The Misinformation Super Slow Way

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This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

If you want the truth, don’t ask the internet…

Remember how the internet used to be called, “The information superhighway”?

Nobody says that anymore.

It was supposed to be the greatest minds and ideas in all of human history, right there and available at the tap of a few keys.

All that is there, but buried under so many half-truths, nonsense, and debunked theories, it’s harder to find than a protein bar that’s not packed with sugar and carbs, a convenient parking space, or someone under fifty who watches free to air TV.

On a real highway, signs point you in the right direction. Imagine if, when these signs need to be replaced, they’re never taken down, and the new sign is simply erected beside them, and anyone at all can put up a sign.

Australia would become covered in signs to places that no longer exist. Mining towns, taxi ranks, snowfields, video rental stores, and the Great Barrier Reef. Other signs would point to the sporting stadiums of the Illawarra Steelers, Canberra Cannons, and the South Melbourne Swans.

Imagine you ask the smartest person you know a question, but whenever they try to answer, ten people shout the wrong answer, five shout random insults, and five ask if you’re horny and nearby then try to sell you a pump. That’s the internet.

We’ve forgotten that the best information and thinking is constantly being improved upon, updated and replaced. Instead the pile just keeps growing, nothing like a highway, and exactly like a garbage tip of information.

Instead of being debunked once, it all just sits there, forever steering new people in the wrong direction. To be proven right and remain right on the internet, you’re cursed to a hell of forever having the same argument, disproving the same garbage over and again. Then you still might lose, because on the internet, it’s not whose who wins the day, it’s whoever shouts loudest and longest. If that strategy ever escaped the virtual world, we’d have the most unbearable gameshows and pub quizzes, but then again, there’s already ‘The Voice’ and parliamentary question time.

The internet is a democracy, not a hierarchy. What rises to the top is not what’s right, only what’s most popular. Asking it anything is like preparing for an exam, and instead of studying, just asking the most popular kid in school what they think. Or on any complicated issue, instead of trusting the experts, you listen only to politicians, commentators, and your pets, all of which have about the same level of credibility and intelligence.

And yes, I am a commentator, so feel free to ignore me, and listen only to the political view of your pet poodle.

What we need is a way to fact-check the internet, because as it stands, it’s full of information on the earth being flat, overcoming cancer with your mind, and detoxes that work.

If you police the internet, however, that leads to one group having control of all the information, and all of sudden we’re all living in China, North Korea or Russia. Then after decades of an oppressive regime and a brutal war, we’re back where we started.

It’s on each user to the police the internet for themselves. An internet that knows this, so is constantly improving its methods to deceive. Think about the internet like one big scam artist, because it is.

At some schools, they teach classes on how to check the internet’s sources. Only problem is, how to get those classes to all the adults that missed them.

The alternative is to stick with the sources that agree with what you already believe, like most people do. That way, everything will continue to get worse, but you’ll remain certain that there’s nothing you can do, because it’s all someone else’s fault.

This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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