I can’t get out completely. There are too many things that I have to keep track of and keep up with, from festivals to cons to working on projects with friends, but I can certainly pull back a bit; I can cut down.
And I probably should for the best of reasons. I’m really getting jaded about the basic levels of the stupidity of mankind as a whole. I even once had more of a sense of humor about it when I wrote this piece some years back – A P.H.D. from Email U. –but the sense of humor about it has gone a little numb.
Years ago, back when there was more time in the day and less electronic connectivity, you still had urban legends and the suckers who would fall for them in a heartbeat. As I often cite when talking about these sorts of things to friends, I grew up with friends in school who swore blindly that the kid who played Mikey in the old cereal commercials had died from an exploded gut when he washed a pack of Pop Rocks down with a soda. I knew people who swore that it was documented medical fact that if you sneezed and passed gas at the same time you would die from the intense strain that it caused in your body. So, yeah, there have always been the gullible for whom urban legends were gospel.
But there were two things about these people back then. First, they were usually the very young. Some of the really goofy stuff you only heard from people of high school age or younger. Granted, with topics ranging from the Loch Ness Monster & Bigfoot to JFK conspiracies involving casts of hundreds to thousands, you had the adult versions as well, but most of the goofiest stuff seemed to belong to the younger set. Second, outside of most of the JFK conspiracy nuts and the cryptozoology diehards, you could usually present evidence, present facts, that would be taken as information completely refuting and debunking the urban legend in question.
Although, it wasn’t always easy to get those facts with which to refute the wild claims. We’re talking pre-internet era here. Looking things up involved actually leaving the house, visiting the local library or archivist, and sifting through a small ton of actual print material in order to find something. Local libraries would only retain local papers and one or two of the big boys of the news world, and looking up medical or legal information in actual medical or legal texts sometimes felt like it required a degree in the field to understand what you were sifting through.
But there were rewards for that hard work. When you found what you needed, whether for a school paper, a news story you were working on, or a debate/discussion, it was pretty solid and the actual facts of the matter were accepted by most.
And then we moved out of the 1980s and into the 1990s, and we acquired a new tool. As the 90s wore on, the World Wide Web, which had actually been around for some time, started becoming much more mainstream. Personal computers, hell, computers in general, had made a rapid evolution and become something that more and more people worked with and wanted to have at home to play on. People had ability to have the internet in their homes, and it was played up as an amazing tool.
Many started calling it the Information Superhighway. More so than books, more so than radio, more so than antenna television, and more so even than cable television, the internet was going to bring the world into our living rooms. With the internet, we could see and share information and images from all over the world, and we would have the facts of a millions of books, newspapers, and archives at our fingertips. We were, we were told by some, at the dawn of a golden age of information and knowledge.
Of course, our suffering from human nature and all, we seem to want to do whatever we can to fuck it up. So, as fast as we could get started on doing so, we set out to turn the Golden Age in the Pyrite Age as fast as we could and in as many ways as we could.
We should have seen it coming as well. Several templates, examples of what would be refined and created later, were already being set up. One of the better known ones was the Drudge Report.
I’m using Drudge as an example not just because the man is pond scum, but because I always found the promotion of Drudge confusing early on. Then, after I figured out the scam that had been built, I found it fairly humorous.
A great deal of work went into building up Drudge early on. He was praised a great new “citizen journalist” and hailed as a sign of what was to come with the future news media by the likes of Rush, various other conservative pundits, The American Spectator, The Heritage Foundation, a then new to the news landscape Fox News, and others. The Drudge Report itself was played up as this amazing new media platform that would be the start of the end of the old media and the “control” on information by the MSM. The image of Drudge and the Drudge Report as a dogged citizen journalist striving to report the truth with a website that would make the “old media” tremble in its boots, as I said above, initially confused me a bit though.
