The goggle generation is checking the facts

Icons under scrutiny

Sitting in front of her computer surfing the Internet, 68-year-old retiree Ma Shufang can hardly believe there is so much doubt about the authenticity of the many selfless acts committed by her childhood idol, Lei Feng. Chinese Global Times, 3-6-12

Is nothing sacred? Not any longer, especially not since the internet and goggle have allowed us to find the facts behind the myths.  Goggle has changed the world – there are lots of things that goggle has either changed completely or improved the process.  One of the most significant is the ability for fact checking that we now all have.  In my youth, a writer, a radio reporter, a newspaper editor or a president could claim pretty much anything and get away with it; the average person had no way to check or verify the facts.  That may be one of the reasons that newspapers became so important to us in our role of citizen.  It was the job of every good newspaper to ask the questions, check the facts and call out anyone who misrepresented facts or interpreted them falsely.  The newspaper would report the news, and until the advent of nightly news on the radio or television, print media was the source for all news; and it worked to insure the news as reported was the truth.  Of course, the news has always been slanted according to the personal bias of the reporter or the corporate bias of the paper – but we still trusted them to get the facts right.  We had to trust them, there was no backup system.

Goggle has changed that, with a simple search anyone can check the facts of any statement and find alternative news reports for every event – no one can pull the wool over our eyes.  Well that may be an exaggeration, but not by much.  Goggle has also created a generation of skeptics, cynics and iconoclasts.  There is a whole army of people, and you and I may be numbered among them, if not all of the time, at least some of the time, who simply do not trust anything a public figure says or the way any event is characterized by the mass media.  That is one of the secrets behind Rush Limbaugh and his peers, they feed on the mistrust and specialize in providing alternative interpretations of the day’s events.  In the long run, the goggle mindset of mistrust, goggling everything on your own is bound to have a profound effect on American politics – we may have always been a nation of skeptics, but it is going to get worse, much worse.  I don’t know what that means, but it is a trend worth watching.

The story associated with the picture above is an example of the phenomenon; in the 1960s there was a man in China, Lei Feng, (maybe, he might have been a government fiction) who did good deeds.  He helped old people across the street, he gave away everything he earned to those who were more needy than he and he cleaned up 300 pounds of manure a day.  The communist party/ government reported on all of his good deeds, those stories of his good work inspired a whole generation of young people to follow suit – kind of a Chinese version of the hippies and flower power.  The old Chinese hippies still have fond thoughts of Lei Feng and their on good deeds, you know like old hippies with Kennedy and the power of love to conquer everything.

And then bang, up jumps the goggle generation, checking the facts and questioning all of the stories.  How could he have shoveled 300 pounds of manure everyday?  Look at the watch on his wrist, goggle it!  Damn, that thing would have cost a year’s salary, where did he get the money for it?  The old Chinese hippies are shocked and hurt – shocked that anyone would attack their hero; and hurt because it might have all been false.  What then, were they duped into trusting Chairman Mao by a cartoon character?  Kennedy may have slept with Marilyn, his secretary and a whole bevy of other beauties, but he was real and he really did give us hope.  But could he today, wouldn’t goggle have brought Kennedy down in the mud with all of the other politicians, taken away his mystic and destroy Camelot?   We will want and have more facts and certainly become skeptical. But we will lose all of those feel-good illusions that once fed the soul of our nation – and the soul of China? Skepticism is hard discipline, it does not have room for love or for heroes and heroics – goggle them and they all fades into dust.


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March 2012
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