I think I’m getting a bit of a reputation as a smarty pants. No, not because I’m mouthy or anything of the sort. Rather, I’ve taken to calling BS when I smell it. And these days, with new Internet memes popping up left and right—and a few oldies getting recycled and put back into rotation—I find myself with a complete lack of patience for such shenanigans.
I wrote at length awhile ago about the supposed Ben Stein essay. No, he didn’t write it. Recently, the “I’m 83 and I’m tired” essay has been attached to Bill Cosby and it’s making the rounds again. No, he didn’t write it.
In both cases, I’ve pointed out to people they’ve been duped. While I never expect a hero’s welcome for spoiling everyone’s Christmas, the reaction I’ve gotten is baffling: indifference. In the case of the Ben Stein meme, people generally say they don’t care if he did or didn’t write it, they agree with it.
My incredulity knows no bounds to this level of willful ignorance. It is intellectually lazy to accept something that is not true as a fact simply because it aligns with your beliefs, values or opinions. If you don’t know what pi is, and someone tells you all your life it’s 3.2, you cannot shrug it off when someone presents you with the fact that pi = 3.14.
The irony of this dilemma is the people who most often shrug off accuracy are passing around urban legends that speak to some sort of code of personal responsibility and harkening to a time when people did the right thing, unlike today. It strikes me as counterintuitive to make a case for personal responsibility (or whatever you glean from these memes) when you’re buying into what amounts to a lie.
Actually, I do understand why people buy it: because it placates their own beliefs without questioning them.
While it may seem harmless to just go with that flow, it’s actually a dangerous proposition. Idly accepting a myth as a fact and not demanding full truth and transparency ultimately leads to bad consequences. It’s how people get wrongly accused of crimes. It’s how wars are started. It’s how fraud is perpetrated.
Demand better, people. It is beyond disingenuous to lecture others on integrity and “doing the right thing” on the back of a fraudulent message. Demand better. “Close enough” is never a viable substitute for honesty and authenticity.