I am constantly being reminded of an old Bob and Ray skit (no, I can’t find it online) they did on late night TV where Bob played an interviewer of a longshoreman (Ray) who had just published a thousand page history of the U.S. that was riddled with errors. “Here, for example,” the increasingly perplexed interviewer sputtered, “you say that Abraham Lincoln was born in 1943 in Bailey’s Mistake, Maine!” Because the internet permits anyone to publish authoritative-sounding nonsense and lies without penalty, that skit seems less and less absurd with each passing day.
Even the content of supposedly legitimate, respected on-line sources cannot be relied upon , because 1) the job of “editor” appears to be obsolete, and 2) if there is an editor, he may be an ignoramus too. For example, a day after after the World Health Organization released a stunning report announcing that citizens of Greece were intentionally giving themselves AIDS so they could get health benefits, it retracted the statement, saying, through a spokesman, “There is no evidence of people in Greece or anywhere else in Europe deliberately infecting themselves.” What happened? It was an editing error. Oh, well then… wait, what? And nobody other than the editor read the ridiculous release before falsely accusing an entire country of breeding idiots?
This brings us to this “correction” that appeared yesterday on Slate….you know, that sophisticated, erudite, eclectic online cultural commentary magazine:
“Correction, Dec. 10, 2013: This article originally misidentified penguins as mammals. They are birds.”
As in, “Correction: This article originally stated that Abe Lincoln was born in Bailey’s Mistake, Maine….
How could this happen? Easy..
1. The author, Aisha Harris, wrote a (supposedly humorous) article about penguins, yet never performed the most basic due diligence of checking the basic facts about penguins. She knew, it seems, that they live in cold environments and are black and white, and that’s about it. Lazy, incompetent and irresponsible.
2. Nobody at Slate read it before putting this thing (it is neither funny nor clever) up on the site.( I refuse to believe that more than one individual in any 100 mile radius thinks that penguins are mammals.) Unprofessional, incompetent, irresponsible, lazy, and a breach of trust.
If those who regard their profession as the dissemination of information do not accept the attendant obligation to make sure that the information they convey is accurate, then civilization is doomed.
Civilization is doomed.
Facts and Graphic: Slate