I’m pointing the finger at myself here too, I mean, I’m an internet writer. Pretty early into that I was forced to confront the fact that the dumbest laziest shit typically ends up being the most popular. Has this made me stupider over the years? Fuck yes. Go read my first book if you don’t believe me. It’s chock full of Henry Miller-esque linguistic exaltations to cosmic eroticism. Now I’m stuck in eternal far out acid dick joke mode. Set phasers on dumb. Got it chief. I’m just trying to fight fire with fire here. (from Salon, and yes, I’m aware of the bias inherent in that source):
“In the days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we learned that we weren’t just fighting gun violence in our country; we were also fighting bots that were using Facebook and other social media platforms to control the narrative and sow division. Parallel to bot propaganda after the shootings, a similar disinformation campaign popped up after the premiere of “Black Panther,” with images of violence circulating on Twitter suggesting that white people weren’t welcome at the screenings.
Suddenly the breaking news story is that bots and trolls and other agents of disinformation are not only trying to influence our elections, they are trying to cause conflict among U.S. citizens. And of course, most of the news coverage hysterically suggests that the source of these digital media attacks is primarily Russian.
While I believe that it is critical to have a better understanding of the various ways that the internet can be manipulated to influence public opinion, thus far almost all of the conversation has focused on the wrong source of the crisis. We have had calls for Facebook and Twitter to better control access to their platforms, and we have just learned that the State Department plans to spend $40 million to fight foreign propaganda, but none of these tactics have any chance of working until we fix the real problem.
The real problem is that the United States is one of the least intelligent nations in the developed world. We aren’t good at processing and analyzing information, and that makes us suckers for bots, trolls and all other sorts of disinformation tactics.
We measure intelligence in lots of ways, but at the top of the list is literacy and numeracy. A study published in September 2017 by the U.S. Department of Education found that U.S. adults performed the lowest of all developed nations in numeracy. They also found that our literacy was on the low end of developed nations. Most interesting was the finding that young adults in their 20s from Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan who did not finish high school had the same literacy levels of U.S. high school graduates.
Study after study shows that the United States underperforms in literacy across the developed world — especially given its resources. But that isn’t even the core issue; the real problem is the way we have consistently devalued quality education across all levels for decades.
But it isn’t just our knowledge base that’s the problem; it’s the fact that the United States has effectively abandoned the notion that investing in education is critical for the future of our nation.”