Seeing and believing: We must curb spread of misinformation


By Rachel Krotseng | Staff Columnist 

A goldfish’s short term memory is three seconds long. Daddy Long Legs are the most poisonous spiders in the world, but they’re so small that they can’t bite you. Calculations show that a bumblebee should not be able to fly. All of the dinosaurs died when the meteor hit.

At least, these are the things we learn and believe.

Actually, a goldfish has a short term memory of up to five months. Daddy Long Legs can pierce your skin, and the venom they release is only enough to sting for a couple of seconds. Calculations really show that a bumblebee’s ability of flight makes perfect sense. The dinosaurs that birds evolved from didn’t die from the meteor.

Even though we have countless ways to look things up and confirm if facts are true or not, people tend to believe everything they hear, especially when they hear it on the internet.

People, especially baby boomers, mock others when they hear that they read something on the Internet without remembering that half an hour earlier, they were scrolling through Facebook believing every single silly clickbait article on their timeline. The combination of laziness and confirmation bias means that people read the titles of articles and take them at face value. They don’t bother to read the article itself to see what the author had to say.

It is easy to go to a news site or an app and look at only the headlines, and I admit that I do this too. If you don’t have time to read all of the 700 words the author wrote, the title is perfectly fine. But this does not mean that by just reading the title, you are getting all of the facts. Sometimes, titles can be shortened for the link and longer for the article. Sometimes, titles can be twisted and worded certain ways to mean things that people want you to believe.

The most recent example of this was when I saw an article, read it, didn’t look into it and believed every word, but the whole time I was really reading about faked information with underlying antisemitic tones that you don’t see unless you know.

What I read was an article, posted by the phony news website News Punch, claiming CBS reported that “elites are lining up to ingest the blood of children.” In this day and age, I didn’t think it was fake. With all of the craziness in the world, I thought that this was something that definitely could be happening. I read the article, got grossed out, and left the site. Two days later, I saw a fact-check article rehashing the issue and explaining what was faked. Let’s unpack all of that.

The first article claimed that the “elites” were ingesting the blood, which are the first two fake-outs. The use of the word “elite” is the first red flag. Maybe not for some people nowadays, and not for me, but the naming of anonymous elites is a direct tie to the theory that a group of secret elite Jews is running the world.

Delve even deeper into this antisemitic hell-hole and find that consuming the blood of children is an age-old theory from the Middle Ages that Christian children were going missing because the Jews were kidnapping them to make their Passover meals with youthful blood. What gets me the most about this one is the News Punch article actually cites the CBS article that they are quoting, and the wording of the CBS article title is extremely different.

The CBS article is titled “Controversial Treatment Transfuses Patients With ‘Young Blood’ From Teenagers To Reverse Aging Process.” Notice the lack of the words elite and consume. Words that, when you look into them, ultimately have a double meaning.

Now, I’m not exactly suggesting that you do this much research when you read one article or when you learn one new fact, but the fact that words can be twisted so menacingly is a little disconcerting. Words almost always have more than one meaning, and those meanings aren’t always apparent.

It scares me that as a nation, we see “elite” ingesting children’s blood as a believable thing, but I suppose fear and twisted words have always been a part of our world. We create monsters of out the things we don’t like, and we don’t ask for sources.

With the new technologies we have, like photo editing and marketing strategies that make ads online hit a little too close to home, people have to be conscious of the fact that the news we see is dependent on both the platform we view it on and what we have previously viewed. We have to fact check the things we hear and read, or else who knows how much of what we read is twisted or false.