Believe It or Not


Man, whatever happened to good shows like Greatest American Hero? I loved that show. I remember watching it either right before or right after Dukes of Hazzard. Actually I think Hee Haw came on before Dukes of Hazzard. I can’t think of any other reason why I have memories of watching Hee Haw other than that. Maybe it’s because I’m from TN. I could look all of this up but I’m not going to.

But that’s not why I brought all of you here. Today, I want to talk about the difference between real and fake. And to give you a quick primer on the topic I am going to enlist the help of good ole Merriam and Webster. Speaking of other great 80’s TV shows right?

As the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines them, and I am paraphrasing here, real means true and fake means not true.

It seems pretty simple but I’ll give you a real life example. And for simplicity’s sake I will refer to all social media and the World Wide Web as a whole as the internet.

Real life example time: If it’s on the internet and sounds crazy, it is probably fake. If it’s on the internet and doesn’t sound crazy, it’s still probably about 73% fake. If it’s in the news, it is more likely real than fake, but could also possibly be fake. Got it?

Now, before you start screaming that just because it’s in the news doesn’t mean it’s real and just because the news doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean it’s fake, I agree, but I should mention that I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. So if your argument is that there is some group of people in a secret lair trying to keep us down with misinformation and black magic we should probably part ways here because I will make you mad and you will make me mad and this is my blog so I will win. And in a civilized society we have to have a modicum of belief that stories have been more vetted by news organizations than by Carl from down at the racetrack or we are all screwed.

So, since I don’t believe in conspiracy theories how do I explain why there is so much fake news and other stuff out there these days? Easy, it’s because people are involved.

An illustration: We’ve all played the game “telephone” right? It doesn’t matter the age of the people playing, the words spoken at the beginning never end up being the words spoken at the end. I feel comfortable saying “never” even though I haven’t played this with a bunch of scientists, linguists or engineers because for the sake of my argument I don’t want to be wrong.

But why is that? Why is it that whether you play telephone with kindergarteners or mostly normalish adults, the words get changed from one end of the line to the other?

I propose that there are a few very unscientific reasons for this:

1. Some people sound like they have a mouth full of marbles when they talk and you pretty much have to make up what you heard.

2. Some people allegedly listened to too much Nirvana and Metallica when they were younger and can’t hear very well anymore so you will have to speak up sonny. And please don’t wait until that person has walked into the other room to say something because they won’t be able to hear you and will have to either keep walking back and forth or loudly say “huh?” like your grandfather and then will you get all mad at them.

3. Because we hear what we want to or are conditioned to hear.

Now, those reasons alone are enough to cause the transfer of information to go all wonky, but when you throw in the fact that 2/3 of the planet has the means to disseminate information to the rest of the planet these days, it is going to change from the time it is first said, or posted, until it runs its course. Because, you know, Photoshop and stuff. And there are also selfish people out there that spread fake information because they benefit from it in some way, either for fun or more likely profit.

But that really isn’t their fault is it? Is it Netflix’s fault that we spend a vacation day to binge watch a new show or do they only do it because we gobble it up? That is a slippery slope, I understand, but I’m pretty sure if we stop buying twinkies they will stop selling them and if we stop spreading fake “news” it will go away too.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this: before you send something out into the ether for all to see, take a couple of extra seconds to at least try to see if it is real or fake. And if you can’t tell, maybe, like, don’t post it? Because if you post something that’s fake, or even not quite accurate, have you helped to make your point or just given people a reason to not trust what you say? If you are like me, you don’t need to give anyone any more reasons to think you’re an idiot so do yourself a favor and just don’t post questionable stuff. And if you just really can’t stand life without telling people how to live their lives, start a blog because apparently it’s not that hard.

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