Computer 101

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You'll believe me because I'm on the internet.  Adolf Hitler once said, "The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it."  And he was really on to something there.

We're lied to every day.  We're surrounded with a sea of lies.  We're lied to by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, businesses and government, and by liars both foreign and domestic.

We have to wade through this sea of lies and what we ultimately believe is by necessity, based on what we prefer to believe, or what seems to make the most sense in a world that makes no sense at all.

There's a favorite poster out there that says, "Government Censorship.  Protecting you from reality since the beginning of time."  Sadly, the exact same thing could be said of free speech.  You can start a FaceBook, Google, or Twitter account and say pretty much anything you want, and people do.  It doesn't have to be true.  It doesn't even have to make sense.  But if you say it, most people will believe it.

Oh, there a few skeptics out there.  I'm one of them.  If it sounds too outrageous, I tend to doubt it.  On the other hand, it's an outrageous world and the most unlikely sounding statements could well be true.  There's also the infamous "half-truth", things that include a grain of truth, but not the whole truth, which makes it a lie.  It's really hard to sort through all this.  Oh, you can always double check things...but how do you know the sources you're checking are anywhere near the truth?

For example, there was a FaceBook post out there that mentioned the number of homeless veterans.  I forget the number now but it was uncomfortably close to the total number of veterans!  The post insinuated that the government, and most of us, just didn't care about veterans.  I know a lot of veterans who were not homeless and none that were, so I checked around.

Turns out, the numbers were counting veterans who didn't own or rent homes.  Some lived in other people's homes.  Some were in medical facilities.  A number were mentally disturbed and you couldn't keep them in a home.  The numbers were based on a grain of truth and not exactly inflated, but they didn't tell the truth either.  Being half the truth, made it a lie.

We're finding out now, that a few Russian organizations were spreading all kinds of fake news and misinformation on FaceBook, Twitter, and Google, in fake accounts, pages and advertising.  I always figured that if Russia were trying to influence the election in 2016, it didn't make any sense that a former KGB agent would be covertly supporting Donald "Mr. Capitalism" Trump for President against a far-left leaning Clinton.

What would make sense though, was that any sense of division would somewhat weaken the nation.  The closer the election was for example, the less support the winner would have.  Fake posts on FaceBook reported "white supremacist" rallies, a "white lives matter" movement, and anti-moslem protests, as well as a fake movement to have Texas secede from the union...again.  They were all lies, some of them paid for in advertisements, and almost all coming from Russian organizations who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this stuff, which people sympathetic to these fake movements then circulated around the internet for free..

It's not just our government trying to divide us to distract us from the real issues, as people have long been claiming.  It's also other governments trying to do the same thing.

Celebrity quotes are frighteningly common and the vast majority are outright lies.  All kinds of weird quotes are attributed to celebrities, because attributing your own belief to a celebrity gives it more weight than just your average guy saying it.  George Carlin before he died, placed on his website a disclaimer, denouncing all of what he considered, the mindless drivel attributed to him in FaceBook messages.  And I've probably seen more things attributed to guitarist Ted Nugent, than to anyone else.  For all I know, every comment attributed to him may be absolutely true.  But I'd be willing to bet money that not a single one of them was.

I long ago trained myself to ignore advertisements in newspapers and it came pretty naturally when it came to the internet.  I regard internet advertisements as "click-bait", meant to get you to click on stuff you really don't want to get into.  On the other hand, FaceBook posts are a lot harder to ignore, particularly when you happen to lean toward that opinion.

I can only imagine what Adolf Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels would have given for a misinformation campaign on FaceBook.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that they'd gladly have killed for it.  They killed for a lot less.

Read anything posted on FaceBook, Twitter or Google, with more than a grain of salt and a healthy dose of skepticism.  Chances are at least even, that anything political, religious, or racial, is a lie, calculated to inflame emotions and exacerbate divisions.  And that's the truth.  Believe me.  Would I lie to you?  John

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