marx look like arch-conservatives. Needless to say when these two nutters get to arguing (and I use the term “arguing” very loosely) on Facebook it is very ugly – but at the same time entertaining – if you like watching train wrecks that is. Me, I just watch what they age doing and occasionally chip in with something like – “hey, the answers are not usually to be found in black and white – it’s the shades of grey where you are more likely to find some sense”.
Needless to say, they ignore me, mostly.
I think it’s a product of age. When you get old youngsters just think you have lost it and should shuffle off the mortal coil quietly and shut up. (Perhaps, they are right)
My tactic is to use Facebook to look at photos of friends, family (particularly grandchildren) and keep track of the Chiefs and the Royals. (Interestingly, you can have a good, quality discussion with both Brent and Rusty about sport, Chiefs and Royals style – a topic we all agree on!!)
If I find the urge to spout off I use my blog. That way if anyone is actually interested in my opinion they have to navigate to the blog – i.e. it’s not on Facebook where almost anyone can see it. Seems sensible to me.
Regarding our President. I absolutely agree that every President belongs to the whole country, not just those who voted for him or only to those who share his opinions. We are all free to agree with him on matters of policy or to take another stance. Therefore the office of President deserves respect – not the actual office-holder.
Take “fake news”. This seems to be a favourite of the President. And, he is in many ways correct to point out that not everything has equal value out in cyberspace. The problem is many folks now-a-days are getting their “news” from Facebook and other non-verifiable sources.
The fact is there are some facts!
For example you can find people who believe Kennedy was shot by someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald. (Polls often show that a majority of American people support this idea) Most of the conspiracy theories are wrong, but entertaining. So, should we stop folks from blogging about the Kennedy assassination? No, of course not, everyone is entitled to take a view and express an opinion.
A better example: did the Russians try to influence the election of President Trump? There seems to be some evidence, but is it conclusive. No, not yet. And if they did, so what? Is it likely that significant numbers of voters could be swayed by Russian propaganda? Not likely. But and this is the important point – just like the Kennedy assassination, if you think they did you are perfectly entitled to do so and it is un-American to insist that those who hold that view are stupid, vile, or trying to subvert the electoral process. What opponents should be doing is finding facts to support their position, Same for the other side. Here’s where “fake news” comes in – it seems that a number of folks are not able to differentiate between some old bovine faeces on Facebook and even the semblance of a reliable fact.
This is a big problem.
I remember having an argument not long ago with James (you know, tall guy – father of Noam and Maya) about the Dutch Tulip Bulb speculation in the 17th century. Most people think they know vaguely about this and use it as an example of how things can get out of hand by speculation (particularly in stocks and shares). To my chagrin, James turned out to be more right than I. A classic example of “the problem ain’t that folks are ignorant, it’s just that they know so damn much that ain’t true”.
(By the way this is another classic – most folks think it was Mark Twain who came up with this – no it was Josh Billings – you can look it up its a FACT)
Back to the bulbs. It turns out that the speculation in tulips was greatly over-estimated and many other factors led to the collapse of this particular market, Again, there is a lot of stuff on Facebook and the internet about Tulips – but you have to wade through the Bull dust to find out any real facts.
Most folks seem to have lost either the time or inclination to do this.
Likewise, folks can easily find information which reinforces their crazy, mistaken ideas. That don’t make it so!
Over this side of the pond we have the Brexiteers and the Remoaners. They argue, bicker and threaten each other with relish. They muster facts or pseudo-facts with abandon. But, of course, they never get any closer to agreement or understanding. Perhaps this penchant for self-centred preoccupation is just in our genes?