Separating the noise and truth

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. I am a grammar Nazi. When I hear a newscaster use the wrong tense of a word, I cringe. When I hear a politician use a double negative, I want to shake them! These people know better. They are highly educated and there is no excuse.

However, when I read a meme on Facebook with words left out, or words in the wrong order, or improper grammar, I begin to wonder where that meme originated. With all the hoopla about “fake news” I wonder how much of what we hear IS fake. Was this information planted by foreign operatives in an effort to discredit someone or something?

The 2016 election was fraught with accusations of all kinds, on all sides. And people were all too willing to share on Facebook things they saw about the “other” candidate, unwilling to think about whether or not it was true. Remember the “Hillary got a rapist off and laughed about it” scandal? Like any tabloid worth its salt, partial truths were taken, twisted, and expanded upon until the story had no bearing on the truth.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently spent two days testifying before Congress about security, privacy, and data protection; but never once was the topic of memes mentioned. A good meme can spread faster than a California wild fire. In a matter of hours it will be shared, commented on, and given credence all over the world. Misinformation is, and always has been, the bane of truth, and a weapon of “the enemy.” However, with the Internet, misinformation has reached new levels of destruction. Want to discredit your political opponent? Start a meme about an alleged affair or sexual misconduct. Want to torpedo someone’s reputation? Talk about the number of bodies that are hidden. No one is going to check the facts. Beware. In the words of Edgar Allen Poe, “believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see.” And we could add, believe nothing you read on the Internet.

Is it true childhood vaccinations are inherently harmful? Or is it a misinformation tactic to convince parents to NOT vaccinate their children so that childhood diseases that were once eradicated can make a comeback, killing off vast numbers of our children? Are those stories about complications actually true? And if true, did they affect one child, or hundreds of children?

We all know you shouldn’t go swimming for 30 minutes, or is it an hour? after eating. However, that isn’t true. You might puke after a big meal and then strenuous exercise such as swimming, but there are no documented cases of actually dying.

Oh, here’s one. Your hair and nails continue to grow after you die. Creepy, huh? It’s not true. The skin shrinks as it dries out, making it look like your nails and hair are longer. Or so they say. Who actually checks that out?

These are examples of information, some fairly light-hearted, that went “viral” before the Internet. How much misinformation is out there now that we read, and believe?

I believe the 2016 elections were hacked. I believe there is a good chance that the 2018 elections will deliver some false information. It is up to us to use our heads and the common sense the good lord gave us to discern the truth; or to at least not give credit to things we aren’t sure about. Do some research. Go to the source of the information. I know it takes time and effort. Most of us, including me, are too lazy or short on time to thoroughly investigate what we’re told. The least you can do is not add to the problem by repeating “alternative facts” because we never know when “truth isn’t truth.”

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to