Sunday, December 13, 2009

News and the Internet

Today I received yet another lesson about the basic unreliability of the Internet. The specific lesson concerned a claim posted and widely circulated about a roll of film left in a brownie box camera for 68 years, revealing, when developed recently, a host of amazing photographs of the Pearl Harbor attack. The pictures were indeed impressive, and, had they been taken by one sailor using his brownie box camera, it would have indeed been amazing. I failed to check it out before sending it on to my grandson. Happily, he sent it on to his history teacher who checked it with Snopes, who debunked the assertion. Had I been careful, I might have done the same thing, but I was too lazy. Mainly, I saw these pictures and thought of the technology involved—Kodak film developed after 68 years, plus this fantastic quality taken with the types of lenses common to box cameras. Indeed, yet another example of, if it seems to good to be true . . . it is.
Exactly why someone would go to the trouble to collect together a bunch of pictures from Naval archive files and then put together this story of the brownie box camera is not immediately clear. I understand that people who attempt to circulate widely some tale about a fantastical software virus that will erase your entire hard disk if you don’t pass the warning on to thousands of people simply get off on conning thousands of gullible people. I suppose, in the final analysis that is all that is involved here—yet another piece of evidence that we who use the Internet are mainly lazy fools easily conned.
It was a valuable lesson for my grandson. But I wonder whether this isn’t another nail in the coffin of the news business. I know, I know, the Internet isn’t news. It’s merely a pipe for whoever wishes to send out stuff. But the model for the news business being widely discussed is an Internet model—as newspapers and print magazines die out, they will be replaced by their Internet equivalents. And these hoaxes help to breed people who basically can no longer believe what passes across their desktops and laptops. Because people are too busy, or too lazy to validate what comes across the Internet, they may slowly not believe anything they read from that source, or, worse yet, believe everything. It may become akin to having nothing on your TV except Fox News, and the Daily Show. Of course, the Daily Show is closer to real news every day.
Isn’t it??
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