Dissing the Disinformation

At some point in the earliest days of e-mail, the internet began to take away our power of critical thought. It moved in slowly, taking hold like a cancer and then spreading. It preyed on our trust. It made us think it wanted to protect us from things or tell us about interesting things of which we were unaware. But the truth was, it was making us stupiderer. Soon, like the bleating sheep it wanted us to become, we began blindly forwarding an unwarranted tonnage of unfiltered bullshit. Some of us were telling everyone we knew about reverse phone-number scams and how to make famous cookies and how to avoid getting knocked out in parking lots by perfume-bottle-wielding bandits and how to get Bill Gates to give you a couple thousand dollars and how every e-mail you sent equaled five cents toward a kidney for some sick kid whom the doctors were otherwise just going to let die.

At first it was easy to spot because it came through our e-mail. All you had to do was look for this in your inbox:

Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Re:

This served two purposes. First, it let you know that a steaming load of incorrect information was coming your way. Second, it clued you in that you knew a gullible person who thought you were gullible and who knew a number of other gullible people with equally gullible friends.

But in the last few years, this lingering evil has found a new outlet. The Facebook wall. No warning. No chance to look away. One day you pop open your newsfeed and someone you know, who until now had seemed a reasonable and intelligent person, is all but forcibly telling you that you desperately need to know about something like this:

You recognize it, of course, because it’s been on 12 billion Facebook walls along with its story: A bullfighter suddenly comes to a moral crossroads, the realization that his chosen profession is cruel and vicious, something he can no longer abide. And thus, mid-bullfight, he sits on the edge of the ring, an apparently forgiving bull standing before him, the former foe now a sympathetic ally.

This, appropriately, is bullshit.

Let’s think about this–which is something people haven’t been doing before slapping this photo and the sappy story tagged to it on their walls. First off, can you, as a rational, critical-thinking person, honestly believe that in the very moment a bullfighter is suddenly overcome with remorse for his chosen profession, the bull he’s been working toward killing, most likely half-crazed with a pain-inflicted fight response, is going to look at the guy sitting there in his despondence and think, in cow-thought language, “He appears to be coming to a decision of some great importance. He probably needs some time alone with his thoughts. I’ll just stand here passively.”?

No. That six-hundred-pound goring machine would smell the moment of weakness, seize it and put one of those nasty horns right through that guy’s spleen and laugh about it.

But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt, and say that the bull in question is in touch with his feelings. Let’s consider the bullfighter. Let’s say that, as in the case of Álvaro Múnera, the torero who is misidentified in the photo above, you have been a bullfighter since you were 14. You understand the bull and you understand how bulls act when you’re busily plunging swords into them while wearing painfully tight pants. You know–indeed, it’s been drilled into you–that you’re standing toe to toe with a fucking killing machine, the very species that has taken out people in your position because they slipped up for about the space of a heartbeat, if that. Given that, do you think that when your career-devastating moment of moral clarity hits you like a veritable bolt from the blue, you’d sit down three feet away from this murderous steak with a bad attitude? No. You might stop, yes. Perhaps you would leave the arena. You can do that. But would you sit down and give Mr. Angry Cow a free shot? Not unless along with your moment of clarity you also asked for a side order of suicidal.

So, no, what we are seeing here in not bullfighter and bull having a metaphysical moment of simpatico. It’s better than that. Because the truth of this captured moment highlights how people have just flung themselves bodily onto this bandwagon of pure manure and inflicted a wealth of disinformation on their friends.

See, what the bullfighter is actually doing is called desplante.  This is a thing that they do in bullfighting. It’s part of the show. The bullfighter sits on the rail to show his disregard for and dominance over the bull. Now, we should all be able to agree that when you decide to be a dick to a bull, the bull has no actual understanding what you’re doing. It doesn’t think, “Wow, is he ignoring me? Is he actually pretending I’m not even here?” No, it does not. I would imagine what it thinks is more along the lines of “moo.” The bull doesn’t care that you’re being a dick. So you’re just showing off for the audience. If the bull makes a move on you, bam, you’re over your mock despondence and jamming another pointy thing into its baby backs.

