Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where is Holden Caulfield?

I have to wonder about the age we live in. I used to despair about whether truth can be found in anything, with the ocean of misinformation there is out there, largely spread by the medium that we're using right now.

On the other hand, da 'Net ($#!% I've gone NY already!) is also responsible for busting fakers, like James Frey, Akon (as a result of him throwing that kid off the stage, payback is such a bitch!). There are also fabulists like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, charlatans like "Dr." Phil, and of course, the Clintons.

There are habitual liars, there are necessary lies, and then there are the lies we choose to tell ourselves. Being autistic, by nature I'm almost compelled to tell the truth. I've had to learn how to lie, honesty is not always the best policy. There are times when governments and other institutions should lie (I'm something of a believer in Machiavelli), but it gets to a point where there is the right time and place to dig up the truth before the lie becomes accepted truth (the aboriginal mass graves come to mind here, but that's another post).

And now, the good news
 
What gets me down once in a while is the plethora of conflicting information out there about two of my favourite subjects, the environment and autism. One explanation I found recently, by the good people at Slate, is that there is an industry that is dedicated to flooding science and the media with information that they know are lies, if not to win arguments, then to drown them with endless different counter arguments and false studies (Mr. Engber's articles really seem to get to the bottom of it, particularly the last two). It began with the tobacco industry (surprise, surprise) in the late 1960's, and has flourished ever since.
Then again, it all seems to be succeeding. People are being made stupider and stupider and have no idea what is true or what to believe. But as Engber says in the first article, people crave certainty after a while. Then again, people will believe what they want anyway, and the media can be as big a hindrance as a help.

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