Over the years various posts in the "Distortions" category of this blog have linked to the famous Snopes.com Web site, which specializes in checking out urban legends and the like. This past Sunday the NY Times profiled the site and its founders, a married couple, who now make a living from the site's advertising revenues.
(It's ironic that the Times published the piece on Easter Sunday, which commemorates an event that, as longtime readers know, I strongly suspect was just such an urban legend, a story mutation arising from Jesus' disciples' efforts to make sense of the catastrophic events they'd just witnessed, and the fact that his body was no longer where it had been put on Friday night, and the fact that some of his followers concluded that they had seen him alive.)
Here's an excerpt:
The popularity of Snopes — it attracts seven million to eight million unique visitors in an average month — puts the couple in a unique position to evaluate digital society’s attitudes toward accuracy.
After 14 years, they seem to have concluded that people are rather cavalier about the facts.
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“People keep falling for the same kind of things over and over again,” Mr. Mikkelson said. Some readers always seem to think, for instance, that the government is trying to poison them: Mrs. Mikkelson said rumors about AIDS have been recycled into rumors about swine flu vaccines.
For the Mikkelsons, the site affirms what cultural critics have bemoaned for years: the rejection of nuance and facts that run contrary to one’s point of view.
“Especially in politics, most everything has infinite shades of gray to it, but people just want things to be true or false,” Mr. Mikkelson said. “In the larger sense, it’s people wanting confirmation of their world view.”