The only shred of truth in this ever-so-overshared photo is that Munera did, in fact, become an activist crusading against bullfighting. You know, 150 or so dead bulls and a crippling accident later. Oh, wait–did the story under the photo not mention that Munera quit after being gored and left paraplegic? Of course it didn’t. That would just ruin the narrative. And just to fire one more nail into this thing, that quote that runs with the picture, the one about him looking into the bull’s eyes? Also not from Munera. That was writer Antonio Gala, who is not, nor has he ever been, a bullfighter.

How do I know all this? Stand by for a revelation, kids. When I first saw the photo, I was curious–because, again, it didn’t make sense. So I went onto our friend the interwebtubes and I looked it up. I ordered me a bowl of truth, and it was tasty. This revelation will repeat later in the post.

Hey, have you seen this one yet?

This is the one that got me going on this post. This irked me like crazy. But rather than bandy about on this one, let’s just cut to the problematic chase, which is this: The statue on the left was sculpted in 2007 by artist Theodore Bonev. It celebrates the 159th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and it’s at a roundabout in St. Maarten. Those last two sentences contain about six quantifiable facts. How did I come by them? Again, I looked them up. I started at Snopes, which should be everyone’s first stop in the presence of perceived bullshit. Then I followed a link, the one I put right there in Mr. Bonev’s name, and it validated the information for me. (In fact, that page notes that “The ‘Lady Liberty’ statue at the Agrément roundabout is probably the best-known public sculpture by Theodore Bonev…”) My total research/debunking time: about 10 minutes. Here’s another fun factoid about Lady Liberty, which comes to you via the folks at Snopes, from a 1986 NY Post article they researched since it’s referenced in the longer, even more mistake-laden account that apparently spawned this photo: Lady Liberty’s face originally was the rich brown-red of the copper+ in which she is cast. The familiar green is the result of years of oxidation. For a few early years, explains writer Eric Fettman, the statue would have turned black* before the green began to set it. Fettman claims that the Statue’s creator, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, knew this would happen. (Good metalworkers understand how metal works. Go figure.)

But hey, isn’t it easier to foster some extra resentment toward our country’s long-standing record of racial intolerance by claiming that we rejected a statue 123 years before it was created? Yes! We are some seriously proactive ignorant bastards, aren’t we?

I know that there are some anti-Snopes people out there, or those who would challenge my use of it as a source. (It’s been done.) But you can’t refute a reference that–hang onto your hats, outright sheepish believers!–cites its sources. Its legitimate sources. Holy research! Sweet mother of web-based-journalism, how can this be?

There are people in my own circle of friends who do this kind of thing all the time, this spreading of disinformation via their own lack of information. What makes me nuts is that several of these people have jobs that are fact-dependent, that require critical thinking or enhanced deductive capabilities. In some cases, lives are in the balance and only a well-considered action is acceptable. Intelligent, detailed, capable people who toss all that shit right out the window when they see a photo with words pasted onto it. Then it’s game on, facts be damned.** Some have been guilty of this since the Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: days, and they have gotten downright pissy with me for calling them out on this willful spread of low-grade ca-ca.

Why do I care, you ask? Because it’s a waste of time. Because I want to believe that the people around me aren’t knee-jerk emotional reactionists willing to dispense with logic because the internet is such a shining bastion of quality information. Because it takes no time at all to stop, consider, and question. Because truth is better than bullshit. Because right is better than wrong, especially when wrong does nothing to move us forward. In the first case here, we’re being sold a bill of goods that contains a number of lies. Do you want to spread your message that harming animals for sport is wrong? (And it is.) Then give us the truth of it. Not a misidentified photo, a mis-attributed quote, and a story that never happened. If you lie to me and I find out, why should I be on your side? If you make a fool of me for falling for your made-up scenario, why do I want to hear what you have to say? There must be enough true stories about this. I get that the one that yanks at the heart-strings might be the most effective. But asking other people to pass it off as truth? That’s just wrong.

In the case of the second picture, the intent is clearly to cast aspersions on white America–ooh, weren’t we bad, sending back the African-looking statue? I think we can all agree that white America has done enough actual and genuinely crappy things in relation to Africans and African-Americans over the last 200-plus years that what we don’t need is a fabricated version that can be disproved with one Google search. Are we so quick to believe that we are an awful species that when we see “evidence” of it–which, come on, has to raise a little suspicion just based on the size disparity of the statues–we take it as truth and repeat the lie without asking?