As far as Drudge himself went, he didn’t really do a lot of reporting. You didn’t, and still don’t, often go to the Drudge Report website and see stories filed by Drudge himself. This may be because whenever he attempted doing so, as with his infamous “Clinton Lovechild Exclusive” story or his Ashley Todd attack story, he tended to aim for the sensational and have it blow up in his face or simply fizzle out. But you also had very little in the way on the Drudge Report of “Drudge Report” stories. You didn’t have stories filed by people working for Drudge with accompanying videos or pictures supplied by people working for Drudge. All that you found then, and all that you still find now, were links in the form of hyper sensationalized headlines; usually with negative spins against the left.
Did the links go to some Drudge write up? No, they went to the same “old media” that various conservative outlets were claiming that Drudge and his ilk would be the downfall of. Click a Drudge Report link and you went to the websites for CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, the BBC, the LA Times, the Washington Post, etc. This much ballyhooed “new media” was nothing more than a glorified copy & paste link page that, 99.9 times out of 100, directed you to the websites of the “old media” giants that were supposedly quaking in their boots at the coming of Drudge and his kind.
Again, it seemed curious. But after some time the answer become obvious. Drudge was a cover, a shield. You’d hear what sounded like an unlikely (or flat out insane) anti-Clinton/anti-Democrat story being plugged by Rush, Fox News, or others, but it was always a “story on Drudge” or a story that “Drudge was reporting” over on the Drudge Report. I discovered at the time because of those I worked around that, while Drudge was getting some fair amount traffic at the time, most of the people I knew who would discuss the Drudge story they heard about were quite content to get it just from Rush, Fox News, etc. without actually going to Drudge’s website. That was probably a good thing, because a lot of times, with the really wild stories or the ones that fizzled out as false and went uncorrected by the outlets that promoted the “Drudge” story, the “stories” were links that went to the website for the National Inquirer or some other even less reputable tabloid of the time.
And that was the purpose of building Drudge up early on. He and his site were great tools to use by Rush, Fox News, American Spectator, conservative television pundits on cable news, and others to use to report wild, often wrong, stories from “news” organizations that, had they cited them as the source, even their most diehard listeners/viewers/readers would have laughed at them. If they rumor mongered a salacious story and cited the National Enquirer, their segment fizzles. But, if they did it while claiming it to be a Drudge story… Well, it was the reporting of the dogged citizen journalist, and the story was only referred to with lines like “Drudge is reporting” and “the breaking story on the Drudge Report” and never as a story by the actual source material. And that game would allow it to get into play and become an “American Spectator” story, a “Fox News” reported story, or some other such thing when referenced still later.
Years later this would lead to a hilarious moment in conservative media meltdowns when Drudge linked the National Enquirer story detailing Rush’s illegal drug use. Drudge, in the closest thing he likely every showed to journalistic integrity, declared that he had to run with it despite the source as he had done the same for years with Enquirer Clinton stories and other such stories, and that not doing so would be hypocritical. In the meantime, the same people who had for years used Drudge as a shield from having to say that they were hyping an Enquirer story suddenly found the Inquirer to be a hack rag scandal sheet with no credibility and, in some cases, attacked Drudge for linking such obvious trash.
But, even before that point, the Drudge thing was wearing thin and showing its age. The problem with a gimmick like the Drudge Report trick is that the bigger you make your “shield” the sooner more people start actually seeing for themselves that the “Drudge” story is either trash or a misrepresentation by the various people hyping the story of what was actually being reported. For their game to have legs, there needed to be created a series of new outlets, Drudge Gimmick 2.0 as it were, but without the flaw of the original.
When it came to the world of politics, the answer was to create a bumper crop of fake news websites, some little more than glorified blogs, which actually went old school, playing to greater or lesser degrees to the time honored tradition of Yellow Journalism. And, in the new media age of the internet, these things could thrive.
We acquired players like PoliticusUSA, Forward Progressives, NewsBusters, and Kos, sites that often play in the deep end of heavy spin and half truth. We got sites like TPNN and Breitbart which like to throw complete fabrications into their news mix on a fairly regular basis. And then, for the complete fringe lunatics in the mix, we got the political equivalent of the Weekly World News in the form of World Net Daily and InfoWars. The creation of these “news” sites, both by the left and by the right, was a major part in changing the Information Superhighway into Stupid Street.
