In my first content questions piece, I cited Robert D. Kaplan’s Washington Post article, in which he describes how people use content to distort and deceive — how information becomes misinformation and then the misinformation is amplified.
Reader Mark Baker proffered this comment:
This is an old wolf in new sheep’s clothing, but there are so many wolves now, and their sheep’s clothing is such a bad fit that we can always see their paws and teeth sticking out.
I respectfully disagree.
This is not to pick on Mark, with whom — based on his subsequent comments and on other conversations we’ve had in this forum — I agree on most things. But here, at least, I think he understates the problem.
Sure, sometimes it’s easy to spot the content frauds. Just like in Cold War-era spy movies, you knew who the bad guys were because they had Russian accents.
But many wolves are better at masking their true selves. Social media, especially, makes for effective masks. It’s easy to pretend you’re something you’re not.
(It’s been 25 years since Peter Steiner’s famous “nobody knows you’re a dog” cartoon in the New Yorker. How much has really changed since then?)
Exposing the wolves
We try hard to spot the wolves behind the masks. We look for trusted allies who can curate the content we receive. And we instinctively turn toward people who resemble ourselves — our tribe.
That exposes some of the wolves, but not nearly all of them.
To expose some wolves, we need to stop judging their appearance and start judging the things they say (or write).
In other words, we need to think critically. Continue reading