We want to be outraged. We feed on it and we regurgitate it and we force-feed it to others to validate our outrage. We let it override reason. We cease to think. Reaction without consideration = Facebook postings. The Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: of the new millennium.

Many years ago, during a period historians call “the twentieth century,” if you went around willfully spreading an endless stream of quantifiably incorrect information, you would have been referred to as what was known back then as “an idiot.” Honestly. You can look that up, if you can be bothered to take a moment and do the research.

Don’t be an idiot.

In the meantime, since pictures with words on them are the new Gospel, let me leave you with this, courtesy of my dear friend Mr. Ed O’Rourke, based on a photo taken by my dear friend Mr. Chris Tilden.


+A thank-you to reader David Duarte for catching an error in my post. The Statue of Liberty is made of copper, not bronze as I originally wrote. I looked too quickly at the quote in the Snopes article and didn’t go back to check!

*I recognize that there is a difference between a black-colored face and an African/African-American face. However, the original diatribe notes that “the dark original face of the Statue of Liberty can be seen in the New York Post [referenced above].” That darkness, noted as evidence of the statue originally being modeled after an African woman, was the color of the bronze.

**As a long-lost friend use to like to say, “I saw it spray-painted on a bridge. It must be true.”

129 Comments

Filed under Humor, Life, World

129 responses to “Dissing the Disinformation

  1. Rob

    Great post, and so true!!!

    This reminds me of a story I saw somewhere…John Shannahan died after eating Pop Rocks and drinking a Diet Coke, and is actually being portrayed by Chris Elliot. I know it’s true because if you play Enya’s 3rd album, “Shepard Moons” backward, you can hear her say so, at least that’s what the Facebook post said…

  2. Bleating sheep, lol…when I people-sheepdrones (from a distance), I often belt out a hardy :: baa-haaaaaa ::

  3. (hey bob…could you add the word “see” in my reply during all your spare time? … so it reads when I SEE people — blah blah… thanks ~Sonya )

  4. JOHN … ok I stop now baaaaaa

  5. I’m an idiot today. I embrace it, ha. Thanks, John.

  6. excellent points. we really are in a time where we have to question our emotional responses and check with logic and evidence. thanks for sharing…

  7. Daniel Abram

    The internet has a short attention span and craves what is controversial.

  8. You’ve opened quite a can of worms there. Speaking for myself, there is no way I would have identified either of those pictures as “true” — and not because I did research. I might have liked the first because it told an appealing story (ie, it was true in the way stories are true) and the second because it was a joke. The thought that there are people who would have taken the pictures as literal truth is disturbing. But many of those “likes” could have represented perspectives like my own, too.

    • Problem being the number of people who not only took it as true–which is fine, if that’s how you process–but then spread it out there as truth. That’s my issue. Believe what you want to believe, but before you move it along, make sure there’s actual truth in it.

  9. Just Some Guy

    God bless Snopes.com the first port of call for any (and all) dubious interweb “truths”. On December 22nd 2012 we’ll probably discover that the end of the world fears and the Mayan calendar rumours were started via a rogue Facebook post that someone ‘Liked’.

  10. It works, because people are complete suckers for stories of emotional content, and don’t find facts necessary.

  11. Thank you for showing me yet another reason to be happy I left Facebook behind last year. I think the internet was created with the best of intentions but with the wealth of true, and false, information out there, it is overall making people dumber. Why remember who wrote the Declaration of Independence when you can just look it up on Wikipedia and forget it 5 minutes later? I’m beginning to hate my generation.

  12. I grew up when there was no internet (back when I had to walk 20 miles in neck deep snow uphill both ways to school every day), so I know that people have always lacked the power of critical thought (yes, that especially applies to me). The internet just makes it easier to see.

    • Plus, it’s just increased bullshit’s speed capacity. Big loads of it fly much faster now. We used to have to rely on word of mouth!
      (Hmm…”bullshit” and “mouth” are two words that really shouldn’t be used together…)

  13. Love the comparisons to the early email chain letters. So true, it’s exactly what they are, just presented in a different manner

  14. Great post! This happens to me every time (and this will sound age-ist, but it is just my experience) an older friend or relative gets an email address. All of a sudden I’m getting every chain letter on the planet. Again. Grandma, stop sending me “proof” that lemons can cure cancer!

  15. My favorite emails are from my mom. She always prefaces them by saying “I didn’t look this up on snopes, but I wanted to pass it on just in case…” Like that lets her off the hook for passing on crap. GAH!

