The internet is a great source of information and opinion. Facts and stories delivered at an incredible speed. However, misinformation is also delivered at the same speed. It provides a forum for We the People. But one has to remember that among the We the people, we have morons, cretins, the insane, anarchists and biased inventors of stories. It is critical to not only check that one’s own facts are authentic and can be confirmed, but that the stories one posts or cites have been fact checked as well. Alas, quite often this does not happen. False stories, urban legends, ridiculous conspiracies and outright lies abound. And they live despite being debunked by those who repeat the myths the face of all evidence. And it is by no means the habit of one party or political side than another.
One of the funniest examples was the photograph utilized by some conservative blogs to demonstrate that attendance at the Glenn Beck/Tea Party rally in September 2009 on the Washington DC Mall had to be closer to their own 1.2-1.6 million crowd estimate than the unofficial estimate of the Washington DC Fire Department which opined 60-75 thousand people were present. The photo showed a great crowd and would seem to support the Tea Party estimate until one notices the 250,000 square foot National Museum of the American Indian is absent from the photograph. Conspicuously absent one must admit since it was built in 2004, meaning the photograph predated the rally by 5 years and therefore was a photograph of another rally. Unless of course liberals made the building disappear for a day to discredit the Tea Party movement.
The point is not how many people attended the rally, or the merits of the rally or the merits of the opposition. The point is that people need to have more care when citing sources, repeating stories and claiming facts. It is human to be wrong, it is wonderful to disagree and debate, but it is mind-numbing to see deliberate falsehood and willful blindness take over. In war they say truth is the first casualty. On the internet it is a constant casualty. It must be guarded against, or it will lose all meaning.