Sunday, October 5, 2008

None of What You See... Online

I firmly believe that the internet is one of, if not the, most important inventions by mankind. Right up there with the telephone, automobile, Gutenburg's printing press (thank you, Mr. Feeny), and porn. The internet is freedom. Suddenly people from all over the world can communicate and share ideas so easily. Information about everything and anything is just seconds away. And just about every episode from every television show or movie is available for viewing. The world is a much smaller place thanks to the internet.
However, the freedom of the internet is also it's biggest problem. Anyone can post anything they want online. Not only is it an incredibly good thing, its also something to be extremely wary of. There is a lot of good online, but there's also a lot of false information. Often times its hard to distinguish what is true or false. Ben Franklin famously said, "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see". I would like to amend that statement but I don't think we can believe less than none.
I take everything I see or read online as simple a rumor. I like to see evidence and and proof of assertions. But its hard sometimes. I recently watched the documentary "Zeitgeist Addendum". It makes a lot of claims about how inflation works, that our monetary system is inherently flawed and unethical, and how our major corporations have locked us into a kind a slavery. A lot of it is very compelling and season pretty logical. But then there are a lot of people that say most of it is lies and made up. And then filmmakers have their own rebuttals saying otherwise. So who do you believe? The only way is to fact check for yourself. Thats the problem. There is simply too much to check. Its way too much to have to go and verify every single assertion or claim that the film or anyone makes. Even if someone makes a film countering every point the first film made, how can you be sure the second film is honest and factual? I don't know what to do anymore. There's a lot of stuff I want to believe but I can't just blindly take statements about important issues at face value.


andy said...

The other problem with the internet having too much information is that our human brains reach their capacity at a younger age, i think.

i've described an image/metaphor to several others friends and we all can relate: our brains are like a little room with furniture movers shuffling around new information. but too much random junk keeps coming in through the front door, so they end up losing things and having to toss other stuff out the window...

but i digress...
indistinguishable truth & fiction is often a critique of film, but i think it's important that we also don't leave out newspapers, TV, magazines, books, your roommate, etc., in this debate. Certainly, we must not take everything at face value. but to be total skeptics is not only exhausting as you say, but also harmful to others and ourselves.

in films, i tend to place greater emphasis on personal meaning than truth. therefore, Farenheit 9/11 might not all be "true" by the standards of others, but it can still be meaningful. and in that sense, it can contain truth.

santa claus might not be "true", yet he still "exists" in some way which is meangingful to us. why do we tell lies? to children of all people? to me, the story of Santa Claus may not be true..but it has meaning to me...becuz i believed it was true.

J - Beezie said...

i see what you are getting at with placing the emphasis on personal meanings rather than actual truths. however, while some may believe that bush is a moron or the government was in some way responsible for 9/11, films like farenheit 911 either down right lie about facts or they completely misdirect people and exclude other facts in order to prove a point that is not entirely correct. if not true by the standards of others means false, then i have to disagree in that no, I do not think it is meaningful.

as for this film on the economy, i feel it is another one of those films where they are over simplifying a complicated issue in order to point a finger at someone. some of it may be correct, but I am willing to bet there are hundreds or thousands of other aspects to their arguments that they ommit, in order to reach their predetermined conclusion, a conclusion they would have made with or without evidence. I mean to say that bankruptcy is built into the system is, well, absurd. Let's simplify it further and prove their theory by talking about how in capitalism there are always going to be winners and losers, so therefore losing is an inherit part of the system. WOW! Insightful! not really because our economy is not as black and white as that.

I think the internet is a lot like this. People will try to create new stories or facts based on biased or half-assed research. So in that sense yeah maybe one should approach the webiverse with doubt. But, you might not have to read with doubt if you look in the right places. Often it can be very easy to varify if what you are reading is published or it's someone's personal mind fart. So, have faith friend.

Besides once the machines take over we won't have to think for ourselves anyways :)