You see, if you didn’t like the facts, there was now a “news” site just for you. If you wanted to ignore the truth and embrace “facts” that were completely at odd with the reality based community, you and your best, like-minded friends could now go to your new home on the web for the information you wanted to be true rather than the information that actually was true. In truth it was little more than an extension of what you had with talk radio, but talk radio was “commentary” and not “news.” With this, you had junk propaganda sites being labeled as news sites while being promoted and supported in their little bubble reality communities. And, of course, they get to be linked on Drudge if they slanted right.
And what it’s done to political discourse in this country is ridiculous. You no longer in many cases have the ability to present a fact to resolve a debate or a discussion. If you present a fact, a real, honest to God fact, someone will find a “news” site to their liking to present a “fact” to counter reality because, in this little cottage industry, there’s always someone who will write a “fact” for the reality impaired.
The big problem is that it’s not restricted to just politics. As abundant as the fake news sites catering to the politically inclined have become on the web, they’re merely a part of the greater whole; or the greater hole, as it’s basically becoming a giant hole in which all information and intelligence falls into, never to be seen again.
It’s also, admittedly, not completely new. The charlatans, the hucksters, the crooked carnival barksters, the snake oil salesmen, and the conspiracy freaks have always been with us; as has the urban legend. But, as I stated above about Mikey and the search for facts in general, at some point you could find a fact, or an interview with Mikey himself laughing about his “death” at the hands of snack food, which all but the most mentally challenged would accept for the facts and the truth that it was. It seems like it’s not that easy any more.
We now have a small ton of websites that have been laughingly branded news sites, medical sites, science sites, historical information sites, educational sites, and whatever else sites that are anything but what they claim to be. They are in fact the electronic age’s updated versions of the snake oil salesmen, the con artists, and the liars of old. But the electronic age has given them a reach far greater than that of their old school counterparts, following far greater than any individual could have once had, and, added bonus, and something mostly unwanted by the scammers back in the day, they’re now part of a community of liars in their chosen field.
They network now. They build on each other’s bs. Yeah, sometimes they turn on each other, but not in the numbers needed to totally break the illusion they create of their bubble reality. They’ve built entire cottage industries of bullshit, referencing each other, “confirming” each other’s “findings” on a subject, and building new layers of bullshit on the old. And out there, desperately happy to lap up the most insipidly stupid lies, are millions of people who have convinced themselves that these really are news, medical, science, etc. sites just because they call themselves that and have found fellow con artists happy to support the claim.
And there’s no subject under the sun that doesn’t have these sites growing up, ready to create a completely different reality for the faithful to electronically live in. What’s more, the faithful will almost violently argue that, since they’ve finally found someone who will tell them the comforting lies they most want to believe, that it’s the rest of the world that’s wrong, and it’s only the brave truth seekers of their bubble reality website that have it right.
But it doesn’t seem to end there. No… Not content to effect that change, not content with turning the Information Superhighway into Stupid Street, we’ve worked damned hard to turn social media into the new off ramp to Dumbass Drive.
Social media, where we can all come together and talk about things, share things, and, apparently, in many more cases than I would have once thought, dumb ourselves down to incredible degrees. It’s bad enough that the electronic charlatans of the day get their own pages and profiles to post their bullshit with, but their bullshit is then shared over and over again by the faithful and somehow always end up in everyone’s feeds. Oh, there’s also apparently a rule for being a participant on social media that I seem to have missed.
You see, as any good researcher will tell you, all you have to do to make something true is add words to a picture. At least, that’s apparently the rule with social media. If someone makes it a meme, it’s got to be true. If someone posts a picture of one thing and adds words under it that claim it’s something else entirely, it must be true. If you read it on social media and like it because it confirms your personal biases, it has to be true. And, frankly, between these websites and social media these days, I’m starting to wonder how much bullshit some people will embrace before they either snap back to reality from the sheer absurdity of the world they’re creating for themselves or the layers of bullshit finally just collapse in on them and suffocate them.
It doesn’t matter how stupid, or how downright insane, something is; there are websites and social media groups out there to be embraced by the faithful to protect their bubble reality view of the world. And then the faithful will plaster it all over their social media pages, guaranteeing it that somehow it will end up in your face and have you wondering how about just how gullible humanity can really be.
