A couple of years ago I had a teacher who encouraged us with a simple, yet powerful phrase: “Question Everything.” But he didn’t stop there in his crusade for waking us up, he even challenged us, offering a reward for the student that could spot a—intentional—lie in his discourse during the course.
Anyone could think that his attitude only encouraged our distrust. But I truly believe that, by the contrary, reinforced our trust. The trust in our decision making process.
During the last months I have been awed of the amount of false information created and distributed in several social media sites with the purpose of mislead the audiences to believe in the interest of a few or even just for the sake of generating chaos that could alienate the public of a certain topic.
US election and Syrian War propaganda are the main examples of the clear existence of this powerful machinery of disinformation that without a doubt is affecting our perception, and literally modifying the fabric of what we call reality.
In the past, I used to think that the worst that could happen to a society was to be ignorant. Why not? When most of the social pains of a civilization can by tied to it. And the worst part—I thought back then—was that is inherited from our forefathers like a disease typed in our genes. If we are not stimulated from our parents to learn, hardly we will break the bonds of habits learned by the coexistence with them. It’s not impossible to fight ignorance from the interior of an ignorant formative nucleus, like many patients learn to live and overcome their genetically transmitted disease, and the first step is to accept the condition.
But there is a more dangerous disease than ignorance, and that is disinformation. If ignorance is diabetes, disinformation is a flu. It doesn’t seem harmful at the beginning, but on closer look you find out is a virus, and like all viruses you might be a carrier and had transferred the disease without knowing it.
Disinformation is highly dangerous because contrary to ignorance—that is a lack of knowledge—, disinformation flaunts the existence of knowledge with the sole purpose of letting no room for any other piece of information that comes behind. Disinformation exploits the trust to the sources, but most important, exploits the naivety of the ignorant who will take any piece of information without questioning with the sole purpose of filling the gap that ignorance has inflicted on them.
In these times everybody prefer to be informed—even if it’s a lie—than being ignorant. Socially, is shameful to be ignorant, even if that is the status quo of mankind (nobody came to this world knowing.)
What to do then?
Investigate, compare, confront, listen different points of view and draw your own conclusions, always using logical approaches at least—if we are not able to follow a scientific approach.
But more important: be cautious before adopting information like a fact, don’t underestimate the power disinformation, because a lie told a hundred times becomes truth. You don’t believe to me? Look around and see how some of the more ridiculous lies became the dogmatic foundations of most religions, and if you dare to question them, you might end up dead.
That is the power of a virus.
Even the most insignificant flu can turn the world heads down.
That is no conjecture.
That is a fact.
That is history.
M. Ch. Landa