    • It’s one thing to not know about Snopes. It’s another to be aware of it, and not use it! Bad mommy!

      • Jennifer

        My mother, too. When I advised her (strongly) to ignore and delete a get-rich-quick email, she asked, “But shouldn’t I at least respond with an email thanking them for letting me know and telling them that I’m not interested?”

      • That’s the best story here so far!

  16. Couldn’t agree more. Judy F

  17. Fantastic post! I live in Spain and I am completely against bull-fighting.. However, I would not just take a photo like that at face (book) value and pass it on or ‘share’ it WITHOUT checking it first! And even if it the message was valid, I still wouldn´t pass it on, and it annoys me when people do. Again, great post and congratulations on becoming Freshly Pressed :-)

  18. I believe before the internet, the “chain letter” type of hoax was referred to as a wives’ tale.

    People have always said, done, and thought stupid things. The internet just makes it possible to find more stupidity in a shorter amount of time, and from a larger source group, than one could do by word-of-mouth alone.

    I’ve had people tell me–not online–all manner of bizarre things, from “your hair will fall out and you’ll go bald if you don’t brush it X number of times a day” (I still don’t, and it still hasn’t) to “you’ll get AIDS (or a similar disease) if, after you bleed (eg. from a cut) your shed blood touches your exposed skin.”

    • At least with the old chain letters it took some effort to pass the stupidity along. You had to rewrite it or retype it X number of times, address all the envelopes, have the stamps, head for the post office–I mean, you had to be SERIOUSLY committed to spreading the bullshit. Now it’s too easy. The rampant rumor-mongers of the 21st century are just plain lazy! ;-)

    • I agree. Gullible people have always been around. There is a huge amount of stupidity on the Internet (a huge amount of smart, too). But I am not stupider because the bad stuff washes in on the etide on a regular basis. Just annoyed at having to houseclean/ignore/shake it off.

  19. Ah, blind faith! What a world we would have without you.
    Superb piece, but excuse me now please, must go and Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Re:

  20. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Cat Woman and commented:
    This should be the instructions for the internet.

  21. In general, I completely agree with everything you have written. That being said, I don’t engage in the FB thing, so missed the first one (and, it would seem, many more like it).

    Worse than this kind of thing is that people can peddle bald-faced lies unchallenged by a slavish media in a massively important arena (Romney Lies: http://www.snopes.com/politics/romney/realmitt.asp).

    A judicious lie can be a helpful thing, but it would appear that being stingy with truth is paying too many dividends for too many people too much of the time.

    So, a timely fresh pressing…

  22. Pingback: Truth Matters « Blue Lyon

  23. Damn. My sentiments exactly. Linked and commented on at Blue Lyon, my sorely neglected blog.

    • Don’t feel bad about being sorely neglected–it’s the way of the blog! In six months of posting I didn’t log as many visits, total, as I have today with the Freshly Pressed. Now the trick is to keep some of you people around to read more!

      • Blue Lyon got lots of my attention for about five years. Now I’ve got another addiction, and writing has taken a backseat. I’ll be back!

  24. Great post :) There’s another annoying post which says “Share this to see the magic trick”. Well it actually does show a magic trick – showing how many people are stupid enough in Facebook.

  25. Congratulations, my friend. Much as i enjoy your food posts, this one was timely, relevant, and entertaining.

  26. runawayserfer

    True story: I sent this essay around to a few friends and one sent me back a one-sentence reply: “I don’t read animal stories.” So I guess maybe there’s a corollary to your post in her strange refusal to even open the link. (She’s credulous in the way you describe so maybe she was faking the whole animal-story allergy.)

  27. I agree with everything you’ve written here. But I don’t find FB sharing of crap nearly as tragic as the refusing to research [mis]information on which people cast their votes, or choose where to spend their money, or which social causes to support. It’s not surprising to me that a lot of people wouldn’t take the time to research a bull photo (BTW, I recently saw it posted and the text is completely changed… to the efforts currently underway to ban the sport in several countries) on FB, because the function of FB seems to be fun, games, and voyeuristic spying on your friends to avoid having to actually talk to them. It surprises (and disappoints) me much more that people don’t care how their Tyson meat was grown or why flat top mining isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or what the low prices at Wal-Mart mean to the people who manufactured those goods. The culture of bread & circuses tends not to care. Unfortunately.

