In Friday’s Swift, James Randi’s weekly column, he cited a remarkablebook by Andrew Keen called “The Cult of the Amateur“.
I’m reproducing the block that Randi mentioned – I believe his selection is excellent and states much of what I feel is at issue in internet commentary, and indeed, the way people perceive ‘truth’ today…
Truth… is being “flattened,” as we create an on-demand, personalized version of the truth, reflecting our own individual myopia. One person’s truth becomes as “true” as anyone else’s. Today’s media is shattering the world into a billion personalized truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile. To quote Richard Edelman, the founder, president and CEO of Edelman PR, the world’s largest privately owned public relations company:
In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself.
This undermining of truth is threatening the quality of civil public discourse, encouraging plagiarism and intellectual property theft and stifling creativity. When advertising and public relations are disguised as news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. Instead of more community, knowledge, or culture, all that Web 2.0 really delivers is more dubious content, from anonymous sources, hijacking our time and playing to our gullibility.
Need proof? Let’s look at that army of perjurious penguins – “Al Gore’s Army of Penguins” to be exact. Featured on YouTube, the film, a crude “self-made” satire of Gore’s pro-environment movie An Inconvenient Truth, belittles the seriousness of [his] message by featuring a penguin version of Al Gore preaching to other penguins about global warning.
But [this film] is not just another homemade example of YouTube inanity. Though many of the 120,000 people who viewed this video undoubtedly assumed it was the work of some SUV-driving amateur with an aversion to recycling, in reality, the Wall Street Journal traced the real authorship of this neo-con satire to DCI Group, a conservative Washington, D.C. public relationships and lobbying firm whose clients include ExxonMobil. The video is nothing more than political spin, enabled and perpetuated by the anonymity of Web 2.0, masquerading as independent art. In short, it is a big lie.
Trying to navigate the information overload we have today to try and get ‘reality’ out of the morass is a challenge I personally face every day. Aside from the deep philosophical overtones, I have a firm faith (if that is the proper word) in reality and truth. Superstition and fantasy masquerading as fact has no place in my worldview. To me, spin, misdirection, and deception, like the video mentioned above, are no better.