The absurdities of human civilization continue. Food production has increased at many times throughout history, but hunger remains a widespread disease. Wealth has multiplied exponentially, but poverty prevails as a widespread malaise. And with the advent of the Internet, the vast ocean of human knowledge has been tapped and made freely available to everyone, but an epidemic of ignorance rages as a plague across the world.
Why does the internet promote ignorance? There are a plethora of reasons for this, but for the sake of space I will only venture to explain a few of them.
Before the Internet age, the media and educational institutions were in complete control of the information gateway. People received information from these institutions, which were bound by ethical standards to transmit truthful and unbiased information.
With the advent of the Internet age, the media and educational institutions no longer have a monopoly on controlling the information locks. There is now an opportunity to bypass these gatekeepers and instead release information directly to the public via social media platforms. These led to a proliferation of pseudo-journalists and media mercenaries who owe their allegiance not to ethical standards but to commercial, political and social interests or prejudice.
We saw in two of our recent elections how political interests effectively co-opted media mercenaries and pseudo-journalists. Even more disturbing is the revelation that even foreign countries are co-opting other countries’ media mercenaries to sabotage the national interests of unsuspecting countries. What Russia has been accused of hijacking the political discourse in the United States to favor former President Donald Trump and crush his opponents bears uncanny resemblances to what happened in our recent election (Read How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step, The New York Times).
The phenomenal growth of pseudo-journalists and media mercenaries has been fueled by several factors. In contrast to the traditional media, which disseminate information in comparatively lengthy and boring formats, pseudo-journalists and media mercenaries disseminate information interspersed with entertainment elements or flavored with prejudices and beliefs that are appealing and attractive to interest groups.
The growth of pseudo-journalists and media mercenaries has also received a tremendous boost from the advent of “fast food” news. This is news information spread in bite-sized one-liners, photo messages, or short videos that are shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Like its literal food diet counterpart, “fast food” news is sorely lacking in “nutrition” content, which provides its readers with mental sustenance to form critical opinions and draw informed conclusions. This “fast food” news is contextless, contains distorted facts, and is marinated with hefty doses of bias and personal interest.
Traditional media is also heavily burdened with significant expenses for maintaining offices, staff and paying taxes. Media mercenaries and pseudo-journalists are rarely burdened with the same obligations because they operate in the shadows.
The marketplace of ideas abounds with pseudo-journalists and media mercenaries, whose size and influence is augmented by trolls, and they drown out traditional media. They peddle truth and facts heavily tainted with bias and prejudice. They promote self-interest disguised as fair beliefs. Our vast ocean of knowledge is teeming with colorfully dressed and entertainingly presented opinions that draw people’s attention to truth and facts. As a result, ignorance is skyrocketing in the virtual reality of the World Wide Web that has come to dominate human life.
If you look at what is happening in so many countries, the internet-fueled pandemic of ignorance threatens to devastate humanity on a scale more severe than that caused by the current public health pandemic. As democratic governments recede and civil liberties are squandered, the resulting resurgence of despotic, corrupt, and abusive governments—and the flourishing of human behavior detrimental to community life—mark a regression in the progress of human civilization.
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