Kiss The Truth Goodbye

This week, The New York Times rehashed the notion that there’s a lot of crap on the Internet that is false, but that as long as it reinforces your POV, you tend not to care that it is bullshit. (They said it a little more elegantly, but that was their gist.)

Interestingly, they cited a recent BuzzFeed analysis of top political pages on Facebook that showed that right-wing sites published false or misleading information 38% of the time, while lefty sites did so 20% of the time, to make the point that lies have become institutionalized.

It would be easy to blame all of this on The Donald,  since much of what he says is bullshit, which doesn't seem to matter at all to his followers, some of whom are fabricating bullshit on those right-wing sites to justify their support of that ignorant, hate-filled, misogynous monstrosity of a candidate. But we digress.



The truly frightening thing is that the truth has become fungible.

Without getting into a philosophical argument about what is truth, it is clear we are seeing less and less of it as we move our consumption of "news" to cable TV and online. Here the truth intermingles with bad or biased reporting and bullshit concocted to give legitimacy to POVs that seek to influence in the worse possible way.

It would be great if we only had to worry about those Isis nut cases, but electronic media is full of all sort of essentially evil content masquerading as the truth. And it is not just the conspiracy theorists; it is getting closer to home, as the BuzzFeed study documents.

This is particularly concerning for kids who grow up with TV and online as their primary sources of news, so tend to believe whatever they read because they have no news-cred chops by which to measure legitimacy.

Interestingly, they tend (in my experience) also to believe what they see in ads, although they have a vague sense that somebody somewhere is paying to put that POV in front of them.

One of my kids has developed a fantastical sense of the value of certain fashion brands not through any direct, or even indirect, experience, but from what she has gleaned from ads. She also badly wants to believe in products that purport to be "natural," sustainable, nontoxic, etc, etc, bullshit, bullshit — and no amount of "look at this study that refutes those claims" makes much difference.

There are organizations discussed before in this space that try to keep an eye on unsubstantiated claims made in ads, but you can make some pretty artful insinuations in ads without coming right out and lying. Is drinking beer REALLY that much fun? I have yet to see my kitchen floor actually "sparkle."

And whenever I take an ED drug, my wife doesn't locomote her way through the house or yard like a cat in heat wearing a come-hither smile.

So what happens to the world when the context into which ads are embedded is increasingly untrustworthy? It is clear from the Internet that there is no flight to quality, otherwise the New York Times and Wall Street Journal wouldn't be shrinking like raisins in the sun.

True story? A group from an ad agency had just finished its presentation of a market survey. The findings were conclusive, clearly showing that the policies being followed by the client could lead only to disappointment and perhaps disaster. Despite the facts given in the presentation, the client had no desire to change the strategy that had been previously selected, saying: “I still think we’ll go along as we have been doing.”

“But how can you say that in the face of this evidence?” protested the agency man.

The client stared at the presentation, deep in thought. At last he reached for a cigarette and said softly: “Don’t confuse me with facts!”

Next story loading loading..