2009 Thabo Mbeki nails 2016 Social Media

Love him or hate him (or have no opinion of him because you’re dead as a direct result of his AIDS denialism), you have to admit that this quote from wor Thabs still works rather nicely more than 7 years after he quoth it:

“It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.”

Read it. Then read it again, and suddenly, you look at the UK’s EU referendum, the US election, the Orlando (or any other) mass shooting or terrorist incident, LCHF, SA politics, the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements (and by this, I mean both sides of those arguments), and virtually any other divisive subject in the world today, in a slightly different light.

It’s like we’ve lost the ability to argue reasonably and logically. Everything is immediately charged with emotion and ad hominem attacks, clouding (often conveniently) the real issues and rendering any sensible discussion virtually impossible.

But why? I have some thoughts. You lucky people, you…

Firstly, with “advances” in social media, it’s easier than ever to propagate stuff, and deliberate falsehoods propagate especially well. The individuals behind these deliberate falsehoods aren’t (always) stupid. In many instances, they’re well aware that the deliberate falsehood that they want propagating will be propagated. That’s the whole idea.
But why does that happen?

It’s happens because: secondly, people – even supposedly intelligent people – have a “share first, think later” mentality when it comes to something that fits their agenda. We’re lazy, in the most part. We can’t be arsed to check whether that attractively-presented stat on immigration is genuine or not – we’re outraged that so many/so few foreign people are being allowed into our country. Or whatever. And people must know this so that they can understand why we’re outraged and why they too must also be outraged.

And then, thirdly, the fact that these days, it’s seemingly unacceptable not to have an opinion on something. Things need to be polarised. You must feel this way or that. You need to agree or disagree, and if you don’t, then I’ll tell you why you should. For example, have you seen this attractively-presented stat on immigration?
Yeah. I know. Exactly. I was outraged.

These three add up to a slippery slope that I fear we are probably sliding down at an already unstoppable rate.

But it doesn’t even end there. Sometimes it’s not just bald-faced lies. Sometimes the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods is more subtle and cynical. Omission of facts that don’t quite match with what I want you to believe. Selective reporting of the myriad reasons behind a particular incident, nudging you to consider and concentrate on one aspect far more than another.

The thing is though, if you are having to resort to the propagation of deliberate falsehoods in order to attain your various objectives, then surely you need to look again at whether those various objectives are worth attaining. How strong is your various objective really if you have to deceive people to convince them of its merit?

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Light like fact-checking website AfricaCheck. But sadly, as the name suggests, they don’t stretch beyond this particular continent. Add to that the fact that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives has already become entrenched in our digital culture and you’ll understand that they really can’t be omnipresent, let alone omnipotent.

So it’s up to us – you and I – to make the difference. To take just a moment to consider whether that thing we just heard is actually likely to be true. To critically evaluate the source, the fact, and the potential agenda before we take it as gospel. You can delve into it as deeply as you like, but if you’re not sure that it’s actually not a deliberate falsehood, maybe consider not propagating it.

It’s really nothing more than common sense.

I don’t expect to change the world with this post. It sometimes just seems that the voices of sanity are being lost, one by one, drowning in the ocean of crap that’s constantly being peddled and recycled by people desperate for us to agree with them, and who will hate us if we don’t.

I thought I’d just shout for help before I go under.