All over the world, lies have become weaponized as never before. Deranged fantasies are spun about opposition politicians linking them to kidnapping and murder. False quotes are manufactured and repeated so often they enter the conventional wisdom. Historical events like the holocaust and the Sandy Hook massacre become objects of controversy while innocent blood cries from the earth.
There have always been lies. I can show you fake news from the Second World War both allied and axis. But what makes this different is that in the past the mass media, newspapers, magazines, radio and eventually television marketed information and news. There was one giant market that virtually everyone participated in. Now lies have longer legs and multiple routes.
The internet and the multiple cable news stations allow media bubbles where people can live blissfully unaware of the events they don’t find interesting. Here let me give you an example – are you aware of the Tuam babies case? Yes, that’s a little dustup that’s rewriting the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland – Here’s a link –The Amateur Historian Who Uncovered Ireland’s Mass Grave of Babies
That might have led the evening news in ’65 when the three major networks had powerful foreign desks to make sure that American stayed in touch with overseas events. We don’t do that anymore.
What we are doing more and more is forming tribes of insular groups who see no evil about their own groups and find appalling evil in those that disagree with them often only based on that disagreement. Roger Ailes labeling of liberals not as people with different political beliefs but as evil men and women will live long after his rotting corpse turns to dust.
Targeted news aimed at tiny groups of people using computer analysis has the capacity to upend our democracy and end the world of the Enlightenment. We can and are likely to degenerate into a dystopian oligarchy with these kinds of forces in play.
I don’t know all the answers to these problems but these giant corporations that run Facebook, Twitter and Google all have to take some responsibility for how their platforms have been misused.
And we citizens of the United States have to come to grips with our civic duty if this nation is to endure in any form.
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