Web Credulity

Do you believe everything you read on the Web or see posted, tweeted or pinned on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest?

Yesterday on my Facebook feed there was a serious discussion of an article from the Daily Currant claiming that Sarah Palin had advocated invading the Czech Republic to thwart radical Islam in Chechnya.

Of course the article was a fictional satire, which would seem obvious from:

  1. A cursory reading of the article,
  2. The article being in a publication which describes itself as political satire, or
  3. Even the name of the publication – isn’t a currant a tasteless raisin?

Yet some web-savvy Facebook friends and acquaintances were seriously discussing what their European friends and the rest of the world would think… (The thread has been removed, so don’t bother trying to find the conversation…)

The Sexiest Man Alive

I was reminded of when the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party reported as fact the Onion naming Kim Jong Un the Sexiest Man Alive:

Kim-Jong-Un Sexiest Man Alive

Where does this credulity come from?

In 1996 well-known journalist Pierre Salinger was vilified for claiming that TWA Flight 800 was accidentally shot down by a missile fired from a Navy ship, based on a document he found on the Internet. I think we have all become much more skeptical about Internet news since then.

But where does the credulity to believe an Onion or Currant article come from? I think the credulity comes from people looking for support for their biases or worldview. If you think that Kim Jong Un is a misunderstood comrade, you might be pleased to see him named the sexiest man alive. If you believe in the Tina Fey version of Sarah Palin, the Currant article may appeal to you.

This tendency is dangerous in a world were people now select that news and commentary that they are comfortable with. If you watch Fox News and seek online commentary via the Drudge Report, you see different news and opinions than a neighbor who views MSNBC and scans Kos. You may also be more susceptible to false information… There is a risk to all the choice!

How do you avoid this tendency to select “news” and information that is comforting to you??

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4 Responses to Web Credulity

  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing your view on this… in the same way, another good example is this one…

    http://qz.com/74937/how-to-become-internet-famous-without-ever-existing/

    It is really hard to most people to separete real x ficcion, and it may rise issues

  2. blog team says:

    I have been thinking about your parting question and it occurs to me that there may not be a truly neutral news source – and that’s cause for despair.

    • Gary Schirr says:

      Thank you for your thoughts and interest, Dawn!

      I think in our current partisan and divided status the best approach is to make sure you are reading or viewing some people that you are NOT comfortable with…

      • Peter says:

        I think this is a good approach, and probably the ONLY practical one. Even if it were possible to have truly neutral news coverage (which I don’t believe ever really existed) it would still be a matter of not being able to cover every story. As it is, whether you watch Fox News or MSNBC or even both, you don’t get reporting on events all over the globe. US news sources are focused heavily on the U.S. Listen to the BBC or CBC and you suddenly realize there are many other countries out there, yes even besides China and Russia.

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