The year we fell down the rabbit hole

“ The Rabbit took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on. Alice started to her feet – she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

Down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again…” ~ Lewis Carroll

theyearwefelldowntherabbithole

The news is fake.

We live in a ‘post-truth’ era.

Information leaks deliver truths from largely unverified sources.

 

Why so glum 2016?

 

After all, our perceptions, opinions and behaviours have been spun for profit, privilege and power since before the days of the printing press.

 

Call it fake news or post-truth; spin it as an information wiki-revolution, but bidding your way into people’s newsfeeds isn’t a new phenomena. From google to content amplification providers (think ‘sponsored content’ stories appearing under the guise of news) a large part of the information you’ve consumed over the past decade or so is the direct result of someone bidding for your attention.

 

Up until 2016, everyone was OK with overtly duplicitous advertising practices, reality television that reflected anything but reality and a media fraternity generally geared for profit on the misfortune of others.

 

Then in 2016 after Brexit stunned the world and the United States woke up to the reality of a Trump presidency, we lost our minds over the information we’d been served.

 

But who is really to blame in the spin wars being fought on your smartphone, in your social media feed and on your television?

 

Retired United States Marine LTCOL Cliff Gilmore explained it best as: “news” is a business and media outlets publish/broadcast what the mob loves most. The reason “…news is all entertainment modified [f]or shock value…”, as I recently saw posted in an online discussion, has more to do with the audience than the media.

We are served what we order off a menu we write for ourselves — then we gobble up heaping portions and ask for seconds as it runs down our chins.

Perhaps Pogo said it best: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

Social engineering theories aside  – at what point over the last decade, as the social and digital revolution took place, did we lose the ability to think critically – or even question – the information being served to us?

 

Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds.

 

In 2014 I wrote a blog called ‘The Long Con: the evolution of social engineering.’ that explored our then consumption and acceptance of duplicitous advertising, data profiteers and the growing whirlpool around misinformation.

 

Two years on, we’re so far down the rabbit hole we’ve lost sight of daylight.

 

“Rationality seems to have fallen out of vogue,” said Brooke Binkowski, Snopes’s managing editor. “People don’t know what to believe anymore. Everything is really strange right now.”

 

The information coup of 2016 largely failed because the extent of the ‘fake news’ that permeates our everyday lives is now so entrenched in the economy, politics and mainstream journalism that rewinding to a time before the ‘post-truth’ era seems improbable if not impossible.

 

We had our coup, complete with faux outrage, and as 2017 arrived it’s back to business misinformation as usual.

 

No; this isn’t the apocalypse – humanity has just fallen down the rabbit hole with Alice and no one is yet motivated enough to start searching for the exit. They like it.

 

The Digital Rabbit hole is full of mirrors explains” Alicia Wanless-Berk aka LaGeneralista – “encouraging narcissism like never before. This might explain the 93 million selfies taken just by Android users every day. While you might love to look at yourself, is your picture the only thing you have to offer the world?