Fake knowledge. Do you contribute to it?
By Joe America
A tweet ended up teaching me something important. After the US missile strike on Syria, I commented that it was not really a Trump decision, but a military decision. An American decision. The following tweet came back:
“It was a PR stunt which cost millions. Eyewitnesses say Syrian military anticipated US Raid – ABC News . . .”
And I responded:
“That conclusion simplifies, emotionalizes, and rings like the populist rhetoric of division. But thanks for taking up space.”
I apologize for the snarky response, but humor is where you find it. He responded kindly and I was duly impressed.
Afterward, I thought about this some more.
Why do we need to get to a conclusion so quickly? Why do we rush to judgment on the slightest of knowledge?
Well, it seems to me that we either have a personal need to be seen as smart (the social media show-off syndrome) or we are filtering everything through our pre-cast agenda or bias. So the actual information does not matter. Our agenda or bias matters.
The latter point we can verify by noting who supported the strikes and who opposed them. Britain, for. Iran against. Militarist republicans, for. Far-right republicans who elected Trump, against. Middle-of-the-road democrat Hillary Clinton, for. Arch leftist Michael Moore, against.
They are letting their pre-cast biases create their judgment, without knowing much at all.
Except, perhaps, for Hillary Clinton. She knows the circumstances better than any I’ve listed, and she proposed strikes before President Trump actually did them. Both Clinton and Trump are going by what the US intelligence and military experts are saying. Based on knowledge, and US interests.
So all the quick, profound opinions, to me, are fake news. They are reflections of a need for attention, or precast agendas and biases. “I Hate Trump” seems to be an operative bias for many. I mean, what are we to think of the guy who wrote that the strikes were just Trump sending a message to Chinese Premier Xi, who was here for a visit?
If we grant such loose opinions any kind of credence, we allow ourselves to be drawn into the surreal world of fake news and fake knowledge.
So how should we deal with significant events such as the air strike when we know they are important?
I’d suggest one of two ways.
First, ask questions that need to be answered before conclusions are drawn: What information did the US have about the chemical attack? Who was in the room when the decision was made? Were any members of Congress briefed? Were Russia and Syria indeed warned in advance? If Syria removed assets before the strike, does that mean Russia abridged a trust? What damage was done at the airport? What are ALL the experts saying?
Once the information is in hand, which may be days away, we can draw a conclusion based on knowledge. That is, add to real knowledge rather than create fake knowledge.
The second possible approach is to list all the possible scenarios, decision-points or outcomes, but not draw a hard conclusion. Do the deductions . . . fine. Look at things objectively and comprehensively . . . great. But leave room for further information and keep a willingness to change the conclusion based on the new information. (Twitter does not lend itself well to such examinations.)
Both of these approaches will drive toward a fair and factual assessment . . . toward knowledge. It is when hard conclusions are drawn in advance of knowledge that we get in trouble. Because too often, we end up trying to defend them . . . whether right or wrong. Then we are caught in a trap that takes our critical thinking south.
The rush to a quick conclusion is too often a rush to ignorance and bad decision-making.
I suggest we avoid being a part of the fake knowledge industry that is flourishing these days across social and mainstream media. We’d all be better off if we sought real knowledge.