Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Fact" = Fiction


* This post contains language which some may find offensive *
  1. Fact: something that actually exists; reality; truth
  2. Fiction: something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story
  3. "Fact": See #2.
Thanks to Dictionary.com for the definitions for #1 and #2. I added the third one. I added it because it would appear that there some people out there that are confused. That's not normally a problem in of itself but it would appear that there are an inordinately large number of confused people who are also loud... and have internet connections.

Perhaps you have seen this meme (in red on the left) floating around on the internet?

Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes
 
As the side on the right (cleverly put together by the folks credited tot image) shows, it's really easy to make stuff up. The problem is a lot of really loud, ignorant people, are too lazy to do a simple Google search to check to see what level of bullshit it contains. The falsified information presented to them supports a position they already hold and they latch onto it like their lives, and everyone else's, depend on it. My friend Gordon over at Skeptophilia has done numerous posts on this. In fact, if confirmation bias doesn't come up more often than any other single topic on his site I'd be surprised.  

It would be one thing if this was  limited  to a few internet memes but unfortunately it's not. Apparently misinformation isn't limited to the 1's and 0's of the World Wide Web. It's infested our news outlets as well. Of course not all of them, but there are a few out there that don't seem to care much about actual facts so long as what they're saying supports their position. The real problem with this is that these questionable news sources are funded by some astonishingly rich, racist, elitist men - who also fund lobbyists, politicians, and their political parties. 

There used to be a time when things were different. Before information was published, in any form, it had to be fact checked. That is to say, there needed to be actual research done to substantiate what was being said. Whether it was an eyewitness, a document, or a peer reviewed research paper... there was always something to back up the claim. Apparently none of that matters any more and what we're left with is a bunch of people yelling at each other, ideologies firmly in hand. The really scary part? The only one left standing will be the one with the most money and the loudest voice.  

I saw a FOX News piece rhyming off some statistic that was the complete opposite of the truth. A simple Google search would have pointed you to numerous government websites that provided the correct information but they ran with the lie because guess what? It's all Obama's fault. Someone I know pointed out that the statistic, reported correctly was still an indication of a poor economic forecast, but guess what? That's not the conversation that was happening. It wasn't a question about what constitutes economic prosperity. It was a question about the propagation of lies. A point lost entirely on my acquaintance - and a whole lot of people just like him. 

So where does that leave us? Well, at absolute best there are people who are condoning the spreading of false information and at worst there are those who encouraging it. 

The great Richard Feynman once said, "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." Well I'm sure he's rolling over in his grave  because apparently simply being an opinionated asshole with axe to grind qualifies you to be a scientist these days. 

Dictionary.com includes a "difficulty index" for all their words. It's a measure of how many English speaking people are likely to know the word. 

For the word "fact" it tells us that, "All English speakers likely know this word", but for the word "fiction" we get, "Most English speakers likely know this word." I added the emphasis to highlight my point. "Most" is not the same as "all". Written mathematically: most < all, which means that there are some people out there that don't know the difference between fact and fiction. These are people perpetuating memes like the one on the left at the start of this post. These people should not be allowed to have internet access. 

What angers me most is that we, the scientifically minded rational thinkers of the world, the ones that know the difference between fact and fiction, spend so much time defending our position only to have it wiped out in one 5 minute misinformation segment on FOX News or one blatantly false infographic on some spurious website. And it's not limited to Autism or vaccines or GMOs. It's climate change, it's institutionalized racism, the economic state of North America, democracy... the list goes on, seemingly forever, and it's fucking exhausting defending against it. 

Well if it's war they want then they've certainly got it. My biggest fear though, is that they'll win it through attrition because too many people, just like myself, are tired and just want some peace and quiet and a good night's sleep. I'm so goddamn fed up with all the ignorant assholes with loud voices ruining my quiet time. Fuck you, ignorant assholes! Fuck you to hell and back you sorry pieces of shit. /endrant

~ Andrew

2 comments:

  1. People like to live in an echo chamber. It is like they need to believe in something, even if it is patently false, in order to validate a particular narrative they want to hold on to. Check out this recently released study with regard to conspiracy theories. http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2015/false/ . 42% of Americans overall believe that WMD's were found in Iraq; 19% still believe that Obama was not born in America - and so on. It is laughable from the outside looking in, but it also does, and should make one question ones own beliefs and truths.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Roland. The numbers on that site are mind boggling. I'm not sure I know what "truth" is any more... but I hear that it's out there ;)

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