The truth remains — the fault lies in ourselves

“I want to oppose the idea that the school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments which one has to use later directly in life. The demands of life are much too manifold to let such a specialized training in school appear possible […] The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost.” Albert Einstein

Fake news is not a fad. Fake facts are pernicious seeds planted with malicious care in the fertile minds of individuals ill-equipped to resist the implicit threat.

Individually and institutionally – I would argue in the latter case it’s intentionally – we have neither the skills nor the will to make the effort to examine the facts behind the facade. We have enabled ourselves and our society to become pawns, preyed upon in a game in which we are payers but not players.

Right now we are in a quick fix mode – eager to leave it to others – e.g. Mark Zuckerberg and his tribe – to label, limit, post warning signs or otherwise save us from ourselves. In other words, to put the fox in charge of the chicken coop, or the decider-in-chief the host of the technology titans.

As usual, Shakespeare got it right: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves.”

Pope Francis picked up on Shakespeare’s thought with his observation that spreading fake news is a sin… http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/1208/Why-Pope-Francis-says-fake-news-is-a-sin

Misinformation and disinformation have always lurked on the fringes of fact. Stephen Colbert called it “truthiness.”  Technology spreads the virus. Finances raise fake disinformation to an art, packaging the prevarications in irresistible 140 character snippets, almost authentic press releases, and bulletin bursts designed to capture the press, the untrained newsy or the digital gossip. So now the word of the year is “post-truth.” (I would have called that a phrase.)

And still, we point the public finger at fake news – the pernicious power, the packaging, the source of the lies. We ignore the fact that the fault lies not only in the intentional lies but in ourselves.

Public awareness offers us an unprecedented opportunity to grapple with the reality that we as citizens of a democracy share the civic and moral imperative to hone –and pass on — the skills and habits essential to this information age.

The time is now to focus on the missing link* in the information chain – The starting point has to be our admission that “the fault lies not with the stars but in ourselves.”

* See earlier post: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

 

 

 

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