separating the wheat from chaff; life in a post-truth world

Last weekend, I was part of a conversation about the featured image of this post in one of my social media groups. There was the usual outrage by the participants, discussion on how we have contributed to the achievement of this goal, some blame apportioning and suggestions of practical solutions to common problems.

I was tempted to send the picture to my friends, but I have learnt and I’m still learning to either investigate of observe a refractory period on anything I receive via social media before sharing, for good reason. Nearly an hour into the chat, someone shared this link. Turns out that not only is the picture fake, there are different circulating versions.

I love Quora by the way, I learn a lot from that site every single day.  At that point, I asked myself, why did I find it easy to believe that a Lord Macaulay referred to the entire African continent as a country? But that is not the end of this story.

The picture soon surfaced in another group, like I expected it to. Because these days, messages shared on social media are like the flu – one person sneezes and everybody catches it! This time, it was a Facebook page; a page full of researches, historians and all-round egg heads; a page dedicated to the history of Nigeria, where the date of a historical fact or picture you have shared had better be correct or a hundred people will call you out at once, and with evidence of your error.

And this is where the story got interesting. The gum that the poster used to affix this picture on the wall was still drying when someone retorted with the Quora link. We tried to explain to her that although the sentiments in the picture might resonate with our present conditions, the picture itself was a fake and as such could not be used as evidence. Whereupon, the Original Poster flared up and accused us of being white serfs and wondering why we ‘found it difficult to accept that our colonial masters were not the epitome of fair play’ and ended with a ‘I’ve put it up, come and beat me’ kind of remark, after which I imagine that she ‘cyberly’ flounced out of the Facebook room. Of course she completely missed the point we were making, but it made me wonder, how far do we need to go in pushing our truth? Should we be selling it by ‘Whatever means possible’?

Or perhaps, the question is a more existential one, asked in the eternal words of Pontius Pilate : What is truth?

Trump may have made it fashionable to deal in post-truths, but we had started on this path way before he entered the picture.

Sometimes, these fake messages that are started for ‘fun’, but then end up having dire consequences. Like the Ebola remedy hoax.

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, someone thought they might catch a bit of fun by claiming that taking a bath in salt water and drinking the same could kill the virus. That message quickly went viral on social media, gaining extra details in each cycle of sharing. This quickly gave birth to salted bathers and drinkers. Many people bought into it and drank large quantities of salt water. Including hypertensives; people lost their lives before the frenzy finally died down.

The apparent ability of a message to pass from our eyes to our hands for sharing, totally by-passing the brain may be partly be due to a desire to be the breaker of news. We want to walk about with a sign that reads ‘You heard it here first’, so we’re sharing ‘news’ from questionable sources with all the zeal of TV show contestants playing ‘Fastest Fingers’. The next time you’re tempted to quickly share something, remember the first question in The Four-Way Test – Is it the truth?

Game time! Let’s play Guess.

cockroach

This is another picture currently making the rounds. Can you guess why any doctor or even a radiographer worth their salt will immediately recognize the cockroach as an ‘artifact’ and will therefore be unlike to make such a judgement call  as referring the patient to India?

P.S, I hear there other versions of this picture too, with different countries being named as the location where the X-ray was taken.

Cheers Folks, wishing y’all a good week! And that’s the truth.

 

Housekeeping

It’s becoming clear to me that any break in my blogging activities is like falling off the sober wagon for me. It gets harder and harder to get back on. The Yorubas have assaying that loosely translates to ‘It’s the proximal mountains that are blocking my view of the distant peaks’.

This too shall soon pass!

Shalom!

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