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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are we getting smarter--or dumber?

While driving home this evening, I heard a report on NPR about a very sincere elderly woman who was at President Obama's town hall meeting who asked him a question.

This very nice woman asked the President, with what seemed to be fear in her voice if the rumor she heard about the possibility of there being a clause in his health care reform that required a government agent--of some kind--that was to come around and ask each senior citizen how they wanted to die.

I was nearly stunned.

Think about this.

If for no other reason but the sheer numbers of people it would take to accomplish that, you would think everyone would know this is nonsense.

But the woman had heard it, her friend no doubt "swore it was true", and so she believed it. Or believed that it was possible.

And that's all it took.

What is it about us?

It seems like, even with computers--maybe even because of them--we're as superstitious or just out and out foolish as we've ever been.

Consider:

--It seems we all get those superstitious emails we get, telling us if we only say some prayer and pass on that same email to 7 or 20 or whatever friends, something wonderful we've wnated to happen (maybe you have to make a wish) will happen "tonight at 11 O'clock" or some such;

--Then there's "glurge": "Glurge (a term which can be used to describe one story or applied to the genre as a whole) is the body of inspirational tales which conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and which undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories." Glurge often contains such heart-tugging elements as sad-eyed puppies, sweet-faced children, angels, dying mothers, or miraculous rescues brought about by prayer." Needless to say, glurge is disgusting and yet it bounces around our computers again and again;

--The increase, so it seems of really ugly and dangerous racism on the internet;

--A new wrinkle--and a clear outgrowth from the racism mentioned above--in our ignorance is the existence and increasing growth and proliferation of "birthers", who keep questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama's Presidency because they just don't think he is a natural-born citizen of the US, for various, ridiculous, already repeatedly disproven reasons;

--Finally, there's all the conspiracy theories that fly 'round the internet involving everything from 9/11 to our "fake moon landing" in 1969 and who knows what all. It is a very long, tired, frustrating, confusing and nearly maddening list.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to hit on a very simple, poignant truth the other day when he said “Because for $15, you can get an Internet address and say whatever you want.”

And, sadly, lots of people will want to believe you.

We've given up intelligent, calm discourse for passionate heresay backed up by, frequently, not much more than intense sincerity.

Shouldn't we all be much smarter than this by now?

Link to story:
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/07/27/gibbs-birther/

2 comments:

Hyperblogal said...

The stakeholders in keeping everything the same are spending money like crazy... buying congressmen, senators and cyber punks who will start any kind of falsehood just to scare people. It's no different than what Goebbels did to perfection in Nazi Germany.... repeat something often enough and, no matter how untrue, it will be believed.

PFL0W said...

I agree, HB, but it sure seems like we ought to be smarter than this, doesn't it? I gave us more credit than that.