Russell Wangersky weighs in on the battle between children’s fictional character Polkaroo and columnist and radio host Rex Murphy.
How could access to so much information turn around and make us so dumb?
I thought about that Wednesday morning as I watched the Twitter universe get itself into a super-tizzy over a made-up Twitter exchange that supposedly pitched fictional children’s entertainment character Polkaroo — who only ever says “Polkaroo!” — against the always-wordy columnist and radio host Rex Murphy.
The exchange was comedy, of course — Rex Murphy doesn’t even use the Twitter account cited — but pity the poor San Francisco music student who actually has the Twitter handle @RexMurphy, and who woke up to Twitter slaggings, like “How DARE you TRY elevate yourself to a level where you speak to @polkaroo like that, let alone threaten him #teampolkaroo.” Yikes. Back in October, I remember looking at Yahoo’s main web page — long before they ran, as news, a bizarre piece of tripe suggesting time travel had been proven by the “discovery of an 800 year old cellphone” — and had a peek at what the top 10 trending issues were. Here they are, from 10th to first place, for Oct. 9: fall flu strain, Justin Bieber, Thanksgiving recipes, Canadian Screen Awards, Thanksgiving crafts, NHL, Shania Twain, Randy Quaid, Doctors Without Borders, Chantal Akerman.
The same index, from yesterday morning?
Colin Rutherford, hand transplant, Anne of Green Gables, Powerball jackpot, Istanbul suicide bomb, Lana Del Rey, The Danish Girl, Rosie HuntingtonWhiteley, Charlie Carver, Canadian dollar.
Truth is, for the last two months, the ratio is pretty much the same: one or two news or financial events, while 60 per cent of what people want to look at or read has to do with entertainment news about stars or sports.
It’s a bit like having a highspeed air ambulance helicopter — or maybe an interstellar interceptor — and using it to drop water balloons on your buddies.
In the process, we’re cheapening the value of facts. Truth is stranger than fiction, everything is possible, and credulity has stretched so far that the regular reader will accept just about any premise as possible.
And don’t even get me started on the Internet’s incredible ability to cough up exactly the right piece of (maybe) accurate information to support whatever your opinions already are — and our willingness to abuse the web’s powers to push our own opinions and agenda.
The fact is, we love to see articles that support what we believe anyway — and there are articles out there that purport to prove just about any position you’re willing to take. And when you already agree with the premise you’re reading, you’re far less likely to expend any critical thought on its validity. (That’s why columnists you agree with are smart, and ones you don’t agree with are invariably idiots.)
Want to find some excellent “proof ”?
Google “NASA Project Blue Beam” for immediate Internet proof of — well — something.
Maybe it’s a massive economic collapse: “‘Sell everything!’ Dire warning from Royal Bank of Scotland as fears mount that markets are set for new crash and oil could plunge to $10 a barrel” from the Daily Mail. (Read the proof here: http://dailym.ai/1l4KtNM)
Or is it the reverse? “Now’s the time to step up and buy stocks” from Marketwatch. (http://on.mktw.net/1SE3GmX)
We have an amazing tool for knowledge and the sharing of information.
We use it for bread, circuses and backing up our already-existing opinions.
A great tool is turning us all into great tools.