Yes, we live in the Information Age. Human nature being what it is, that also implies the Misinformation Age, or put another way, The Age of Deception.
Without proof or evidence (pieces of information that are collected into relevant facts that accurately describe what really happened), to many, the moon landings of the last century became government sponsored Hollywood productions. Thanks to YouTube, the Flat Earth Society has millions of new members. Thanks to the QAnon conspiracy theory mentality, ridiculousness rules over large sections of the population.
In growing numbers, we humans are being deceived by the misuse of technology that was supposed to bring us together.
Conspiracy theories abound. How can you tell the difference between what is real vs. what is imaginary?
Jovan Byford in The Conversation:
How do we differentiate between genuine plots and conspiracies, and those that we usually associate with the term “conspiracy theory” – namely an erroneous or misguided way of thinking?
One time honored methodology to debunk the many conspiracy theories that seem to procreate and propagate daily is to use common sense. If it sounds ridiculous there is a good chance it is ridiculous and not based in fact.
A simple question to ask is, “Where are the facts?” Or, “What is the evidence?” If there are no answers to such questions then it is likely we’re dealing with an imaginary conspiracy theory and not reality.
From The Economist:
(Conspiracy theory) proponents dispense with evidence and explanation. Their charges take the form of bare assertion: “The election is rigged!” Yet the accusation does not point to any evidence of fraud.
What about “fake news?”
First, we need to differentiate news from opinion. A plane crash is news. A pandemic is news. A disagreement is opinion.
Whatever CNN’s Anderson Cooper and colleagues say about an event is not news. It’s opinion. The same holds true for Fox News’ Sean Hannity and the less factual conspiracy theory manufacturing plants that describe themselves as news organizations but are not.
How does such misinformation spread so rapidly?
The new media—social media of course, but even basic things like internet message boards—challenge the traditional gatekeeping function of editors and producers. Today anyone can say anything to everyone in the world instantly and for free. And because validation of conspiracy claims takes the form of repetition and assent, even the most casual “likes” and “retweets” give authority to senseless, destructive charges (“a lot of people are saying”). We are seeing the political effects of this change and one of the first things we’re seeing is the spread of a politically malignant form of conspiracy without the theory.
Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it was true. Just because it came from a self-described news organization doesn’t mean it’s fact.
A touch of skepticism can go a long way.
That makes it important is to consider the source and follow the facts, as opposed to making large jumps in logic.
An obscure pizzeria in northwest Washington, DC, becomes, in the eyes of some, a center of international child sex trafficking run by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. A summer military training exercise becomes, in the eyes of some, an attempt by the United States Army to impose martial law on the state of Texas. The murder of twenty elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut, becomes, in the eyes of some, a US government action designed to advance gun control legislation. An election without any notable irregularities adverse to the successful Republican nominee becomes, in the eyes of some (in particular, the president himself), a “rigged” election.
See the leaps?
Where are the facts? Where is the evidence? Where is the audit trail of information that leads to a conclusion?
And, importantly, where are the people involved in such large scale conspiracies? After all, a conspiracy of any kind doesn’t work very well when more than a dozen people are involved, right?
A little skepticism will go a long way on the road to reality. To get started, I recommend an occasional visit to Snopes.