The Mis-Information Age? It’s Here To Stay!

Posted by Dave

Musing through yesterday’s news, I read:
1. Johnny Depp was the victim of a fatal traffic accident.
2. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie split up.
Sir Richard Burton (Liz Taylor’s Ex) was also mentioned – twice (in actress Jean Simmons’ obituary and a review of the late-night wars.)

Of course, the problem with this breathless reportage is that all of it was wrong!

Johnny Depp is alive and well, and is only the victim of a story that re-surfaces regularly (and wrongly.) Brad and Angelina swear they’ve never been happier (which is too bad for Jennifer Aniston, who – according to many of the same online sources that reported the split-up – still pines breathlessly for Brad’s return.) And “Sir” Richard Burton properly refers to the English explorer who died in 1890, not the Welsh actor who twice married and divorced Elizabeth Taylor. Burton the actor was awarded an MBE in 1970, but was never knighted.

I for one am not going to spend a lot of time lamenting the “good old days,” when reporting was more accurate. Indeed, I am perfectly thrilled to live in an age when each of us can share our thoughts instantly with the whole world. That is the beauty and power of today’s Information Age – anybody can write anything. Unfortunately, that is also the reason why our current epoch might better be called the “Dis-Information” or “Mis-Information” Age – anybody can write anything (and usually will.)

I’m also not going to propose tougher standards on who should be allowed to write, or what erroneous crap they can foist upon the reading public. That horse has left the barn; Pandora’s box has been opened. We will never return to a time (indeed, such a time never existed) when only “responsible” parties can write “the truth.” Along with all the wonderful facts and opinion now available to us at the speed of light will be lies, half-truths, rumors, and innuendo which are equally accessible and – at first glance – perhaps even plausible.

So – if the writing is not going to be censored – how are we going to avoid ever more incidents of false information being disseminated? The answer – we aren’t. Therefore it behooves us as readers to evolve from our “it must be true – I read it somewhere!” mentality, to filtering data and considering its source. (This is going to be a challenge when one of the most accurate news organizations of late is The National Enquirer.) We’ll have to actually evaluate what we are reading and viewing online, and – of necessity – take into account the vast potential of Photoshop in assessing the believability of every picture we see.

In sum, we are going to have to… (dare I say it?) …THINK! (Please excuse the all-caps. I’m not morphing into Kanye West – really.)

We will decide what is correct from data promoted by multiple and conflicting “news” sources. (Has Obama created “millions” of jobs, “thousands” of jobs, or no jobs? Is the globe warming or cooling?) Our future, and that of our children, will depend on how well We The People sort through the noise. And only one thing is certain: it won’t be easy.

Aldous Huxley introduced us to the term, Brave New World. Well Bunky – we’d better be brave! ‘Cause whatever we choose to call this Age (Information, Dis-Information, etc.), it’s not going to be a place for sissies!


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