And the gullibility seems to know absolutely no boundaries. The stupidity flows from all quarters, whether they be Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, conservative, liberal, undecided, domestic or foreign. If you have a comforting lie you desperately wish was the truth, you can now find multiple websites, blogs, and social media pages to help you happily delude yourself and let you share your delusions with everybody else.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that the 9/11 attacks were masterminded by the international banking cartel, Israel, and the American shadow government, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that W. initiated the Iraq war to help destabilize the world and set us up for the coming One World Government, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that the Colorado theater shooter was supplied and backed by the Obama government in order to push an anti-gun agenda, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that ISIS is secretly the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service and a creation of USA Army Intelligence headquartered in Sierra Vista, Arizona and the Reagan Building in Washington DC, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that Sandy Hook never happened and that it was all staged to push the wild, leftist, anti-gun agenda, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing the Boston Marathon bombing was a staged hoax designed to double as an excuse to enforce martial law and as a false flag attack, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that the various mass shootings and acts of terror on American soil over the last few years were all staged and all the victims are really “government actors” moved from tragedy to tragedy to play the same rolls over and over again, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that Obama is a Kenyan born stealth Muslim who is secretly a closeted homosexual with a thing for older white guys and that his real father was actually activist Frank Marshall Davis, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that Obama is sending 3,000 troops over to aid in containing the Ebola outbreak because he really wants them to all get infected because he hates the military and, bonus, wants to bring them back infected to speed up the population control measures, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that we made Ebola and deliberately infected people and the proof of this is that the CDC owns Ebola, web pages, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that streams of harmless water vapor trailing behind jets are in reality secret evil government chemtrails designed to dumb us all down and help to mind control us, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that medical science is hiding the truth about cancer and all that’s really needed to cure cancer is lots of vitamins, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
And, building on that one- If you want to delude yourself into believing that cancer is a totally recent thing that never occurred in our ancient ancestors and is only now happening because of nefarious government reasons, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that fluoridation of water is actually a way to pump deadly chemicals into our water and that it’s never been tested for safety so much as one time, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that the annual flu bug is secretly, this year at least (and then next year when this one doesn’t kill us) a superbug planted in the US by our government via the means of “spreading” illegal aliens throughout the lower 48 states, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that Ebola is hyper contagious, that it’s absolutely, 100% airborne, and that our government is hiding the real facts about it from us in order to implement population control measures, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that hundreds of ISIS terrorist have secretly been arrested in Texas and that the Obama government and the “liberal, MSM” are hiding this fact for nefarious reasons, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
If you want to delude yourself into believing that there’s a woman with three breasts walking around Florida, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
And if you want to delude yourself into believing any of the thousands of other completely insane things that are out there, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.
Now, of course, there are websites that actually try to cut through the bullshit. There are websites that have sprung up that try to debunk the garbage that these other websites and their faithful spew out all over the net every day. But, for the faithful, these sites are always wrong.
And don’t even get me started on the whiny and outright petty political hypocrisy put on display on a daily basis.
Snopes, Factcheck, Punditfact, Truth or Fiction, etc. are all sites that devote pages and a huge amount of bandwidth to debunking bullshit and hoaxes. They do legwork like actually interviewing people involved when they can, they link original sources, and they document whatever they claim. The same can be said of actual, reality based news sources as well. But, nope, these sites are always wrong because, for the faithful, it’s only the desirable lie that’s the truth.
And it’s weird to see how far some will go through mental gymnastics to hold that position. Not long ago I had a family member post to Facebook a link “proving” that Snopes was a lying propaganda site. The interesting bit was that the linked three paragraph article in question had four easily provable lies, all of which could be documented as lies with links to the source materials being discussed, and the article itself never offered so much as one link, source, or citation to back its claims about Snopes. Result? Nope, the article offering no proof, no links, no sources, and no citations while demonstrably lying “pulled back the veil” on Snopes despite the fact that the Snopes article that it attacked provided multiple links to original sources that could be checked and verified to back the position it took as absolutely accurate.
