What people write isn’t fact checked too closely nowadays
I see a worrying world that is not far away, it may even be here already. A world where substance doesn’t matter anymore. A world where the reliability of content is not important. People will believe anything as fact nowadays if their opinion matches and if they see it published. Half the people will start to believe the things the read as fact. The other half will not trust a word they read in any location. This abuse of the written word is a worry to those who want to be able to state researched facts with a level of authority and trustworthiness.
Why do I think we will end up in a world like this?
With the ability to use any photograph (altered or not) and write anything on it, memes are being created. Many more people are now publishing material, such as infographics, that a high number of people are taking as gospel rather than questioning the content of the meme or recognising it as being intended for humour rather than to be taken as fact.
I have seen many examples where people have used a photograph and written their own propaganda or biased viewpoint on it in and published in online in the hope of discrediting someone else. Some of it can be amusing. Some of it can be entertaining. Will some people see the content as fact? Yes, undoubtedly. Will some people share this to other people who also see it as fact? Yes, also undoubtedly.
How far can these messages get out?
If a message matches the viewpoint of the person reading it, they are more likely to read it and share it rather than check the validity of it. That is fundamentally part of the problem we are facing here. The speed of the message getting round more people depends on how closely it meets the viewpoints of the people reading it. They are likely to share something they believe to be true without checking it rather than question it, find out whether it rings true or not. They get emotive and involved with it, rather than objective and minded to review the content origins and accuracy. Many people will believe anything as fact nowadays if their opinion matches and if they see it published.
I’ve often said that social media gives a voice to those who do not having anything worth saying. What I mean when I say this is that just because someone has something to say, doesn’t mean it has to be said. As a blogger and social commentator, I recognise that this may go against the approach that some of my peers undertake! The content of what people say is important, not just who is saying it, or who they are saying it. Content is king, as they say in publishing circles.
I also recognise that we are in an era where the repercussions of publishing something are becoming less and less. Publishing isn’t just in newspapers or books, but in online blogs, YouTube channels, and also in social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think a lot of people understand the potential damage that they could do for themselves, or for others with the use of words, images and memes online if not considered appropriately. I do fear that it is an area that is becoming a free for all, a technological social media ‘wild west’ but with anonymity in many cases and a lack of resources in authority to counter this problem. This is creating a breeding ground for irresponsible publishing and posting of this type.
Unreliability of sources
There is little comeback against people who publish things that are not true. In the lead up to the 2016 US Elections, we saw one party send out adverts to the supporters of the opposing party telling them to vote on the wrong day. That’s just devious deception. There will be some people who may be too late to vote. How was that allowed to happen?
In many circumstances where a source is unreliable or deceptive, the message is to counter some other message. It could be diversionary tactics to throw people off the scent on to something else. These distractions aren’t always noticed by the greater audience. They hear the headline, they see the delivery of the message, but they don’t see what the content is or is not saying, let alone question the validity or reliability of the source. Denials and calling something fake news doesn’t provide clear evidence to counter the argument.
A lot of what we see in the world today is around image rather than about content. The presentation needs to be slick and well-rehearsed. Style and how it looks on the outside is more important than the message behind it all. We are all biased in some way from how we receive a message, and who we receive it from. We all have some underlying, and sometimes even unknown prejudices that affect how we receive information, and the credibility that we give it dependent on who and how we are informed something. That is from the receiving end. How a message is portrayed, and who delivers it helps tap into those prejudices and desires. It is a very clever form of coercing people into the way you are thinking. Politicians and advertisers have used similar strategies in recent years. ‘You don’t want this in your life, do you? Well, in that case you need to buy this product or vote for this person’.
Mis-statement is another of these words that have crept into our vocabulary during the middle of this decade. I was always of the opinion that the words you use are important to ensure that you don’t mislead someone. Is the word mis-statement just another way of saying that a statement is simply not true? When these mis-statements are put out there, often in a soundbite format, people often take them on board as fact, without checking the validity of the message.
Mis-statements are very much in the ascendancy in the time of political elections. Obviously some people can try to read into what you do or don’t say, but that is why it is more important to be clear in what you ARE saying. Having an accurate, clearly checked message is paramount obviously! When the narrative becomes more analytical about what people aren’t saying, we have a problem. This partly comes from people not answering questions straight in many circumstances. The opportunities to say something clearly are often there, but whether those opportunities are taken is a different matter.
My hopes for the future
Again, it comes down to many people will believe anything as fact nowadays if their opinion matches and if they see it published. Substance doesn’t matter anymore. It comes down to the presentation and the message rather than the validity and reliability of the source. I do hope that there is enough intelligence and diligence in the world to see off this mindset and approach as it is a frightening prospect that we can no longer trust what we read in many places. It also concerns those who write whether they will have an audience in future that will be able to discern what is authoritative and trustworthy, or whether the lingual louts and the depth-less deviants can be beaten by the goodwill of those who value the truth. I fear it may be some time before this wave of ignorance (from those ‘writers of wrong’, not the audience) becomes eradicated but part of the diligence and scrutiny needs to come from the audience too. I have faith in them, and will continue hoping that people will start to see through it all.