Although the Great Prevaricator has elevated disinformation to an art form, he did not invent it. Lies and Liars have always been with us. In the last century people would support their false statements by saying, “I read it in the newspaper,” making no distinction between such rags as The Enquirer and the New York Times.
With the internet, widespread misinformation has become more prevalent than ever. Professional liars such as Alex Jones spread their mendacity throughout the world. What can stop them? How can citizens know whom to believe?
Recently some steps have been taken to rein in some of the deception that runs rampart on the internet. Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify have removed Jones’s venom from their sites. However his garbage was not removed because it was false. It was removed because it violated their policies about hate speech.
Facebook has also deleted some accounts that were spreading falsehoods. These accounts are similar to the covert Russian accounts that are believed to have influenced the 2016 American election.
I am glad that something is being done about these fonts of poison, but two questions come to my mind. Are we playing whack-a-mole? If we chop off one toxic head, will two more arise someplace else? The second question concerns: who decides? Who determines whether a particular piece of information is harmless or a piece of trash that should be thrown out with the rest of the rubbish?
I certainly don’t want conservatives deciding what I can and cannot read. I don’t want liberals making the decisions either. Sometimes we need to be politically incorrect. We need to raise and discuss issues that some people find uncomfortable.
The decision about whether a bit of information is valid and worthy of consideration must be left in the hands of the people. Yet many of the people have shown themselves to be incapable of making informed decisions about the value of all the data that streams to them every day.
Therefore, it is our responsibility to give the people the skills they need to make knowledgeable decisions. From an early age children need to be taught to think scientifically. They need to learn to evaluate the fact statements that come to them. They need to be able to evaluate the evidence that is presented to them and to think critically.
If we can open the minds of the new generation coming up, they will be less likely to fall for the toxic dishonesty of the Great Prevaricators of the future.