Political Correctness

Spotting Bullshit

Throwback Thursday:  I originally wrote this back in 2018, but it especially applies to Elon Musk and his “free speech” by buying Twitter bullshit.

When did Americans get so goddamn gullible?

We fall for propaganda like a fat middle-age man picking internet brides from Asia. You know he truly believes “Joy623 is really into me.”

We all know someone who still believes Obama is a commie from Kenya, or 9-11 might have been an inside job.

Some of this gullibility is just laziness. It takes work to sort through sources and overcome the spin of all the bullshit swirling around us.

Recently, a friend re-tweeted a story about a little boy. “A doctor” told the boy he needed to give his blood to save his sister’s life. After the needle is in, the boy asks: “so when do I die?” believing that he would have to give all his blood to save his sister.

Turns out that’s a bullshit story from a 1930’s movie that keeps making the rounds: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/transfusion-confusion/ If my friend had checked the comments, he would have known it was just some “feel good” Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul kinda crap.

Even worse than laziness, some of this bullshit is our “brains” — and our own “experience” fooling us.

I was raised by two skeptics. I haven’t really believed anything or anyone my entire life. (Ain’t that right Jesus?)

But I got fooled last year. I thought for sure, I had seen video of Donald J. Trump from 1990-something saying if he ever ran for president, he would run as a Republican, because they are all “stupid.”

Turns out that’s a bullshit quote they wrapped around an Oprah Show video. It just felt like something Trump  would say. Because it “felt” right, my brain tricked me into thinking I saw it. And I just accepted it as fact. So it’s not just laziness, we believe it, because we want to believe it.

It doesn’t matter your political orientation or level of education. We all get fooled.

So what’s the answer?

There’s no single answer. Citizenship is work.

In previous generations they had it partly right: “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.”

That’s still true, but in the 21st century, every screen can be set up to deliver a bullshit serenade.

Facts used to get filtered because it cost money to print or get on TV. But now any dumbass can post their personal flavor of bullshit on social media. (I know what you are thinking — and fuck you, this Bullshit Blog does not qualify me as “any dumbass” — Mike).

An entire industry of the “rage machine” has grown around “rant media”, political operatives, and lobbyists that only make money when we are pissed at each other. They use propaganda techniques (invented by the religious, and “perfected” by the communists and the fascists) to get us to click and donate to the causes that put money in their pockets.

Don’t get me started on the Russian bots… and Facebook and Twitter…

We are now in an age where you have to be skeptical of your own thoughts. If it feels right, or feels too good to be true — it’s probably bullshit.

The International Federation of Library Associations has a pretty good picture of what we need to do:

How to spot fake news

That’s a  good list.

I would just add a couple more:

1) Look for dates, times and places in every story. If you can’t google when, and where this thing happened — it’s probably bullshit.

2) Look for names — if the story has no names or is based on “anonymous” sources — it’s probably bullshit.

3) Check the comments — people often debunk stuff right in the first couple of comments. If there’s no place to comment — it’s probably bullshit.

And one last thing. Check the other side’s media. Many times the story may be true, but there are parts of it they are not telling you. Fox is the master of half-truth and innuendo (Clinton emails, Benghazi or Uranium One). MSNBC is great at just skipping stories that don’t fit their mindset (self-defense shootings, regulation choking business…).

Half a pile of shit is more frequent and more difficult to spot than complete bullshit.

Why go through all this work? Because Bullshit is the first step to tyranny. When we give in to the bullshit, the bullshitters win.

And no one else can do that work for you. There may be some sources you trust — but you have to be skeptical of them too. Like I found out, even you can fool you.

If we all agree to double check our shit before spreading it on everyone else, maybe we can all get better at spotting bullshit.

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