Yesterday Adam and I were talking, we agree that there seems to be an unsettling trend towards stupidity in our grand nation. Sure, there have always been idiots, and the US, hasn’t been the only place to house them. Idiots, stupid people, nincompoops, and morons unfortunately are everywhere, but it’s not just the normal bunch of ass hats in society that I am talking about. I am talking about my observed trend of it getting worse. I would go out on a limb and say it has now past the 50% mark or people that will say or believe anything, to people that are skeptical or critical of things they hear and won’t just regurgitate things they have heard as fact. Matter of fact, I think we are way past 50%.
The most disturbing thing about this is that it’s not just the people from the lowest educated sectors of our society. I know people that are educated, that have been to college, that have good productive jobs that believe the silliest nonsense without having ever given it a thought to its validity. And what’s more, they will tell you that they really don’t care if it’s true or not. They believe it and that is that.
I think computing for the masses and the internet for all it’s greatness is largely to blame. Up until this decade, if you wanted to disseminate some bit of BS to the masses, you had to fire up your typewriter and put out a chain letter. That was a lot of work, and face it, stupid people are generally lazy, so going through all the work of sending out a letter pointing out the similarities between Obama and Hitler (spoiler alert, there are none), took a lot of time and effort. Not today. Today anyone with a computer can spew forth nonsense as fact and with a few clicks of a button, send it out to their friends who will in turn, without any thought to whether it’s true or not, send it to all their friends, who will then send it to me.
I am one of the rare people today that have not the capacity to read something and shrug off its validity. If I read it and its BS, I MUST check it and if in fact its BS, then I will let the person know its BS. This has of course gotten me into much trouble and as a matter of fact on several occasions, blocked from receiving emails from people I have corrected. I have been defriended (come on Webster, how is defriend not yet a real word?) on Facebook, I have even been chastised by my mother and am sure I have lost friends over it. Although I will contend that if you are so offended by the truth, we weren’t meant to be friends anyway.
What is ultimately the most frustrating thing to me in regards to BS, is that it’s so easy these days to verify it being fact or fiction. The internet, while the cause or vehicle of most modern stupidity, can also be the cure. OK so you are lazy and don’t want to fact check. I get that, but then why error on the side of everything being fact (with subsequent forwarding of the email) when with almost 100% certainty, anything you get in an email meant to set a fire burning in your soul for, but not limited to; crime, gays, Obama, taxes, abortion, gay rights, ANYTHING US government related, ways to get free money, ways to cure sickness and disease, signing your name to the end of the email to find little Billy, gay marriage, 9/11, black people, brown people, Muslims, the “sanctity” of marriage, and lastly anything quoting something someone famous said about any given topic. All of it, with almost 100% certainty is not true. SO WHY DO I STILL GET THESE EMAILS?!
Here is a little litmus test for BS, pay attention this is going to be really technical. Ready? Here it is; if you receive any bit of information in the form of an email, IT’S BS. I KNOW CRAZY HUH!!!!! Yep it’s that easy! Now, will you be 100% correct in assuming (without checking) that everything you receive that falls into the aforementioned list is BS? Nope, but you can bet your ass you will be correct a lot more than assuming everything is fact without checking it. AND as an added bonus you won’t look stupid by forwarding something that is untrue. I had a friend once that kept sending me BS emails. The second I saw the topic, without even checking I would know that it contained no truth. So I would go find the truth, reply to all (as is my MO) and explain to this “friend” that they are not helping people be smarter and more informed by sending out BS without checking it first. His last reply (before I was removed from his BS email list) was to explain (and I am not kidding, I wish I was) was that he didn’t care if it was true, that it was up to everyone he sent it to, to determine its truth. He was simply passing it along. I asked why pass such obvious BS along as possible fact? He never responded.
I wish it was just an email problem but it’s really not. I don’t know how many times I will hear someone say something that they are regurgitating as fact, which is not. People simply do not care about being right anymore. They have beliefs that THEY believe to be true, despite what science, history or statistics might tell them to the contrary. The problem with this is that it’s a virus and more and more people are catching it. People that I consider to be intelligent frequently spew nonsense as fact. I would even feel better if people prefaced every questionable thing they said with, “I heard, although haven’t verified, that X is true, that…”. Perfect, then we can have a discussion about whether or not it stands up to scrutiny. But just stating everything as fact just makes you look like you have no ability to be critical of information, that you have no desire to push society towards reason and truth.
You can help turn this trend. 1. Stop forwarding chain emails without fact checking them first. This does not mean trusting someone else’s fact checking. It doesn’t mean not being critical of facts you might find. Trustworthy sources are far and few between on the internet. If it comes from someone’s blog, that is more often than not opinion, not fact.
2. Stop believing everything you are told. Be skeptical. Be critical. Assume everything is BS until you KNOW otherwise. Knowing is a tough thing, as such, don’t state things as fact until you know they are. If you don’t know for certain that its fact, then discuss the topic as something you are learning about. No one expects you to know everything. I know almost nothing in the grand scheme of things, so I try not to state things as fact unless I know they are.
Here is an example of questioning everything. Yesterday I saw a chart on Facebook that stated that the mineral content of organic vegetables was higher than conventionally grown ones. My BS detector went through the roof despite the fact the chart said the study was done at Rutgers University. I asked myself, how would a carrot that was grown with natural (I use the term “natural” loosely) fertilizers instead of their synthetic counterpart, or sprayed with natural pesticides (yes organics are sprayed with pesticides) instead of what everything else is sprayed with, be able to alter the carrot in such a way as to affect its mineral content. After about 2 minutes of research, I found (at Rutgers.edu) that the study is often misquoted by organics proponents and that any claims that organic vegetables had higher mineral content was simply not true. This is what I am talking about. A chart stamped with “STUDY PERFORMED BY RUTGERS UNIVERSITY” doesn’t mean anything. It means someone made a chart and typed those words, no more. Be skeptical, be critical, read, question.
Our society can’t stand to get much dumber and still think we have a future.