    • Well, there’s the thing underlying the post, really–that we’ve become a culture of blind acceptance rather than critical thought, and it runs through so much of what we do. Naturally, there has to some level of accepting in all things, but it’s the way we’ve dispensed with taking the time to question that’s the problem. Knee-jerk responses abound, and then it’s compounded when people accept it as truth. It’s certainly at its worst in the political forum. One misquote becomes a campaign stance… I just want us to realize that the time required to stop and think doesn’t actually remove a big chunk from your day.

  28. I usually just share pictures of Boo, the adorable Pomeranian, who is labeled as the “the world’s cutest dog.” That’s not spreading disinformation, that’s just spreading cuteness which I don’t think is a crime.

    But I did share a picture of a Back to the Future screen capture showing the dates on the Dilorean in which Marty McFly traveled to the future. Somebody doctored the photo and changed the year in which the car traveled from 2015 to 2012 and I shared it, before a savvy friend pointed out the error in the picture. From now on I am going to be more careful about these types of pictures (unless it involves cute animals).

  29. Sarah Harris

    This is so awesome! Well said, well said! I have been guilty with the panda hugging the leg of the owner because he “fears for his life during an [insert natural disaster here]!” I am now reformed. I am still laughing over matadors in painfully tight pants and the thought that when you’re asking “Do we really think that…” there could be someone going “YES! Go on!!!” Rarely does a long-ish post get my full attention but I enjoyed every word!

  30. My Facebook heroes are the people who post the Snopes link directly in the comments under the picture of the little boy who will have his Mega Cancer cured if his picture gets eleventy-billion Likes.

    My other hero? The Credible Hulk: http://weknowmemes.com/2012/06/the-credible-hulk/

  31. Thanks for your thoughtful post, and congrats on being FP!
    Long before the internet, remember the days when ‘reality tv,’ meant if you saw it on tv, or heard something said on tv, IT WAS REALITY. Fact-checking, smact-checking! Wait, is ‘smact’ a word? Silly me, of course it is, because now it’s in print. And why does doing a search on the internet always include nonsensical results – placed near the top of the list? Remember, order implies a sense of value (firsi is best?). Do a search for the word ‘bullshit.’ You’ll see things like the following in your results: ‘Bullshit on Amazon. Great prices. – free shipping!’

  32. Great post, all very true. People are so gullible. Like you said, it doesn’t take much time to just stop and THINK.

  33. There are plenty of pre-internet and pre-email mistruths (is that a word?) being further spread by the internet…I’ll leave those up to the imagination. I dropped my facebook page after pointing out that many of these posts were garbage (in a nice way), my “friends” de-friended me because of it, so I thought well obviously we need to act and be like the media and not let the truth get in the way of a good story…

  34. While I applaud your recognition that we need to investigate what isn’t true, just a few tiny corrections. The average bull weighs 2000-2800 pounds – not 600. Yearling calves weigh that much.

    Worse still is that most people are not aware that the Statue of Liberty is modeled after the Pagan goddess Hera (in Greek – know as Juno to the Romans), the wife of Zeus (who was known as Jupiter in Rome).

    Her crown is a tribute to Apollo, the Sun God also known as “the God of Light” which is a reference to Lucifer, the fallen angel know as the shining one or “the morning star”.

    If you want to do some research look up Satanic symbolism and particularly who shown with the symbols of the Sun God and Moon Goddess and watch the videos on YouTube about who the Queen of Heaven actually is.

    • Ironically, I did not fact-check myself on the average weight of bulls. Then again, neither did I think anyone would pick that out of a 2000 word essay that was not necessarily about bull weight.

      I would argue that the bull in my example was not your standard heavyweight fighting bull, but rather fought in the cow lightweight division, aka “The Vealweights,” and therefore was, in fact, a mere 600 pounds. (605 lbs, as you may know, being the low end of the “Tenderloin weight” division.)

      As for the Statue of Liberty being a big shining beacon to Satan as you appear to suggest, well…I leave you to it.

  35. I wonder how many of us checked your research? Just saying, as I have not :-)

    • You are free to do, friend! I have cited my sources. Hash ‘n’ Eggs has nothing to hide! (Well, outside of that whole “clown and chainsaw” incident in ’72, but I thought we put that behind us.)