The facts, the reality based community, was not on the side of the website claiming to have proven (by making false claims about a single article on their site) that Snopes was a lie filled website. But the lie was comforting for the faithful, so the comforting lie was embraced, shared, and promoted on the web and through social media.
Years ago, again, you could get someone to give up the notion that Mikey died because of washing down his Pop Rocks with a bottle of Pepsi. You could show the person claiming that a news article of the adult Mikey talking about the goofiness of such urban legends or maybe show them a VHS copy of a TV interview where he discusses it.
Today? More than likely the person would claim that, no, Mikey really did die, find a website that “proves” it, inform you that you were in fact the sucker for buying into such a fake video since they can do so much with photoshop and video editing these days, maybe suggest that it wasn’t the real Mikey but rather a government actor pretending to be the real Mikey, and then question you on how you can be such a sheeple as to believe anything that the lying, MSM tells you.
And I see this crap every time I log onto social media these days. And I continually see it from people who would otherwise seem smart, but seem to desperately desire to believe anything that makes any idea they have “factual” whether their notion about something is just a little off base or entirely insane. It’s there, clogging up my notifications and news feeds, filling a third to half of my feeds on social media.
And, even better, some of these people, strengthened in their belief by the new bubble reality of their social media circles and “expert” websites, take their delusional fantasies out into the real world with them whenever they finally decide to leave their wackadoo websites. They bring it into the workplace, sometimes mine, and go on about their delusional ravings, getting offended when you don’t treat their nutty delusions as indisputable truth.
I’m already jaded enough about some things as well as about people as a whole. It’s a bad side effect of my job that I tend to try and not let get to me as much as I’ve seen it get to others in the past. But the sheer massive collective stupidity that seems to be growing… If I ever had a point where I knew I was getting too jaded about humanity’s overall lack of intelligence… That point would be now.
I can’t do much about the idiots that wander about with their reinforced delusions and set about making asses of themselves in the public square. We all have our own Dorseys to deal with, even if the genuine article is more annoying than most. But I can do something about the general annoyance on things like social media.
But it’s not like I can solve this problem by trimming a site, a page, or a person here or there. The stupidity is far too widespread. I’ve actually made things a little better on my feed by cutting out one person who was starting to dance into the violent, armed revolution rhetoric one too many times, and I’ve come close to cutting a family member who has defended that type of asinine rhetoric as “reasonable” discussion. But to get away from the sheer fucknuttery that’s on display on a daily basis? To get away from the delusional bubble worlds of fake facts being built and promoted all over my feed? That would require cutting out legions of people, some family, some friends, and, beyond the issues that this would cause with some of the things I do and use social media for, I actually like some of these people outside of social media because, outside of social media, they pretty much never talk about, push, or promote this garbage.
I was considering cutting ties with social media all together. Certainly it would give me more time in the day for other things, and it’s not like I didn’t know what to do with my time without social media and the internet since both have been widespread for only a minority of my lifetime’s years. But then I realized that the unfortunate truth is that social media has become a massive and major networking tool that too many people I know use. I, as I stated way up above, have too many things that I have to keep track of and keep up with, from festivals to cons to working on projects with friends, and most of that is best done these days through social media platforms.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut back greatly. And that’s what I’ll be doing for a while out of necessity because, frankly, my level of jaded annoyance with the sheer amounts of absolute mental retardation on social media has hit its maximum safe capacity. Others may feel free to create entire conspiratorial fantasy worlds to substitute for the reality we actually have to live in all they want, but that doesn’t mean I have to stick my head into those twisted unrealities any more than I absolutely have to.
So, for most of you that I do things with, there’s always email. There’s also this really cool device in homes called a telephone that’s absolutely awesome. Skype isn’t bad either, but why would you want to look at my mug any more than you already had to? But social media? I’ll be watching for certain notifications in my email if anything important is there, but on the whole I’ll be spending much less time on the web and especially on social media for a while. Frankly it’s making me too damned jaded about everything right now, especially people in general, and, with everything else going on, I really don’t need that.