Mr. Wizard Part 3: Fact Checking
I guess Mr. Wizard held a grudge against me from our previous discussion, because he started stalking me on Facebook. Every day, hell every post, he had something to say. Hell bent on correcting the errors of my ways.
Whether his motivation was to save my poor misguided soul, to save the world from my evil plan, or to simply prove me wrong, I could not say. Maybe all three. But he became my own personal fact-checker.
According to Mr. Wizard I had been duped by right-wing propaganda into spreading ‘fake news.’ This was a problem Mr. Wizard intended to fix, or something. His selection of targets however was frequently hilarious.
For example, when I posted a story titled:
“Farmers Stay Silent During Auction So Young Man Can Win the Bid on His Long-Lost Family Farm.”
Now this was just a ‘feel-good’ story about human kindness, loyalty, and being a good neighbor. Nothing really objectionable about it (unlike a lot of the other crap I post).
But oh no, Mr. Wizard sprung into action, responding that he didn’t believe the story was true, that it was fake news, and that I ought to be more careful spreading such vicious right-wing propaganda. Or something like that. I wish I could share his actual words, but I deleted his comment.
Why did I do that?
Well, I was wasting a lot of time trying to craft a suitable response. Or even decide what was suitable. Here’s my first attempt:
“Attention everyone, Mr. Wizard thinks this might be fake news. Please refrain from thinking pleasant thoughts or believing in human kindness until Mr. Wizard completes his investigation.”
Too subtle? Would the sarcasm bounce off Mr. Wizard’s skull? Maybe something more direct like:
“Listen up fuckface, no one asked you. You sound like a retard trying to fact-check a story which contains eternal truths like kindness and loyalty. So what if it’s fiction? So was War and Peace, Hamlet, and Gone with the Wind. So what? Who cares? Get lost.”
Hmm, maybe a bit too hostile. I wasn’t that angry, so how about a more logical approach with a touch of mockery, something like:
“And let us suppose just for the moment that it is fake. So what? Is it a problem for people to believe in human kindness? What is the harm of it exactly? That people mistakenly believe some farmers did something nice for another farmer? This is the crisis of fake news you want to avert? Wow. You’re such a hero.”
Hmmm, was that better or worse? I don’t know. Kind of dull maybe. So I wrote a third and a fourth, (and a fifth and sixth), until the really important question finally occurred to me, ‘What the hell was I doing?’
This was a total waste of time. I’m not going to live forever, why would I waste even another second bickering with Mr. Wizard?
So I deleted his comment.
Not because I had no response to it, but that I had too many, and I simply wanted to free myself from feeling the need to respond.
Whether this possibility occurred to Mr. Wizard I do not know. But it sure as hell didn’t slow him down. Mr. Wizard remained on the patrol to correct any fake news I may propagate in my evil plan to misguide the world. Even literal “fake news,” from the satirical website The Babylon Bee.
Now I must confess that the Babylon Bee’s phony headlines have fooled me at least once. But Mr. Wizard took it to a new level when I shared a story with this headline:
“Vicious Tyrant Trump Wants To Let People Leave Their Homes.”
Okay. That headline doesn’t even make sense. I mean, how is letting people leave their homes an act of vicious tyrant? It isn’t. It can’t be. It’s a contradiction. And what serious news article would begin with “Vicious Tyrant Trump” anyways?
So this had to be a joke right?
But Mr. Wizard took it seriously. Even after reading the whole story he still took it seriously. Even though it included passages like:
“Trump told the press with an evil grin. “They’ll be able to peaceably assemble in whatever size groups they desire! Muhahaha!”
Just the words “evil grin” should have been enough. But has anyone outside of a comic book or B-movie ever said, “Muhahaha” seriously?
So this has got to be comedy right?
But not to Mr. Wizard who responded with this:
“Quotes in this are not attributable to Trump. Why do they insist on putting words in his mouth??? There is so much true stuff you can post that supports the argument, why depend on fake quotes?… This crap just leaves us to question the source and therefore question what I think is a good message. Damn.”
Yes, that’s right. He fact-checked a joke. He actually spent time searching to see if Trump really said, “Muhahaha!”
And this was the guy who wanted to save me from ‘fake news?’ He couldn’t even identify ‘fake news’ when it was intended to be fake. How the hell was he going to tell fact from fiction in supposedly “real” reporting?
I thought it not very likely.
But Mr. Wizard was not discouraged, he was as confident and determined as ever to teach me a lesson. The problem as he would next see it, was that I had been attending the wrong school.