Facebook, Midwife of the Idiocracy?

Facebook is good for a lot of things. You can stay in touch with friends and family around the world, you can share pictures and experiences, and you can find out about different places before you visit. Recently their “Safety Check” feature was very helpful in finding out how our friends were doing after the earthquake, and quickly letting people know we were okay.

But it has a dark underside as well. You see some incredibly racist and sexist posts. Political extremism on both sides of the aisle. Islamophobia, homophobia, and xenophobia are rampant. The same people posting “Share if you love Jesus!” will post five minutes later, “Sterilize Welfare Moms!”. What? Was that part of the Beatitudes I missed? “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, I remember. “Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the persecuted” – but screw poor, they’re just gross? Guess it got cut in the editing.

And has the nature of discussion and discourse fallen so low that somehow posting a picture of a celebrity with some little homily written on it is supposed to make a valid point? In most cases, the person pictured never even said whatever inane statement is presented. In the past, this kind of thing was restricted to bathroom walls, now its on your timeline.

I usually try to let the flow of stupid just roll over me, and judiciously ignore or block posts that are too extreme or annoying. But sometimes, it just gets too much to bear.

Like just recently, while we are in the middle of a tragedy in Ecuador, someone felt the need to post a link to the website of an unemployed former wireless company employee. I won’t give him any publicity by mentioning his name, but a little Googling revealed that he lives in Missouri, collects Social Security under a claim of mental illness (for which he takes meds), and in spite of the fact he is a college dropout, he states that his “independent investigations” have convinced him he knows more about HAARP, Polar Shift, Weather Modification, FEMA (well, maybe he does on that one), USGS, and every seismologist in the world.

To give him his props, he was a computer science major before he dropped out, and he is very good at making videos on his website. The fact that he has no training in the fields he reports on, and his claims have been proven false time and again, only makes his admirers more fervent. He collect contributions to further his research into – brace yourself – plasma physics.

Why is it on Facebook, and unfortunately more and more often in America, if someone without any training in the field makes a claim that is denounced as false and without merit by every scientist with actual credentials, the reaction is “wow, he must be right if everyone says he’s wrong!”?

Anyway, after this post to check out what is “really going on”, I was so fed up that anybody would promote such garbage when people are dead, dying and suffering, I had to not only block that person but leave the group entirely. Ditto the conspiracy theories that are floating around about a big megaquake of 12.0 or higher that the government knows is coming, but doesn’t want to panic anyone. You would think you could just reply with some real facts. The biggest flaw in this theory, is that one of the factors limiting the size of an earthquake is the length of the fault line multiplied by its depth. For a magnitude 12 quake to happen, the fault would have to be bigger than the circumference of the globe.

But facts don’t matter much on Facebook. How can the truth manage to stand up against a photo of Sam Elliott with a pithy statement under his face, claiming you must be a special kind of stupid if you believe people just because they have degrees and have studied something their entire adult lives?

It is not the first time I’ve had to leave a group because the stupid got too deep. I was on one that seemed fairly informative. Sure there was the occasional secret cancer cure revealed, healing power of crystals, or chemtrails causing impotence posts, but I let those slide past. What got me was a post I thought was satire. It was a link to another unemployed “investigator” who had proof that the school shooting in Sandy Hook was staged. He claimed all of the coffins of the children were closed, because they only contained weights. He went on to state that he had photographic proof that some of the victims of the “alleged Boston Marathon bombing” were also in the crowd at Sandy Hook, actors playing their parts for the cameras. Can you imagine being the parent of one of the children who died, and reading something like that?

I posted a reply, something like, LOL and don’t forget the staged moon landings, or the alleged holocaust, these people should be ashamed … and was shocked when people responded that I needed to open my eyes, this is all true, all of this stuff is going on and you’re a fool if you don’t believe it.

Wow.

As Cartman on South Park said when he saw the talking poo, “That’s it, I’m out of here”. I wished them all luck on whatever planet it is they are living on, and dropped out.

My point here is that Facebook, like the Internet itself, is in an interesting and dangerous stage of its evolution (which Sam Elliott also denies, I believe). The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you have at your fingertips an incredibly vast store of information, more than humanity has ever had since the Library of Alexandria. Unfortunately, the horrible thing about the Internet is that a growing amount of that information is false, or at best, misleading. This is a dangerous thing. Nothing is more powerful than information, and nothing can be more destructive than false information.

I’m reminded of a Woody Allen quote from a short essay entitled “My Speech to the Graduates”, first published in the New York Times in 1979.

“More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

After all, remember what happened to the Library of Alexandria.

 

 

 

Image Courtesy atlasdocumentaryfilms.com