Monday, August 18, 2014

Stupid Readers

BBC News has posted an article about Facebook deciding to attach the label "[Satire]" to satirical news articles to avoid readers mistaking them for actual news stories. I realize that I may be mistaken, but I have decided to accept this as a genuine article, rather than a satirical one. My first reaction was to recall Orson Welles' radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, in which "news broadcasts" that were part of his dramatic conception were mistakenly taken for the real thing (even though the drama was preceded with a brief announcement about the technique). In other words, if people cannot accept something as fake after being told explicitly, "This is a fake," will a "[Satire]" label actually do any good? The bottom line is that people read selectively (when they read at all); and they believe what they want to believe, even when it involves misinterpreting (if not downright distorting) what they have read. While this may be taken as grist for Nicholas Carr's mill with his argument that Google is making us stupid, the fact is that people were reading the printed medium just as uncritically as they now do when they are reading from a computer screen. Let's not blame the Internet for a change and think more about why we now have an educational system that is so ineffective!

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