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November 19, 2017

11/10/2017 7:28:00 AM
Allowing ourselves to be deceived

To the Editor:

People my age surely remember the quote from the comics page character Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." That bit of wisdom applies to the discussions about Russian meddling in our Presidential election and the roles of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

We are appalled that Russia could do such a thing, and that our social media failed to protect us from all the vicious propaganda, outright lies and fake news that came to us in tweets and posts and news feeds. Well, the reality is that short of massive monitoring and censorship, there is no reliable way to control what gets distributed on websites and social media, and likely no way to control effectively who opens the accounts and does the postings.

So who is to blame for this problem? And who is responsible for fixing it? In both cases, we are, each one of us. We can fix it by turning our brains back on and looking critically at the information coming at us from social as well as traditional media. Deep down, we all know garbage when we see it, or at the very least we should know by now not to take things we see in print, on TV, and especially online at face value.

In many if not most cases, it's not that someone deceives us. It's that we allow ourselves to be deceived, either because we are too lazy to evaluate and think for ourselves, or because we are so locked into a certain ideology that we choose to believe anything that supports our preconceptions and reject anything that doesn't. That's how we get manipulated.

We are not victims of someone else's evil designs. We are victims of our own weakness. In these times when "information" comes at us from everywhere, our intelligence and discernment are the only real defenses we have.

If we are foolish enough to believe whatever we read on a website or Facebook page, and for that matter if we are gullible enough to believe campaign ads, almost always full of distortions and malicious lies, then we pretty much deserve the kind of candidates and government we get.

We need to raise our antennas and ferret out misinformation, falsehoods and fear mongering, and then condemn and ostracize those responsible, treating them as the pariahs they are. That's the way to negate the influence of lies and liars and to enable discussions that lead to good government.

Ted J. Rulseh


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