Last week, an acquaintance from high school shared on Facebook a post featuring a collage of photos of past presidents in front of U.S. flags — each helpfully labeled “U.S. flag” — as well as President Barack Obama in front of a gold curtain, which was labeled “Muslim prayer curtain.”
The shared item was a screenshot of the original post, with a comment implying it’s suspicious that the post itself can’t be shared.
Presumably, Facebook users who view the image are supposed to conclude Obama is unpatriotic and a Muslim, and Facebook is in on covering this up.
Let’s clear up a few things.
“Muslim prayer curtains” do not exist. When I Google that phrase, I get results explaining what nonsense this post is, because those words are only strung together when talking about it.
The curtain was there before Obama took office. Google also turns up photos of several other presidents — both Bushes, Clinton and Reagan — with the same backdrop.
And whether or not a post can be shared depends on the privacy settings of the original poster. If it can’t be shared, that’s because the user didn’t make the post public. It’s not because Facebook took away the sharing option as part of a conspiracy to suppress information.
These truths could all be learned in about two minutes. But this isn’t really about the non-existence of Muslim prayer curtains or the way sharing works on Facebook.
This is just an example of the overall trend of too many Americans not caring to learn the truth. They pick and choose what they accept as true based on their biases and what they want to be true. They do little to no research, and rarely care to consider facts brought to them by those who have.
For about a year and a half, Caitlin Dewey wrote a column for The Washington Post called “What Was Fake On The Internet This Week?”
She ended it this month. It turns out people didn’t want their false conclusions debunked. In fact, Dewey says, research shows people will believe misinformation more once they’re shown the rebuttal proving it wrong.
That’s really disheartening.
By laying out facts anyone with a computer could quickly confirm, am I actually encouraging the spread of misinformation about White House decor?
What’s a journalist to do when too much of the population isn’t interested in the truth, and actually gets more hostile when they’re exposed to it?
I have no answer to that.