      • Nice John. I have no reason to doubt. Just want everyone to follow the argument to its logical end, taking responsiblity for their own beliefs and convictions.

        We do need more of your kind of journalism and thoughtfulness; especially in a major election year.

  36. I don’t tolerate the “stir the pot” folk and left FB happily.
    I despise animal USE and ABUSE and find it primitive and sub-human. I also have little regard for those that want everyone they know to ‘join’ their cause. I’m so sick of ‘say something and do nothing about it’ people.
    Your post is great, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    I’m on your blog, like white on rice, oops, sorry for the cliche’. :D

  37. This is awesome! A heap of thanks for so beautifully describing my own mounting irritation of Facebook shares. Unless it’s something from George Takei’s FB. He is the holy grail of entertaining Facebook crap.

  38. I enjoyed this post very much.

  39. Beautifully written piece, and i very much enjoyed your writing style. i promise to read some of your other content as well, and hopefully keep those page numbers up just a tad.

    Well-done for calling for more critical thinking. Critical thinking isn’t as easy to achieve as it’s made out to be, as we are all “too busy” living to get around to boosting our thinking efforts. It reminds me of the studies on charity that point to availability of time having a greater impact on outcomes than theological bent etc… Maybe it’s more a case of the ‘infobesity’ epidemic reducing the quantity of time available to build the quality of thought?

    i especially agree that even a lack of Facebook doesn’t stop the forwarded email from being a terror for those who attempt to think critically. i often receive emails that have a racist/ religious/ political bent to them, and when i have the time i very much enjoy doing a bit of research to disprove the untruths and then hitting the ‘reply to all’ button. Most of the time though, i’m just too busy…

  40. Kiya Krier - Runs With Blisters

    Bahahaha! LOVE this post. What you talk about is one of the many reasons I’m spending less & less time on fb.

    A ‘friend’ of mine recently posted a ‘copy’ of a letter from Starbucks to a deployed US soldier telling him they would not send him free coffee because they did not support the war. The caption stated that we should all boycott Starbacks because they are obviously a horrible company. Yeah, right. Because Starbucks is that stupid. When someone else called the original poster out & proved the letter was fake, the poster responded with, ‘I don’t care if it never happened. I’m only concerned with the sentiment expressed.’ WHAT?! *facepalm*

    • What makes stuff like that even better is when you DO bother to look into it, like through Snopes, and you find out that it’s like 5, 10 years old and just being recirculated. Those are my favorite ones, the ones that either just get revived or, better yet, reworked–the company in question changes or the name of the kid who needs the kidney. It’s all interchangeable when it’s bullshit!

  41. I usually don’t read a post this long (another unintended instant-information symptom of the Digital Age), but I couldn’t resist. It’s one of the most excellent blog posts I’ve ever read. Fortunately, I do not subscribe to Facebook. I considered it at one time. But after reading its vague disclosure policies, I decided not to give my personal information to an impersonal corporation.

  42. lexington125again

    Too late for remorse, mainly because the bull is already stabbed with a well 18 inches of steel in his back. That gives the Torero some comfort and relief for meditation or..whatever.
    Yes I agree with you about disinformation. But in the end on this particular subject truth is the least of concerns, reality is that another bull killed in the arena is not worth repeating. But what about a plot story about remorse in the arena? that’s far more interesting, offer a higher added value, gives no a evil message or discredit to anyone. On the other hand reality is that fighting agaisnt bullfighting with the pure truth does not work, so lets give illusion a chance. Is a lenient fault and worth trying.

  43. The picture I received had the tagline: “Come on, get up and stick me you pussy, STICK ME!!!”

    But seriously, I liked your post and I understand your point but clearly people have been fed disinformation by the regular media for decades. The only difference now is that everyone can do it. Whether you believe the carefully constructed, linguistic, sophistry employed by the mainstream media to manipulate facts and position you to think in a certain way, or whether you believe in a random social media posting, unless you’re ready to un-peel yourself from the contemporary inertia that afflicts the western world, you’re just as much a fool.

    By the way, have you heard the one about the group of Arabs that fooled the mightiest military machine on the planet, infiltrated New York airspace and flew two commercial aircraft into the Twin Towers? These guys were true magicians because not only could they not fly properly, they managed to fool the natural laws of physics and science and make the buildings collapsed in a way that only a carefully organised and controlled demolition could produce. But cleverest of all – they managed to make a building just a few blocks away fall down the same way too even though nothing hit it! And check this – even the skilled experts that designed and made these buildings can’t believe what these geniuses did! Most of the western world do though, amazing, huh?

