Adolescent Apologetics

by MarianneShih

Earlier in the week, in an effort to find something substantial to write about, I began a thought exercise that involved spewing out all the academic thoughts that I had managed to absorb since this past Tuesday. It didn’t last more than a few minutes, most likely because I am accustomed to keeping my thoughts safely within the confines of my head or inside the much-abused notepad I should probably carry around more often. Perhaps it is a teenage type of activity, but embracing a chaotic stream-of-consciousness strategy seems to have benefited my blogging ventures thus far. Here is a much-revised, less unkempt summary of my results…

Truth is an elusive and mysterious creature. Facts are less elusive than the truth, but still few and far between.

Douglas Rushkoff’s Programmed or Be Programmed commands digital network participants to “Tell the Truth” in his eighth commandment, titled “Fact.” During a discussion in my digital media course this past week, the class as a whole agreed that Rushkoff could have done better by making a clear distinction between truth and facts as he uses them interchangeably. What seemed to be the main message in this particular chapter was that the Internet is biased towards the truth, and all falsities will eventually be revealed for what they are.

The definition of truth has been a subject of debate by thinkers since Grecian times. Facts have existed far before then. If truth is something that can be gleaned from facts, or if truth is just a matter of assuming certain facts, then Rushkoff’s statement –

“The way to flourish in a mediaspace biased toward nonfiction is to tell the truth. This means having a truth to tell…”

implies that there are multiple truths rather than there being one truth for each and every subject in all the land. He also states,

“Those who succeed as communicators in the new bazaar will be the ones who can quickly evaluate what they’re hearing, and pass on only the stuff that matters.”

Sounds as if we’re doomed to rehash ideas forever, doesn’t it? But no fear – Everything that has ever been said, will be said again. There will be more Mother Teresas, more Hitlers, more Gandhis, and more Mussolinis in lesser and greater forms. Even great scientists squabble over who developed which theories when in fact, they just happened across the same ideas in the same year. If truth is *stuff that matters* that should be passed on for eternity, then truth is an eclectic library of memes.

The birth of the Internet has allowed for the widespread collection and distribution of ideas developed from an infinite bundle of facts and statements. While this does mean that most statements can legitimized to a certain extent or disproven, it also means that those without digital literacy and the ability to discern fact from fiction are left to be programmed by technologies as well as “scammers,” Nigerian or otherwise. For those fortunate enough to lead their digital lives without the interference of frauds, they are oftentimes assaulted by their own tech-savvy friends who wield chain mail missiles regarding cut onion contamination, how to receive a portion of Bill Gates’ fortune, and others. Good intentions are swell, but they are also not enough to save us. Maybe Rushkoff would have been better off making an eleventh commandment called “Discernment.”

Example of a 419 scam – source

While I’m sure the majority of my readers are able to recognize scams and fishy files as they appear, we must realize that with or without new-age literacy, we individually let ourselves be programmed despite being aware of certain facts and fictions. We reveal it by reading our daily horoscopes, by buying into weight-loss/muscle-gain programs, and for some, by regularly visiting religious establishments (this is not scorn, this is self-deprecation!). It’s comfortable not having to think critically. It may be the case that being programmed is not so bad, or that being programmed outside of the digital world is just another way to refer to socialization. But in order to avoid becoming close-minded and one-sided, one must also utilize our natural ability to look at sets of facts and observations firstly with an objective eye, then with ethics and our morality in hand to discover what we believe to be good enough to pass on.