The coronavirus is not the only epidemic ravaging the nation, the epidemic of misinformation has also peaked, and is getting stronger. We have become more outraged, narcissistic, polarized and misinformed.
We can all stop asking why isn’t the government functioning ? It is because, truth is dead, and the internet killed it. Winston Churchill once famously remarked that the greatest argument against democracy would be a five-minute conversation with the average voter, and these words have aged very well. The internet was promised to be the information superhighway, today it has become anything but that. Truth, fact, and reason have become roadkill on the internet highway, and it is getting worse. Our literacy rates may be showing great signs of growth, but there is a fine line between being literate and being informed.
One of the saddest things about the country we live in today is that we do not seem to want smart people in our lives. Educated leaders ? - No. Scientists ? - What do they know? Newspaper editors ? Liars , alarmists, fake news !
The coronavirus is not the only epidemic ravaging the nation, the epidemic of misinformation has also peaked, and is getting stronger. We have become more outraged, narcissistic, polarized and misinformed. Just a few years back we used to get our news from newspapers since professional newsrooms took separating fact from fiction seriously, and employed people who had studied to do so. Today, we get our news from Facebook, Viber, and Instagram by ‘sharing’ or as it is used to be called ‘hearsay’. The thinking has turned into, why spend money on newspapers when they are just going to ‘waste’ all that money on hiring new correspondents and deliver no better news? The rapid decline of newspaper readership is a sad sight to see.
Delivering the news is a sacred responsibility, to educate the public on important issues that we need to know; it should not be a race to the bottom - over who can attract more clicks. This click-driven media system is a journalism malpractice which buries important news and replaces it with stories that do not even qualify as news. An endless stream of controversies that are not controversial to sew division, to achieve their own selfish ends.
Facebook is not a place to read, to garner real and valuable information. Facebook is what replaced reading. Staring at your phone does not make you a reader any more than watching fireworks makes you an astronomer. The internet was promised to give us the entire world’s knowledge at our fingertips, but it also brought along a lot of misinformation. The alternative may be for sites like Facebook to fact check the content shared on their pages but until that unlikely change takes place it is our responsibility to filter out the news from the noise.
In our current predicament, we stand at a crossroads where two paths diverge. We could either learn to filter out the news from the noise and be an informed citizen, or we could plead ignorance and bring irreparable damage to our social fabric.
So, let’s fall in love with learning again and remember that the word smart should be used to describe us and not just our phones!