Propaganda and Unicorns

Unicorn Photo

In many ways, social media is the great liberator of our times: an inter-connection between humans around the globe; a way to rage against the machine; the power tool of all power tools for shaping a new age of true democracy.

The problem is that much of what we read online is propaganda. Inaccurate memes that scatter like dandelion seeds across the web, spreading untruths that either tug at our heartstrings or invoke anger within us. Images and quotes that pass in front of our eyes,  seeping into our consciousness, shaping our beliefs.

I have no problem with people stating their opinions. If I did, I wouldn’t be posting this. I don’t even mind the sheer volume of content that covers the walls and feeds of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and countless other social networks. Even those benign posts that fill space without substance … hey, if they make you feel good and don’t hurt anyone else, then by all means go ahead and post them!

I just wish there was a social media filter that validated posts for accuracy. Even the most well-intended posts — especially the most well-intended posts — often spread untruths that evoke people to challenge the status quo. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll realize that I am all for challenging the status quo — through well-reasoned debate and research-based action. My issue with our current state of collective consciousness is that so much of the information we propagate is little more than gossip. We forward “facts” and quotes — often incorrectly attributed to famous people — adding our own version of “Hell Yeah!” as we re-post or re-tweet content without first checking that it is accurate. It’s like we’ve subscribed to a feed called “Consciousness for Dummies.” If we read it on the Internet, then it must be true.

In the absence of an automated truth-checker, I would like to propose a universal guideline for posting memes and quotes on social media:

1. If your post is unconditionally inspirational, go ahead and post it.

2. If your post is a quote from somebody famous, please … at the very least, look it up on Snopes or Wikipedia.

3. If your post is a graphic image of some atrocity accompanied by a quote that casts blame for all that is bad in the world on one person or group, ask yourself these simple questions: (a) is this propaganda? and (b) is this racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise discriminatory? Unless you answer “no” to both questions, please … don’t post it!

4. If your post makes a brief statement that over-simplifies a complex issue, consider whether there is evidence or well-reasoned social commentary to back it. If not, reconsider your initial reaction that said, “Man, I’ve gotta post this!”

You are, of course, welcome to ignore or disagree with my rant/opinion. Just — please! — don’t copy-and-paste a sentence from this post and attach it to a picture of: a Liquid Natural Gas plant; a pipeline, mine or oil well; an old growth forest; a school; a hospital; anything to do with guns; a kitten, puppy or unicorn; or Donald Trump.

Actually, the unicorn is okay. After all, it is the National Animal of Scotland. (Really … look it up!)

6 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Gordon M. Bullivantreply
May 13, 2016 at 03:05 PM

Well said, indeed. People post things on social media sites that they would never say in a face to face social event. Much of it appears to be hearsay and bias,or to attack an opposing view no matter what the topic. The language used is often offensive, crude, or just plain rude; often politically affiliated with certain parties or beliefs. Perhaps social media, by its very anonymous nature, allows for a lower level of dialogue.

Mark Cameronreply
May 13, 2016 at 03:05 PM
– In reply to: Gordon M. Bullivant

Indeed, Gordon. The Internet is an easy thing to hide behind.

Margaret Petersonreply
May 13, 2016 at 03:05 PM

Very well said, Mark. Some of the posts I dislike the most are the ones of some poor misshapen, deformed soul, asking us to “like” the post and to share it with others… How that ever helps the person in question is beyond me!

Mark Cameronreply
May 13, 2016 at 03:05 PM
– In reply to: Margaret Peterson

Thanks Marg. Yes, I agree with your beef as well.

Ruth Baxterreply
May 13, 2016 at 07:05 PM

I couldn’t agree more, which is mainly why I do not belong to any of those networks. I get enough stuff forwarded thru emails.
(I was going to say “well said” until I read the first two comments)

Mark Cameronreply
May 13, 2016 at 07:05 PM

It can be frustrating, but as I said in my first paragraph, there is also a huge upside to these networks. We take the good with the bad, I guess, as with most things in life …

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