Saturday, February 11, 2017

"Agnotology" and the Rise of Opinion over Fact

2016 was a tough year for our old friend, Truth. 2017 looks like an equally rocky ride! 

As much as I enjoy Social Media, I'm going to blame it for the train-wreck of Truth. Our interactions in the digital world have somehow led us to believe that opinion is equal in importance to fact (climate change is one example). This phenomenon creates "sides" of arguments that don't exist in reality. We choose a side that comes with a set of arguments that fit our bias instead of really looking at [actual] facts. Then we go on to dismiss those actual facts and the sources for them, as "biased." 

People can't handle the truth! This best evidence of this is the enthusiastic "thanks" you will receive when you send someone a link to Snopes (or other fact-checking site) in response to a post you realize contains bogus information. Nada. You will never be thanked, enthusiastically or otherwise, for pointing out that a fact is twisted or false. I used to send the Snopes link via private messenger out of sincere concern that someone might be embarrassed by their honest mistake and just assumed the person would say, "Oops! I was punked. Thank you so much for telling me!" and withdraw it or issue a retraction. I'd wait. Crickets. Nope. You are much more likely to get the response: "You must be a liberal!" (Because that must be the only reason anyone cares enough to fact-check?) 

And then there is the "alternative fact." Most recently made famous by the American government -- much to my chagrin -- it has really been a "thing" for as long as people have been opinionated. Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, it may not be true, but it makes sense and is something to consider." Huh? If it is not true, I maintained that it should *not* be considered. 

I was delighted to recently find there is actually a word for this: Agnotology. "Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour." (Clearly written by British folk.)  

Click here to read the article:

Let's try harder to keep our facts... well, factual. 

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