Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's on the internet, it must be true

Today I’m going to rant a little. Sorry guys, as you all know I try not to rant about things here, except myself of course. But sometimes it just niggles away under my skin until I have to write about it. I have said it here before; you can’t change the mind of someone who wants to hold onto their belief. You can’t reason with someone who wants to stay unreasonable. You can’t tell someone something when they want to think something else.

That, I am sure, is why so many erroneous posts fly about the internet on various social media platforms. Sometimes I am sure they are started by people with nothing better to do than to stir the pot, sometimes I think perhaps they are started by people with their own agenda, wanting to get traction and validation for their beliefs. Some are relatively harmless and others are frightening in the message of hate they transmit.

I am shocked, surprised, amused and saddened daily by the gullibility of the general public when it is something in which they want to believe. I’m going to stay away from the frightening posts – my goal is not to change anyone’s political or religious beliefs. I just wish that people would check their facts, even if they want to believe what they see it does not necessarily make it true.

I’m going to give you a few examples of the small stuff:

First, this is a meme that comes up over and over again on my timeline on Facebook and never fails to irritate me. It purports to be the Inari fox. It is, as you can surely see, a stuffed toy.

The maker of the toy can be found at this link: Santani Deviant Art

The Inari fox does not exist in real life. In Japanese mythology it is the Japanese god of rice, and the fox is the messenger of Inari.
Image courtesy of Encyclopaedia Brittannica

The second one I have been seeing at regular intervals for years:

 On 27 August Mars will appear as big as the moon 

Mars to appear as big as the moon? Really?? This is another hoax that keeps on popping up every year. I don’t know if it’s shared by so many people as a joke or if they really believe it. You are welcome to stare at the night sky on August 27th, you can do it every year if you want but you’re not going to see it. This hoax is based in fact though. In 2003 Mars was the closest it has been to the earth in something like 60 000 years. Only thing was, to have them appear as the same size you had to have looked at the moon with the naked eye and Mars through a telescope.

Next, this fantastic picture of lenticular clouds over Mt Fuji. Sadly, this is a photoshop hoax. Here is the photoshopped photo:

And here is the original, not as amazing but still spectacular.

Another one: sunrise at the north pole with the moon at its closest point…or not

 It’s a photorealistic painting by the artist Inga Nielson. The image is titled ‘Hideaway’. The sun and the moon appear to be the same size wherever you are on earth.

The one that motivated me to write this post however is a short video. Now this video is shared in good faith by thousands of animal lovers. It’s oohed and aahed over, comments like how animals have souls etc. abound. This is a dog and her puppies rescued from what I do not know, I can’t find an explanation that states what they were rescued from. I have no doubt whatsoever that the dog was grateful for her rescue. I have no doubt that she is full of maternal love for her puppies. No doubt at all. However, this is a dog. In the video it sheds tears which all the people who share it attribute to gratitude.

That is what I find so annoying and not because of the sentiments of sentimental people. I’m as sentimental as they come about animals, I adore animals. But I know that dogs do not cry out of sentiment. People do, dogs do not. Dogs feel emotions, dogs feel love and loss and faithfulness. But they do not cry. When a dog sheds tears it means that there is a medical problem, which can range from blocked tear ducts due to a local infection or a more serious physical condition such a corneal ulcers or glaucoma. A dog that sheds tears does not need cooing over, it needs a vet. I just hope that the rescuers of this dog, once they had stopped oohing over its tears, took it to a vet. This video is everywhere because people want to attribute human behaviour to pets. Again, I know dogs have deep emotions, they love their people. But they are physically unable to cry from emotion. They show it in other ways, in dog ways not people ways.

We are all so quick to leap to assumptions, jump to conclusions, throw caution to the winds, or any number of idioms when we see something that we want to believe. That’s the dangerous thing about these hoaxes and the people who believe them without a shred of evidence. If enough people believe it, it won’t go away, it will become an urban myth, an idea that is so entrenched in the collective mindset that it becomes fact in the minds of the majority. And that can be a very dangerous thing.

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