Saturday, December 19, 2015

Debunking fatigue

I don't consider RtO a debunking site although I suppose that at times it serves that function. But RtO is intended more as a positive conduit for stuff everybody knows even if they do not always realize they know it; rather than a negative corrector of bad information like

I like Snopes. But I'm not them.

To give an example, everyone knows -- if they stop a moment to think about it -- that a few Guatemalan landscapers suckered into signing mortgages did not crash a $14 trillion economy in 2008, despite what the rightwingers say. All RtO is doing is asking you to take that moment and reflect.

For the past year or so, Caitlyn Dewey at The Washington Post has taken the other road, trying to run down and expose the bad information on the Internet. She has run out of gas, no surprise.

I was not a regular reader of "What Was Fake," but her farewell column is worth the time it takes to read it. Nut graf:

Frankly, this column wasn’t designed to address the current environment. This format doesn’t make sense. I’ve spoken to several researchers and academics about this lately, because it’s started to feel a little pointless. Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.
 That has certainly been my experience with 9/11 truthers.

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