Beware the Internet!
Posted: May 11, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
For 10 years now, I've been championing the Internet.
As a pioneer in the New Media, I believe it has provided a leveling of the playing field for entrepreneurs like me to provide good content to millions efficiently and inexpensively.
But, I've got to tell you, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.
You've got to use common sense and discernment in sorting out the good from the bad.
Today, I'm going to give you two illustrations of "the bad."
They are, in alphabetical order, Snopes and Wikipedia.
I know. I know. Some of you are shocked to hear that Snopes is not the last word on truth – that it is not the bible of rumors and urban legends.
Let me give you a recent example of the twisted sense of reality that exists in the land of Snopes.
I wrote a story a few weeks ago on the mania to phase out incandescent light bulbs, replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. The story was so good, if I do say so myself, it was picked up internationally.
Everything in the story is 100 percent accurate and truthful – and not a word of the original story has been altered.
So, why, you may be wondering, is the story used as an "example" of a fallacious charge on Snopes?
Good question. I have to assume that the all-knowing, all-seeing, rumor-busting gurus at Snopes simply can't tell the difference between a straight news account reporting what some people say and believe and an actual assertion.
Snopes reports my story is an "example" of this ludicrous assertion: "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb."
Now, I dare you. Go read my story and tell me where I, the reporter in this case, suggested any such nonsense.
It seems to me, in cases like this, Snopes is not busting rumors, it is perpetuating them.
And, while we're at it, notice the sources Snopes relies upon to conclude beyond any doubt CFLs don't pose a serious health threat to anyone – the same government agency pushing CFLs. Where I come from (nearly 30 years of solid journalism experience), this is not considered good reporting. This is not considered the best way to seek truth and enlightenment or even objective facts.
I would dare say we spend quite a bit more time and energy and resources putting together our reports for WND than the inexperienced and unprofessional researchers at Snopes do theirs. Does that express my opinion clearly enough?
And now for Wikipedia.
Please don't ever send me a link to Wikipedia as evidence of anything. It has zero credibility with me.
Because anyone can post anything they wish at Wikipedia. There are so many lies posted there, the whole site would have to be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch to deal with them in any systematic way.
If you doubt what I am saying, test it for yourself.
Is there a subject you know quite a bit about?
Is there an area of real expertise in your life?
Are you famous enough to have a bio up at Wikipedia?
If the answer to any of thee questions is yes, then go and test Wikipedia. See what it says about a subject you know well. See what it says about you.
Please don't bother seeing what it says about me because none of it is true. And, for the life of me, no matter how many times I correct the record, some Wikipedia jokers decide they know me better than me.
Now, if I can't trust Wikipedia to report accurately about me – and I can't – how can I trust it to report on any other topic with veracity?
Long story short: Learn to trust those with track records of honesty, integrity and standards. WND has those traits. Snopes and Wikipedia do not.