What sources of information do the muddlers trust? It used to be that the checks and balances of scientific research, news media, conventional publishing, even government documents were well in place, understood, and able to be challenged or balanced as the user chose. But now, too much information is too much with us and some of us are going crazy.
Remember Pizzagate? A man with a rifle charges into the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., ready to rid the world of Hilary Clinton’s child pornography ring in the basement. He fired one or two shots and was arrested, No one was hurt. Whew! Of course, there was no child sex ring; in fact. there was no basement. Welcome to the world of the information nitwits.
How could this happen? How could someone agree to be so hideously misinformed? Welcome to the Internet you may not know. To know it and it’s roll in Pizzagate a bit better, start with Reddit’s forum on Trump, 4chan and, the more extreme,8chan alt-right message boards, then go the more familiar YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and from them leap into InfoWars and Breitbart. (The NYT lays it out beautifully. The Rolling Stone digs much deeper. The Washington Post covers the “crisis actors” in the Parkland school shooting and finds most of the same sources and procedures.)
Cass Sunstein writes of information spread and conspiracy theories. Then he watched as his ideas published in little-read academic journals got picked up and distorted by far left, then far right bloggers who then placed articles in lesser-read sources, from which any key parts of the articles were picked up and spread by InfoWars and Glenn Beck on Fox News. It is a similar tale of an obscure entity, distorted and spread without challenge to a blindly believable audience who then act, unfortunately.
Do you see how a pattern for the creation and spread (or production and distribution) of fake news is emerging? Timing, sources, sequence, changes, spread, audience, authority, and influence all figure in. We as citizens, liberal arts grads, and especially we as librarians and readers, need to understand how information evolves from nothing to something crazy with consequences. We need to give new, well-argued life to “common sense” and take back our future.
Know your sources. Love the search. Spread the word. Roseledge Books forever.