A Hard Act to Follow
Well, my last post has turned out to be my most successful post ever, more than 40,000 hits so far. So now what do I do? Rest on my laurels? Sounds painful, don’t laurels have thorns? It’s especially curious in that it wasn’t a particularly well thought out or researched post, it was just something I knocked off in an hour or two. In any event I’ve sat around too much as it is lately, how about I write on my laurels?
While I am aware that my observations yesterday weren’t terribly scientific, the post certainly generated a lot of comments. I guess what most gets me about the propagation of incorrect tidbits like the five weekends in October, is the general level of uncritical acceptance people seem to be showing more than a decade after the Internet became widespread. I breathlessly passed on the first one or two Internet hoaxes I received back in the early nineties, and after feeling very stupid changed my ways and became very skeptical of tidbits people were passing along, especially if it was something “cool” that one would be inclined to pass along. It’s easy to spot an Internet hoax, they almost always come with instructions asking the reader to forward them.
And since then I’ve become even more critical and sceptical about new information I receive on line. Granted I can’t research every single fact I present, but I think I do a pretty good job. What errors people have called me on have usually been minor or simply careless mistakes that slipped through my drafts. I’ve also tried to fix old misconceptions or errors I learnt before the Internet even existed. If some fact I am about to quote is something I learnt decades ago, or is some turn of phrase I’ve used all my life, I often do some quick research before tossing it out there. And boy, I’ve learnt some bloopers in my time.
For example for years I thought “su madre” meant “right away, boss.” OK, that’s a joke. I did for example completely misunderstand the meaning of “Cherchez la femme,” I thought the USA never lost a battle in Vietnam, and I thought Israel had the world’s fourth largest military. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The USA most certainly did lose some battles in Vietnam, although not any major ones (unless you count losing the war.) Israel’s military is definitely not the world’s fourth largest, although they are still an awesome military power that has no serious rivals in the Middle East. And I’m not even going to say what I thought “Cherchez la femme” meant, other than to say I now know why people looked amused or puzzled when I’ve used the phrase in the past.
I don’t think the Internet is making people stupid, though it may be changing the way that use it heavily think. That’s not saying much though, any new activity, especially one that uses the brain, is going to change the brain of the people who take it up. FYI the old theory about how the human brain can’t grow new connections after a certain age has been shown to be completely false, as false as the old idea people couldn’t grow new muscle mass after age forty or so. Since I plan to use my muscles and brain for at least another forty years, this is a good thing.
No, the Internet isn’t making people into idiots, but I don’t think it’s helping. Granted other things have been going on as well, changes in the mass media and our “educational” (formerly educational) system also seem to be having a rather negative effect on the typical person’s world view. So it would be hard to parse out exactly what the Internet is doing. I’m just appalled that the ability to quickly and simply fact check what people see on the Internet or the news or whatever … seems to have had no appreciable effect on the mass gullibility index. And I wonder if that’s by accident or design.
Moving right along, I mostly wrote this follow-up post to thank people for the thoughtful comments they left on the previous post. Even the snarky ones, and I didn’t vote for Nixon by the way. I don’t claim to be a purveyor of the truth, but I do my best to avoid spreading falsehoods. The main purpose of Doug’s Darkworld is to entertain, educate, and stimulate thought. In both the reader … and in me. And the comments on the prior post have given me a lot to think about. Thanks everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I believe it was originally an advertisement for Riksgalden Lottery Bonds. This a a bond where one doesn’t receive interest, instead one has a chance at winning a lottery. A concept that sums up nicely the madness of the modern financial industry and modern society, basically people are being tricked into loaning the Swedish government money at no interest if I understand this correctly. Banks used to give away toasters, now they give away lottery tickets. Ah, progress.)