Are You More Inclined to Believe in Fake-News, or to Comprehend Facts?

Are You More Inclined to Believe in Fake-News, or to Comprehend Facts? November 13, 2020

The late, great musician Tom Petty put out a song in 1976 called Free Falling. It’s about a boy and a girl who live in Reseda, California. The girl happens to love Jesus, horses, America, and “her boyfriend too”. But her boyfriend does not love her. So, he breaks up with her, and consequently, he begins a dark “free fall” into the abyss of uncommitted bliss.

Do you enjoy facts or fake news? / Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This might be an abrupt segue, but a lot of people have broken up with something called the truth these days, and they are now free falling in a vacuum of misinformation completely untethered from facts.

To prove my point, just talk with anyone on the street, spend a few minutes on social media, or watch and read the news from your favorite sources. If you have your BS detector calibrated correctly, you’ll notice that what you are in all likelihood hearing and seeing are just opinions laced with emotional appeal.

Naturally, not all the information bombarding us is as harmful as radiation. Occasional facts are occasionally presented. But with this climactic ending to the 2020 elections, people should understand that if they are at all interested in discovering the truth about what happened, they are going to have to do some old-fashioned research to find it. Because, photoshopped memes and shared propaganda on social media will no longer suffice.

I actually think we (us Homo sapiens) have been living in a fact-free environment since the dawn of our existence. It is only within the past millennia – and specifically since the scientific age – that we are starting to appreciate how liberating facts can be.

Fireside, fake-news chats

When you think about it, for tens of thousands of years humans simply grunted or told stories to each other around crackling open fires. Some of the information they shared such as, “Don’t eat the red berries on the bush by the river because they will kill you,” was factual. However, like watching television today, our ancestors didn’t care as much for this kind of data as much as they enjoyed listening to the storytellers of their tribes speak in myths and metaphors about the mysteries of life. Eventually, those myths and tribal histories were turned into belief systems, which were later further embellished into full-blown organized religions. Yet, today’s religions still don’t offer us much by way of factual details concerning life. Our interest in the facts of life did not officially blossom until the scientific revolution in the 17th century. Since then, we have enjoyed a steady increase in tangible knowledge to the present.

Only recently, thanks to computers and the internet, have we been inundated by the dissemination of information and misinformation. I’d liken the experience of surfing the internet these days to something akin to having a global fireside chat. Some facts are still being shared, but for various reasons people are still more captivated by myths and mysteries. Facts retain the powerful ability to shatter the most tenacious of beliefs, and I think most people would simply prefer not to confront this reality.

“A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.”—Mark Twain

There are only two periods in my life when I thought it really important to embrace facts rather than suffer the merriment of delusion. The first time was when I was deciding whether or not to leave religion. I liked religion. Living my faith was like living in a lucid dream. Everything I hoped for would eventually come true. But my desire to factually understand life eventually replaced my state of ignorant bliss.

The second time was during the 2016 elections until the present.

I think all Americans can agree that in the past four years we have become acutely aware that much more misinformation – fake news – exists than factual details. Unfortunately, what we can not agree on, is which Americans among us are more inclined to believe in fake news, and which of us possess the wherewithal to comprehend the facts.

Any suggestions?

 

 

About Scott Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is freelance writer and the author of the novel "Blind Guides and “Picking Wings Off Butterflies.” Thinkadelics is about discussing the benefits of being a freethinker with insightful tips, newsworthy posts, and in-depth features. You can read more about the author here.

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7 responses to “Are You More Inclined to Believe in Fake-News, or to Comprehend Facts?”

  1. I come from a family-of-origin that prefers its emotions to its logic. They also love “facts” that cast one side as the saintliest saints who have ever sainted, the other side as the worst sinners to ever have sinned. I stay off Facebook because the entire clan loves to pass around made-up feel-good stories such as the “atheist professor” and the entire restaurant that throw him out on his ear for “disrespecting the flag” and then break out in cheers and applause.

    As you might expect, they love “fake news” because it’s usually set up to play on their emotions.

    They also love Trump because–against all facts–they view him as an avenging hero who cares only for their happiness. It’s emotional and therefore no amount of facts will change their minds.

  2. On PBS, Rick Steves has a special about the rise of fascism in Germany.

    Meanwhile, closer to home, I ran into a neighbor while walking the dog this afternoon who’s convinced Trump won a second term but “the media is lying to us!”

  3. I’ll have to check that out on PBS. It’s been a while since I have watched his programs.

    “The media is lying to us” seems to be the new Trumpism excuse. The media is neither lying or “calling” the election as you know. If Trump loyalists cared to know the truth they could simply do their own research. They can start by going to the each of the states election websites for real time data. They can compute the vote tallies themselves given the information provided using a $.99 cent calculator. They can read statements from both R and D election officials and governors stating there is no fraud. They can go to multiple sources operated by non-partisan groups that have also crunched the numbers. They can believe many of the statements issued from currently serving Republican senators that Biden has won. They can go to multiple legal websites detailing the false and failed court cases the Trump administration has filed and which have been dismissed.

    Intellectual laziness is what it is.

    (Had to get that off my chest! 🙂 )

  4. On Roll to Disbelieve, I read comments linking wrestling with evangelical belief; they both use the same mental pathways.

    Were you around for Wrestling Hawaii? (mid-1970s through the mid-1980s). It was quite the entertainment, especially for children, but a lot of adults really bought into the whole show and believed it was real.

  5. Funny that you mention wrestling in the islands. It was popular there and is still popular on TV now. I remember thinking it was fake and pointless. The connection between wrestling and evangelical belief is bizarre. But I do see a connection between talking in tongues and all the BS wrestlers say to their opponents before a match.

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