Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

For many people, one of the greatest anxieties surrounding media is the suggestion that no one cares for facts anymore. Quotes are misattributed, false claims gain traction, and outright lies are protected as “alternate viewpoints”.

The fact that this image contains an attribution to a magazine interview lends a sense of legitimacy to it, despite it being completely untrue. Trump never said this, and to repost it undermines the horrific things he has said.

The fact that this image attributes the quote to a magazine interview lends a sense of legitimacy to it, despite being completely untrue. Trump never said this, and to repost it undermines the horrific things he has said.

Donald Trump finds success in his campaign for US President despite the fact that barely 8% of his statements are rated as true or mostly true by Politifact. The anti-vaccination movement thrives in online communes as members shelter themselves from facts and cling to offensive lies about autism. Even those who oppose Trump can’t manage to tell the truth.

The worst part of this? Call someone out online and they’ll either block you or say that they don’t care if it’s true or false because they like the sentiment of the message.
Snopes can debunk all the falsehoods they want; ABC Fact Check can tell us the degree of political spin; I can coin an awesome hashtag like #Deanbunked when I call out bullshit; it will make not one iota difference if nobody cares what the truth is.

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Most people assume the top image was the real one, and shared it frequently during Abbott’s time in power, yet it was a photoshopped version of the bottom image, and still people shared it because they only cared about the message.

The general assumption is: “if it’s online, it’s probably true”.
Unfortunately this is a cultural hangover from a time when getting published meant relying on facts to make a point. With everyone self-publishing on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and even WordPress, fact-checking is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Worse still, as the the subreddit /r/findbostonbombers showed, it can have disastrous results. Social media tried to organise the search for the Boston Marathon bombers, leading to Sunil Tripathi, amongst others, being mistakenly identified across social media and in some news media as one of the bombers. Tripathi was, of course, innocent and later discovered to have taken his own life.
This brings me to my next point: not even traditional news services are immune to this trend.
Watch any of the Republican debates in the US and you see candidates spewing all manner of untruths that the hosts are happy to let stand, lest they be accused of bias. The Sydney Morning Herald was torn to shreds late last month for the front-page Story of Louise”, an allegation of gang-rape and police failure that was quickly proved false by multiple sources.

The most any of us can do is to use Google or reverse image searches to double check the veracity of any seemingly incredible meme or story sent our way, and calling it out when it proves false.
However, it has become a regrettable actuality of our times that, in spite of how much access we have to facts, the truth can be difficult to find.

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5 thoughts on “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

  1. I really like your topic because it’s a throbbing issue for real. I am a victim of this ‘cultural hangover’, as you label it, many-many-times. Because the ‘me’ media has increased significantly, everybody can post anything he or she likes. And there is also ‘sharing’ button. People read then people share, without knowing or checking whether that piece of information is valid or not. They are totally oblivious of the fact that they are spreading false information and dragging other people into a matrix – where people got lost within a bunch of information. Plus, people now use photoshop more and more professionally, to the level that there is no way we can figure out whether a picture has been edited or not : ( So, I myself when reading something, emotion usually takes over myself, I unconsciously believe 100% in what I have just read, completely forget we need to double check the validity of information. I think that this bad habit needs to be got rid of.

    Anyway, your post is really interesting, at least to me. Have a nice day !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have a talent for this! I loved the way you took the subject of media anxieties and took it in a completely different direction to anyone else I’ve seen so far. Completely fooled me with the Trump quote from the magazine as well, it really struck home your point – taking the audience down a notch and showing them that they aren’t immune to believing false information on the internet. Great examples, particularly the Reddit Boston bombing case, which reveals how real the consequences can be from sitting behind a keyboard in a medium most of us perceive as disconnected from reality. I think the problem is that by the time everyone figures out the truth, it never has enough time/exposure to circulate and become relevant, as the damage is already done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kudos for examining a media anxiety that is both relevant and original. Your writing strikes the right balance between academic and colloquial. You exhibit expansive knowledge of how different mediums can skew the provision of facts. I agree that, now more than ever, we need to work hard at discerning what is fact and what is fiction. Did you catch the Media Watch segment that revealed PR is increasingly penetrating journalism? Check it out here: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4429222.htm. I am also thrilled to see someone else making use of in-text hyperlinks to promote intertextuality, as opposed to slapping unsightly URLs all over the post. One thing I would suggest is introducing videos rather than just inserting them. Without explaining the purpose of multimedia within your argument, readers may simply skim over clips instead of watching something that could enrich their understanding. On a superficial note, Deanbunked is such a nifty pun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. The Hungry Beast clip at the end was something I found late in the game, after I’d finished writing and was at my word limit. I’ll probably add a few more things to this later, when word counts aren’t such a nuisance.
      The Media Watch clip was a great example of how classic media has shifted to recycling press releases without any real insights. But that’s the great thing about Media Watch, they work hard to find the truth and expose when news media pays little attention to facts.

      Like

  4. The modality of your language and your vocabulary really entice the audience, I found myself vigorously nodding to a lot of your points, and you can back up those points with concise research, in which you have linked creating an interaction with your audience. I like the way your argument was structured, very to the point with strong opinions that flowed and made sense. And the use of multimedia really engage the audience and to include a video after a nice read, good decision.
    Really enjoyed it, well done 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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