Somebody once said it’s pointless reading anything “factual”, because you don’t know if it’s true or not. It was a bit alarming coming from him, since he’s a cardiologist. But it got me thinking about the authority we give to the written word and specifically the Internet.
People love lauding this era as the Age of Information where you can find anything on the Internet, but I think it’s the age of information madness. It’s true that there are gazillions of facts to be garnered every second of the day on any topic, but how many of them have any foundation in reality?
The Internet gives everybody a voice which is great, but the package doesn’t come with a requirement either to tell the truth or to think for ourselves when we read something. It’s pretty much up to us to figure out and chart our own course. For many people the truth is important – in all areas of life – but a lot of people couldn’t care less. The word information implies truth, but how much weight does that implication carry now?
A case in point was a Spanish face transplant story I read about once. I was amazed at how many variations there were of it. Surely with a simple story like that fact is fact? Apparently not.
According to one story the face transplant patient was an unnamed Spanish farmer between the ages of 20 and 40. The transplant was done at Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona, by a team of surgeons led by Dr. Joan Pere Barret who claimed he had performed the world’s first full face transplant in a procedure that took 24 hours.
But another source said the transplant couldn’t be considered full face, because the new part the patient received was only from the eye sockets down. Yet another source claimed the operation took place in the La Fe hospital in Valencia, and was performed on a 43 year old man from the Canary Islands by a Dr. Cavados and his colleague Dr. Luis Landin, 2 other surgeons, some anesthetists, other staff and twelve nurses. The operation apparently took 15 hours.
It’s the Age of “Information” that’s for sure. But distortions parading as truth get disseminated globally at the speed of light and gather power and authority as they’re read by people who don’t question anything and pass on what they read as fact to the next gullible reader.
And the less value truth has. So what’s the harm? Who cares? Well the harm is when some poor unsuspecting person who needs a full face transplant goes to the man he thinks is the world expert. Who actually isn’t. Who may not care to correct his unsuspecting and trusting patient.
In a world gone very virtual the power of the written word can have more authority and importance than reality. With so much false information coming at us truth and reality can be hard to pin down. Now more than ever we have to value and develop our independence of mind and our capacity to question everything and to not blindly accept the written word as gospel.
We have to think for ourselves. Nothing’s going to rescue us from that.