Essay from English Class.


The Fluctuation Truth on the Internet and the Hunt for Fun.

The Internet is a bastion of facts and where truth inherently rises, or so Douglas Rushkoff believes. The Internet is not actually these things. As the social nature of the Internet has become dominant over the commercial nature and the knowledge banks that exist. What is fact may be no different than what we think has better social or entertainment value.

Rushkoff, in the book "Program or Be Programmed" and within his chapter "Facts", introduces the theory that all communication is inherently biased towards the truth as "truth truth" and that due to the internet's social nature and decentralization it has a bias towards telling the truth. He describes circumstances in which, given the tools, the truth comes out. Brands can no longer sustain on mythologies and Activists publish information that may discredit a corporation or a nation. The Internet, he believes, is a hub where the truth naturally comes out.

What does one do when one is bored and on the internet? Perhaps surf the Internet reading random material? What do you read? Rushkoff fails to understand truly, that while the web is a social bazaar, his assertions that the so called "truth" inherently comes out to the surface is in fact, when truth has an attached social value (i.e talk points) or entertainment value to it. The pull to the surface in our modern society is much stronger when the items in question have these qualities, as the social bazaar looks for those values.

It is no secret that humans being enjoy being entertained. Our desire for entertainment within our modern society, today, trumps our desire for factual information. If the material is not fun to watch, people won't read or listen to it, unless they actively are seeking for information such as looking at documentaries. It is why TV shows constantly watch the "ratings" to see if the material is entertaining. Also why shows such as Mythbusters are successful; they blend factual information in an entertaining fashion. Would people or even you read and hunt for unknown truths and ideas or "memes" that are boring? Rushkoff introduces and elaborates on his concept of "memes", ideas that are passed along: "Memes passed from person to person, and replicated if they were useful and powerful or died if they were not…" (Rushkoff 108). Memes, today, do not spread for survival's sake, they spread because they are entertaining. It evolved out of people finding an entertainment value out of telling the fairy take story again or the hunting story of a monster in the woods. While Rushkoff is right, that in the past "memes" were useful pieces of knowledge and wisdom; today, funny memes have become little gimmicks that everyone repeats over and over again. The "arrow in the knee" joke is actually a testament to it. Because people don't stop to consider that "arrow in the knee" is actually wrong and should be to the knee or what value does this have to me, but instead repeat this bite sized information because its fun, its entertaining. Like "do unto others" memes of the bible, today's memes are a reflectant of our changing society. Unlike, in the Enlightment with Descartes and Locke, today, if truth is entertaining, like fun facts, it will rise to the top.

We are social creatures, not really interested for the truth, but something to talk about with our friends and strangers as a result, since the web is a social bazaar it leans towards spreading memes and information that shock and debate and interest; not exactly of spreading truth. What spreads the fastest, is the most controversial, the most "talkable" subjects. It doesn't even have to be true, all it is, is the need to spread it. People want to have something the other person doesn't know, something to talk about, be it the latest gossip (which may be false) or entirely controversial. Which is why, "…we message one another seeking approval and reinforcement." (Rushkof 112). If something is fuel for a debate or shock, even if it is wrong it spreads better and rises to the top, compared to something people think of as random trivia and thrown away. For instance, Wikileaks only spread because it revealed something shocking, such as the helicopter killing innocent civilians and the random gossip about the ambassadors. As Rushkoff notes, "Sometimes it's the most negative truths that spread the best and fastest." (Rushkof 112). TV news stations such as Fox News regularly print falsehoods without checking and exploited may stories such as Wikileaks. However, News and people alike dropped the Wikileaks story after a while because it got old to talk about. That doesn't mean truth doesn't come out, documentaries like the "Inconvenient Truth" rise because people started talking about it, there was social value placed on talking about it. However, truth only comes out when there is social value attached to it; otherwise talk points rise to the surface and fade away, as the tide does.

Granted, truth sometimes eventually comes out on the Internet. There will be Internet crusaders who publish the truth and viral memes, which spread, so and so about a company or a nation. There will be years from now people discovering new truths, even now. Rushkoff gives an example of an SUV automaker, giving the people on the web the tools to make a commercial. The effort backfired backfired and it turned into a negative campaign against that same SUV automaker, trumping the actual commercial and becoming the dominating conversation. (Rushkoff) Revealing all sorts of nasty facts about the company. However, was the action of spreading truth a result of the desire to spread truth or a desire to claim social or even entertainment value? The person who created that SUV commercial that was critical of the company created something people shared and gossiped about and had fun watching. Instead of a normal commercial, that would have only added more water to the sea of commercials. A very similar occurrence was the "Internet Explorer 9 Commercial (Honest version)" in where it poked fun at the web browser, not to tell the world of the facts but for fun. Fun truth.

Our version of truth is never true truth, as recorded truth is never true truth. The victors, Internet players and the media giants, have influenced true truth, to the present day point where on the digital realm, as long as the majority believes it. It is true. Wikipedia is a grand example of "strength in numbers to make something false true" (Jim Jewell). While it is a peer-reviewed site it has its flaws. One of which is even if one party has primary documents to claim an assertion, the majority party will have the final say. The Haymarket Trials on Wikipedia is said to have been without major evidence against the accused. However, a professor found the primary documents and found there was evidence.1( Messer-Kruse, Lih, Walling, and Conan) But he can't change the Wikipedia entry, so the untruth stays. If not changed it becomes true truth as people read it and repeat it and become the majority. A lie repeated a million times becomes truth. How do we know people only talked about simple facts in the bazaar in Rushkoff's analogy? Have we read the primary documents? We will never know about the dark part of anything, even it is the truth.

How many times have you casually clicked on something cute and fuzzy to watch or an action movie instead of a documentary? How many times have you repeated something you heard earlier today to a co-worker or friend that you thought was funny? Have you ever equally talked about facts outside of say a debate? Have you ever actually checked the primary documents of that history era you were reading about? In the end, for most people, the inherent subject that will inevitably rise out of the bellows of the internet is one will entertaining to spread and talk about or controversial even if it false. If truth does pokes its head out of the surface, it be a corrupted form of the original, as it was taken by someone else observing the primary documents and wrapped in something that brought it up to the surface, maybe controversial or funny. Anything brought to the surface, had something helping it, be its social value attached or the entertainment it brings.

1 Messer-Kruse, Timothy, Andrew Lih, Steven Walling, and Neal Conan, perf. "Truth And The World Of Wikipedia Gatekeepers." NPR - Digital Life. NPR, 2012. web. 18 Oct 2012.