Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Internet is Lies

Josh writes:

Much like alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life's problems, the Internet is both the source of and antidote for all of the misinformation in the world. I will pay good money to anyone who writes an e-mail application that includes a button which, when clicked, scans the content of a time-wasting urban myth spam e-mail and automatically sends a reply containing the URL of the Snopes article debunking it (optionally with a friendly advisory message along the lines of "check Snopes before you send, you life-sapping cockmonkey -- of course a duck's quack fucking echoes").

Ideally, such an application could be used for sending automated replies to news websites as well. I was disappointed to see this Herald column from a few weeks ago start with the latest (bullshit) spam meme -- I mean, I expect it from the Sideswipe column (where the only time they ever said "yes, it's a fake" also happened to be the only time it actually wasn't), but this one was not scraped off the back page, and yet it even includes the claim "this is for real".

Now that I think about it, this magical application could save time by simply parsing all web pages you browse to, and any sentence it identifies as a statement of fact can be highlighted with a label that says FILTHY LIE, since it always seems to turn out that every interesting little factoid you come across is actually bollocks. I was well pissed off to find out that the old one about QWERTY keyboards being designed to avoid keys jamming by slowing down typists wasn't quite true.*

We could call it the DBM button. Not a reference to Dog Biting Men (a site containing nought but the finest of hand-crafted Truths); rather a nod to an old Philosophy lecturer of mine who had the annoying habit of contradicting every little factoid that would come up in class with his up-to-the-minute scientific knowledge. At the time it never occurred to me to try mentioning contradictory facts each class to see if the guy was genuinely well-informed or just contrary. Maybe it's better that I didn't -- Apathy Jack already knows of one guy who gave his lecturer an embolism; I'd hate to have added to his neuroses by being number two.

* Of course, the "fact" that the myth isn't true could turn out to be untrue itself, and we're back where we started. I'm still not sure whether glass is a fluid or not.


Zum said...

For what it's worth, some right-wing blogs have accused Snopes of getting this one wrong, here and here (search for "snopes" to find the post; The Corner's archiving isn't perfect).

Josh said...

Neither of those links seem convincing -- "What about the quotes from German women who say it has happened to them?" What quotes?

In fact, the first one has a comment providing even more links that verify Snopes' take.

Zum said...

True. I didn't read very carefully.