We are told that we live in a “post-fact” world. If you grew up in a print-based culture like I did (and you actually still use books to round out your understanding of the world), then this is alarming.
After months of brutal electioneering, a candidate has been chosen. He might be the perfect choice for a world where fact and science has been swapped for tweets and relying on his “gut” or something other than his brain for decision-making.
If it was merely our reality TV president relying on something other than fact-checking and data, then jokes and innuendo might be the end of it. However, it’s each and every single one of us “googling” on our smartphones that is driving dismissal of fact. Facebook then amplifies it ten-fold.
Like most nearly every aspect of life in America these days—the problem of ____________ (fill-in the blank) is someone else’s fault. Actually, most of the issues staring us directly in the face could be rectified with a little backbone and character. Like so-called fake news. If we didn’t consume so much of this fucking dreck, then there wouldn’t be a market for assholes like this guy, making shit up in his basement, and laughing all the way to the bank. Isn’t capitalism grand?
I’m crafting this blog post from the confines of Curtis Memorial Library’s study area, in Brunswick. I’m reminded once again that there was a time in my life—back at the University of Maine’s Folger Library—when I’d “lose” two hours or more some days, reading through stacks of newspapers from all over the country and even the world. That’s how we stayed current on the news of the day, back when I was a college student.
This isn’t mere nostalgia for the past. I’ll grant you that newspapers haven’t always been the most reliable sources of news. However, there was a time when there existed ethical expectations of journalists, and America had some great daily newspapers (and magazines highlighting fact-based/fact-checked, long-form narratives), back before the internets hollowed-out newsrooms and elevated the status of click bait.
I had an exchange of notes recently with an old high school friend, now living in another state. He was pretty discouraged about the state of news, the pitched battles waged on Facebook, and the reality that facts no longer mattered. He was talking about scaling back his consumption of social media. My thought was, “good for him.”
So what’s the path forward for those of us that care about facts? I’m not really sure.
I take time out each week in the midst of a life scurrying hither and yon as a citizen of free agent nation, to cobble together 500 or more words, looking out towards the horizon. Coupled with the challenges of the past few months, working towards unloading our house, while also writing an article for pay here and there—I’m not always sure any of this kind of work matters any longer. Maybe I’m like the snake who gets cut in two and still continues twitching. At some point, all of this may go dark—who really knows?
One thing I do know. I’ve stopped trying to shore up my own preconceived notions with digital sandbags supplied by Zuckerberg and the folks from Google. I sure as hell ain’t surfing fake news sites.
I’ve enjoyed getting back to reading books the past few months. The kind that represent some intellectual heft. Adding names like Chomsky to my “diet,” along with brushing up on Marxism and anarchism, have served as tonics to my intellect—much the way that whole, plant-based foods have boosted my physical capacity the past two months.
I’d encourage you to adopt something substantial and filling in your own news-gathering. Rather than opt for the empty calories offered by Facebook and a myriad of fake news and other sites that are the equivalent of a bag of junk, or fast food, visit a library, and add a few books to your weekly info acquisition.
Who knows what would happen if 100 people did it and then, got 100 of their friend and family to do the same thing? Maybe it would start a movement, or something.