Twit­ter su­per-tizzy

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

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.

Polka­roo!

Polka­roo

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