Radicalized by Internet Lies and Memes

It’s time for a real discussion on verifying and confirming, my friends.  Every one of us needs to have some basic critical thinking, reasoning, and researching skills — because if we don’t, liars will twist our thinking.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Look at what Fox “news” has done to nearly a third of US citizens. Pundifact (by Politifact) found Fox “news” broadcasts the truth 18 percent (15 of 83) of the time for the statements they checked.  Of that 18 percent, only 8 percent of what they said was completely “True.”  The remaining 10 percent was rated as “Mostly True”.

Yet their cult-like followers will listen to Fox and only Fox.  Roger Ailes’ plan to manipulate the minds of the public (“People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.”) has worked beyond his wildest dreams.  But this article isn’t about Fox.  It’s about your trusted friends and relatives.  Sorry.

Don’t trust those memes you see on your friend’s facebook feed.  I saw this one the other day.  The person who originally created it took it from an article about this man, Laith Al Saleh, who fought against ISIS in Syria.  And that person deliberately added lies below the image, saying that the image showed an ISIS fighter, now a Syrian immigrant.  syrianFalseMeme9_n

So now we have an internet meme that fools and scares people — just like Fox “news”.  And, just like that media giant, this lying is for a reason: keep people angry and scared, and they won’t think for themselves.

Beneath this phony meme, were a bunch of comments from pasty keyboard warriors:  “kill them all”, “f*ck them!”, “deport ’em!” etc.

So what just happened?  These guys saw this image on a trusted friend’s facebook feed, and believed it. Perhaps it fed into their pre-conceived ideas, but for many of them it was just surprising and scary and enraging.  In fact, this image got over 70,000 shares from just ONE facebook account, moved onto twitter, and generated countless angry comments.  This about that.  One person deliberately lied, and all those thousands of people became frightened and enraged.  Their entire attitude may have changed.  That’s the power of the internet.

What immediately bothered me was that some of these posters probably had, before this image showed up on their feed, been apathetic or even sympathetic towards Syrian refugees.  This fake picture radicalized them into hatred.  Exactly like Fox “news”.

Why didn’t I fall for it?

I’m a bit skeptical and I tend to check sources.  I also visit a variety of web sites for news, including international news sites, rather than merely trusting only sites that are a part of the right-wing media network.  (And I know photoshop, so I’m well aware that anything can be faked.)

When I saw this image, I thought, “hmmm, that seems fishy to me.”  I simply googled something like “image syrian refugee isis fighter”.  It took all of 5 seconds and I was able to see  a ton of credible sites exposing the fake, plus the original article which profiled  Laith Al Saleh.  His story is intense:

Al Saleh joined the Free Syrian Army, the moderate, Western-backed forces opposing President Bashar Assad — but also fighting the Islamic State group and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.

 

I started this site to refute the tsunami of right-wing false emails that I was getting, but now I realize that some social media memes are really dangerous.

So my friends, I’m begging you, please check your sources before believing an internet meme that pretends to be a “fact”.  Do a little digging.  Be a little skeptical.  Use your reasoning skills.  And for all our sakes, please don’t “share” anything you haven’t checked out.

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