The ’90s and now, part 3

One thing I have noticed is, is how there is so much fact-checking and how little tolerance there is for bullshit online, especially on Reddit and in the comments. As the viralness of mundane, non-politicized topics shows, smart people–especially in recent years with the rise of the IDW–are tired of:

the imposition of one’s values on others
partisan and identity politics
judgmentalism over one’s choices and lifestyle

The cool data-and-facts-driven rationalism of contemporary online discourse stands in stark contrast to the touchy-feely sentimentalism and bullshit (as in medical hoaxes) of ’90s daytime TV as epitomized by Oprah and others. To quote Ben Shapiro’s most popular tweet, which was re-tweeted over 150-thousand times and has also become his catchphrase, “facts don’t care about your feelings.”

That’s not to say there isn’t bullshit online (there’s tons of it), but it’s very easy to counter bullshit, too. And unlike the ’90s internet, which was dominated by CompuServe and AOL and much dumber overall, ‘smart’ sites such as Reddit have much less tolerance for it, and smart Gen-z and millennial users are masters at sniffing out nonsense and unsubstantiated claims. Given Reddit’s huge userbase, there’s guaranteed to be at least one expert for every subject, online, at any time. Wikipedia, although possibly biased to the left, is the go-to authority for any topic. No such source existed in the ’90s internet, and the only way resolve factual disputes was to consult a library. Even in the comments of Twitter and Facebook, despite fake news, bullshit tweets are readily debunked. We see this all the time when AOC tweets. Although her tweets gets thousands of re-tweets and favs, the comments are much more critical, such as why her proposed polices will not work.

As discussed in Are we in a post-truth era? Possibly not, a reason why cults such as Scientology, Heaven’s Gate, and the Branch Davidians thrived in the ’90s is because there was no effective way to debunk them, but the internet has made debunking easier and cheaper than ever. Every single piece of minutia Trump tweets out or policy proposal is within hours scrutinized by fact-checkers on sites such as Vox, Washington Post, or Snopes for any inaccuracies or omissions, as well as detailed analysis from experts, but also “real-time” analyses from Twitter. This is why within minutes of Trump or AOC tweeting out something, you get experts on the opposing side Tweeting why it won’t work and or is a bad idea. Although there may be more falsehoods spread due to the social media (such as the Covington Catholic kids scandal and the Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax), there is more truth being spread, too, so false narratives are quickly debunked or countered by opposing narratives. 20-30 years ago, that was not possible. You had to wait for it to get picked up by cable news or read about in the newspaper, and the analysis was not as detailed. To get both sides of an issue, you had to watch both CNN and Fox, but social networks and sites such as Reddit offer both sides in a single source, but also fact-checking, and no opinion is immune from scrutiny:

The fact-checking is not just limited to political articles and speeches, but also to more mundane social commentary, as well in the comment sections of such articles and videos. A declarative statement or opinion presented as fact will without fail be met with rebuke. In response to an article about social media, someone wrote about how we live in a society in which “vapidity is not only tolerated or accepted but encouraged, lauded, and rewarded,” and then multiple people responded that such vapidly predates the social media era, and how conspicuous consumption dates back to the 80′s, and so on.

What about ideological echo chambers that perpetuate false narratives? As discussed in I Can Tolerate Anything Except Factual Inaccuracies, even members of like tribes will criticize and fact-check each other, especially on ‘smarter’ sites such Hacker News and Reddit. It’s not uncommon for /r/The_Donald members to engage in impassioned debate about topics with each other despite the commonality of all supporting Trump.