  44. I love Snopes.com. I finally convinced my dad to read Snopes when he gets email forwards (because he still does). He was convinced that Target was a French company and didn’t support veterans. I was facepalming ALL THE TIME :(

  45. Every where you go on the internet, you are constantly beckoned to “follow” something…your blog, for example, or twitter…so why be surprised that we’ve become a race of sheeples?

    Oh, and great post, btw!

    • I thought the need to be followed was just a matter of being a massive attention whore. Or a culture thereof.

    • What, you think that being “sheeple” is a product of the internet? Like human beings never swallowed irrational, bogus ideas before 1975 or so? I have some fine oceanfront property I’ll sell you at a surprisingly reasonable price.

      • It’s not that we didn’t have, share, or swallow the bogus claims before. It’s just a lot easier now to spread them around, and people seem more willing to open up and take it.

        Might want to throttle down the righteous indignation there, sport. It’s not that important.

  46. So many things I can say, but it comes down to one word: YES! …I totally agree. Although I am not one of the gullible people, I still dislike the fact that many out there are and keep on speeding to more ‘gullibles’ haha. Really enjoyed this one John.

  47. Pingback: Human Evolution: Speeding? Splitting? Borging?… and a dozen Olympics? | CONTRARY BRIN

  48. Clever. Outstanding story-telling on the Bullfighter pic. Do you do stand-up of similar ilk? I have a potential offer for you (and other troubadors). [By way of suggestion here -- Considered separating the hash and eggs on this one into two stories -- bullfighter and lady liberty?]

    • It’s been years since I did any stand-up, but I’ve done stand-up. The only thing I’ve considered doing similarly, in relation to the blog, is recording and posting a la The Moth or This American Life. Maybe someday.

      • John, your bio shows the long experience as play-writer. The extended stand-up ‘weave’ (like your bull-fighter piece AND follow-up comments to it) as opposed to a stand-up series of one-liners or are a real talent and require true theatric sense in delivery.

        Would you want to do stand-up shows as a sponsored niche or enjoy writing, contributing, or editing on pieces for actors more?

      • Hit me up with more info via e-mail, please. I’d like to know more.

  49. At one time people believed that rock’n roll music would bring about the rapid decline of Western Civilization. They were way off. Facebook will be the culprit. I saw that on the internet…it must be true. Excellent post!

  50. Great progression of focused, passionate rant as I am sure you already know seeing all of the pats on the back above.

    The internet, a constant breeding ground for babies of misinformation, is still an invaluable source of knowledge and our society would be worse off without it. It is the fault of the loss of humanism that has brought us to this sour state, our love for all things ‘science’ and our destructive nature of deperately needing to confirm our own biases. A very wise person once said it is with a skeptical and careful eye that we should evaulate all information we know we agree with and to keep the other eye dutifully closed to ensure a lack of reactionary agreeance (econtalk.org Russ Roberts).

    I rather agree, so I read your post with one eye closed. It was still good.

  51. I totally agree with you, I see those types of posts and I think WHY are people so gullible, these stories are too good to be true.

  52. Yeah, I remember that story back in the MySpace days about what to do if you are being robbed at the ATM. It said that if you put your pin number in backwards it would notify the police that you were being robbed. I would get the bulletin at least once a day. I would always message the person back with the question, “So, how does it work if you have a palindromic pin number”?
    I wish that I could say that it amazes me what people believe. But, it doesn’t.

  53. Jerry

    When I was about 12 (1968 or so) I remember reading the National Enquirer that my Mom bought from the grocery store. She believed it all had to be true or else they would not be allowed to print it. Major BS has been around for a long long time, but the distribution channels have never before been this robust, prolific, and easy to use.

    • I miss the Weekly World News. Every time Satan appeared in a cloud, they were on the story.

    • Just another thought while it pops into my head. At least with the old tabloids, like I said in an earlier comment on chain letters, you had to CHOOSE to be a willing participant. You had to admit that you were intrigued at the idea of lizard people living in the bayou and that you needed to read about it. So it was on you and you alone to pick that paper up, buy it, and indulge. Now with social media, you just smear it on your wall and make everyone else look at it.

