Recently I was telling friends about having taken a Facebook vacation for a month, partly because of the sniping between Sanders and Clinton camps, and partly because of all the junk that shows up nonstop.
I'm not just talking about the soppy quotes attributed to Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde which anyone who thought a moment would realize couldn't possibly be by those authors. Here's a prime example that reads like a greeting card:
Or the super-clickable and bogus assertions that never have any support, like this one:
I'm also talking about quotes that speak to our deepest fears. Like the one supposedly from a German woman writing in 1929 which has been circulating with a photo of Donald Trump:
The rise of this blusterous man bewilders the educated among us, conjoins opposing politicians, agonizes our international allies,threatens minorities, spits on the disabled, touches the hearts of those who just don't know any better. Let us stop propounding how mad this all is, but instead let us do something.
You can make a serious argument that Trump is a neo-fascist--Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institute did that in an eloquent, alarming piece for the Washington Post.
But the quote above? It started to show up early in 2016, and Snopes demonstrates that it's almost certainly 100% bogus. That doesn't matter on Facebook--junk gets spread without a second thought, without people bothering to check the source.
Like the story I read recently that Senator Tom Cotton admitted to being "ex-gay." It's linked to stories about people in Arkansas suspecting that he is. Yawn.
Nobody posting this story took a minute to peruse the web site originating the "news." It's running stories that are obvious spoofs, like one that Target won't be selling American flags anymore or other patriotic merchandise to people who don't "self-identify as Americans."
Or bothered to look elsewhere for confirmation. A story like the one about Cotton, if it were true, would have been on every major news site in minutes.
Then there's one in the last day or so from a site that mixes news and satire, claiming that Marco Rubio will run again for Senate because God killed gays in Orlando--and that was a message to him.
The common excuse for posting bogus news is that reality and satire are hard to distinguish anymore. But that's not good enough. The real reason is carelessness, the willingness to believe anything outrageous, and people being too lazy to take a closer look at what they're about to post and stop and reflect.