The Internet Has Left Americans More Uninformed Than Ever

via Gage Skidmore
via Gage Skidmore

I’ve recently come into the habit of fact-checking the posts that my Facebook friends obliquely share in droves. It isn’t difficult, a simple stroke of the keyboard and up pops millions of results on my computer.

Within two minutes or less I can usually find out how accurate, or most commonly inaccurate, a rumor is. The website I most commonly use, Snopes, provides researchers with a detailed and comprehensive report on the rumor itself, including origins and more information.

So, I have to wonder — Why, in an age of such abundant information at our very fingertips, do people continue to spread so much misinformation? To call the act irresponsible is a gross understatement, as I suspect that this is partially to blame for the ludicrous political sphere that we’ve somehow find ourselves in the midst of. We live in a polarized time, where protests run rampant in the streets, and a serious contender for the presidency lauds his penis size on national television.

Politics themselves have transformed into a farce, perpetuated by those contributing to our current culture of misinformation. It’s undeniably wonderful to be passionate about politics, but where do we as a society draw the line?

Donald Trump, possibly our soon to be bumbling overlord, currently holds an overwhelmingly negative ranking on Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize winning political project. According to the fact checking website, Trump’s public statements currently weigh in at 43% false, and 19% “Pants on Fire”, Politifact’s humorous reference to the childlike taunt. The website goes on to report that only 2% of Donald Trump’s reviewed statements can be considered fully true.

Yet, somehow, we now inhabit a world where the truth seems irrelevant. As of the third of May, Donald Trump is now the presumed Republican nominee. Although his statements are often found to be wildly untrue, his supporters do not seem to care. Paul Waldman writes for The Week:

The real genius of Trump’s mendacity lies in its brazenness. One of the assumptions behind the fact-checking enterprise is that politicians are susceptible to being shamed: If they lie, you can expose the lie and then they’ll be less likely to repeat it. After all, nobody wants to be tarred as a liar. But what happens when you’re confronted with a politician who is utterly without shame? You can reveal where he’s lied, explain all the facts, and try as hard as you can to inoculate the public against his falsehoods. But by the time you’ve done that, he has already told 10 more lies.

Bernie Sanders, the current underdog in the race for the Democratic nomination, can also be known to bolster his arguments with selective facts and half-truths, skewing numbers to support his idealistic campaign for the White House. According to Politifact, his statements are overwhelmingly “mostly true”, “half true”, and “mostly false”. Many of his supporters have become so blinded that they easily fall into the trappings of false political lunacy, going so far as to create a wild conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, has stolen votes and crookedly fixed the campaign. What they fail to take into account, however, is the fact that Clinton has held a massive lead since the beginning of the 2016 presidential race.

Logic, though, sometimes escapes even the most sensible, and those who are “feeling the bern” are not exempt from such a pitfall. The rumors that Clinton’s campaign has the election rigged have been circulating wildly across social media platforms, and have even given birth to a petition calling for an investigation into the so-called “voting fraud” initiated by Clinton’s campaign, despite there being no substantial evidence of such a crime having occurred.

In the same breath though, one can also call attention to the overwhelming discrepancies surrounding the Clinton campaign, albeit more concrete concerns than that of voter fraud. Clinton is well known for changing her agenda to fit the current political climate, something that Senator Sanders could never be accused of.  As Clinton prepared herself to run for president over the years, she has reversed her positions on hot button issues like gay marriage, gun control, the Iraq War, mass incarceration, and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Clinton’s die hard supporters, much like those of Trump and Sanders, refuse to see the documented facts of their candidate’s failures and shortcomings. When confronted with evidence of Clinton’s political flip-flops, the subject is quickly changed, and those asking questions are faced with irate ramblings on the political correctness crimes of the ever elusive “Bernie Bros”. Though there are ample examples of Clinton’s disloyalty to her own ideologies, Clinton’s supporters are able to retreat to online safe spaces, enabling them to turn a blind eye to legitimate political confrontation, and allowing them to lick their wounds in the comfort of a group that does not dare to challenge their political opinions.

It’s frustrating to see this process unfurling, as one person alone is too insignificant a force to stop it. With the advent on the Internet, it seems that people have become less intelligent rather than more. We rely on social media as a crutch, unable to think for ourselves, believing everything that we see that fits our own agenda, political or not. All the while, those on both sides of the aisle argue that they are the ones who “know what’s really going on” and that the others have on horse blinders.

The sad, and even somewhat laughable, truth is that we, as a whole, have forgotten what it means to question information. We now take things only at face value, hypocrites in the way that we choose to “educate” ourselves.

Whatever happened to doing independent research? Thinking for yourself? Showing any signs of intelligence? Even those from past generations have been falling into the same trap. Technology makes our society better in some ways, yes. But lately I can’t help but think that it does more harm than good, in regards to our mentalities that is.

So, please, America. I am on my knees begging you. Learn to think again. Learn to question your leaders again. And please, for the love of God, learn to Google anything and everything. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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