  54. Chris Hutchings

    To be fair… I shared this post on Facebook.

  55. Jürgen A. Erhard

    Of course, I’m sharing it on FB right away. :D

  56. gvdave

    wow….meaningful and funny rant…..enjoyed it a lot.. :) thanks…

  57. David Duarte

    great post, except the Statue of Liberty is made of copper, not bronze.

    • I stand quite corrected; I mis-read the quote from the NY Post article. The Statue is indeed copper. Thank you for the catch. And now, in keeping with the theme of the post, I’m heading in to edit.

      • David Duarte

        If you have copper pipe in your house, you’ll eventually see the same green patina to some extent. Same thing with old pennies. Thanks for making the edit!

      • I wrote about jewelry design and manufacturing for ten years. Knew quite a few artists who worked in patinaed metals. Interesting ways of controlling the resultant colors through various chemicals. Beautiful stuff!

  58. you made me crack up at work with one word, cleverly put in the sentence *simpatico*
    hahaha, thank you for this amazing article, im glad im not the only one that gets aggravated when the same (wrong) post is being shared and reposted ad infinitum!
    ps: bullfighting sucks, it’s horrible to say, but im glad munera got fucked up by the bull- it’s the fair wake up call.

  59. “I started at Snopes, which should be everyone’s first stop in the presence of perceived bullshit.”

    I’d suggest amending this to “which should be everyone’s first stop in the presence of an internet repost”. Still not 100% on, but since so damn many people lack the ability to perceive bullshit… as evidenced by the fact that so many fall FOR such bullshit…

    My “favorites” are the “[major entity/corp] will donate [some dollar amount] to [cause invariably involving a child] for every repost of this [often heart-rending if not outright gruesome] photo”.

  60. Minlit sent me when she re-blogged. I’m not a person prone to violence, but when in the presence of willing-stoooopid-sheep, I just wanna take ‘em by the shoulders and shake ‘em till I feel better.

  61. Ya know that “series of tubes” you hear about?

    That’s describing people (and bots) who function only as pipes copypasting from one file to another, without an intervening period of cognition.

  62. I don’t really have the time to look everything up on snopes.com (10 minutes multiplied by a billion “facts” equals a lot of time), but then again I almost never forward stuff anyway. Normally you can spot the crap from a mile away too, as it always has a pattern to it. Not just any meme can infect the world: it needs to be adapted to its environment, and you can often recognize one by how it embodies that adaptiveness.

    There’s another heuristic I use that applies to the Lady Liberty picture. I’m normally quite permissive about nonstandard spelling and grammar and I’ll only whine about its/it’s and they’re/their/there and the like as a social bonding ritual – it doesn’t really get to me. But I do notice. And I notice a misused “whom” in the caption. Somehow nonstandard grammar, poor spelling, and eggcorns often go together with misinformation.

  63. Pingback: Because truth is better than bullshit | Fake Buddha Quotes

  64. chaotiqual

    Reblogged this on chaotiqual.

  65. Alex C

    Love the humorous approach of your post John! I know a little bit about animal behavior, and when I saw that pic on Facebook, I wrote a similar opinion. Of course, nor the person who posted it or the “likers” did agree with me at first. They decided to stick to the fake story until they got “gored by the truth” Cheers!

  66. Pingback: Checking the Facts | The Road to Personal Success

  67. “At some point in the earliest days of e-mail, the internet began to take away our power of critical thought.” This assumes that “we” had, or more properly used, that power before the Internet. And you know what happens when you assume. This is one of those tropes that annoys the living f*ck out of me: the implication that there was a golden age when people had *morals*, or used the English language correctly, or thought rationally and laughed irrationality to scorn, etc.

    “But you can’t refute a reference that–hang onto your hats, outright sheepish believers!–cites its sources.” Well, yes, you can. Because people who cite their sources often cite them incorrectly, or cite inaccurate sources, or misinterpret them. I see it often in academic writing, for example.

    I share your anger, I feel your pain. I like and often use Snopes.com. But citing sources accurately is just the beginning of critical thinking.

  68. Howdy! This article couldn’t be written any better!

    Reading through this article reminds me of my
    previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this.
    I most certainly will forward this post to him.

    Fairly certain he’s going to have a great read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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