On April 14th, Professor Harris linked us to an article on our twitter hashtag that contained misinformation. I responded to him, because both the issue of spreading misinformation, and the subject of the information in this case, are both very important to me. In this instance, the subject was a grassroots movement called Gamergate.
Gamergate was about the media covering up a media cover up about the media being unethical. It’s impossible to fully explain without diagrams and timelines how the story unfolded over the course of about 2 years, so I’ll keep it brief. Long story short, a certain journalist’s unethical past was uncovered, and he was accused of nepotism. Then, his other media friends attacked the people who were spreading this information by writing articles about how awful they were. A journalist who had been bullied into silence by his colleagues came forward with evidence about the unethical practices of the journalists who were defending the original journalist, and this led to a rabbit hole of secret information about how the video game media misled and lied to its readers. The journalists rushed to defend one another and attack their own readers so as to discredit their critics. Now, 3 years later, there is lots of misinformation about the whole thing because the news outlets were so untruthful. The founder of wikipedia even decried the wikipedia page dedicated to Gamergate as unreliable, because wikipedia’s rules state that information needs sources, but all the official sources were the ones accused of lying and having secondary motives. The entire page is, annoyingly, a lie.
If I link you to my tweet then you won’t be able to see the others in the chain, so here’s Professor Harris’ original tweet that I responded to: https://twitter.com/joeharris_ud/status/852881563272572928
What I was trying to do: Previously I’d tweeted something about one of the articles we’d read that was rather negative, and Professor Harris responded to it, and we discussed that the article was misleading. In this more recent instance, I wanted him to see my tweets and think about how THIS article was also misleading, and the damage that spreading (I’ll avoid the term “Fake News”) misinformation causes. Misinformation, especially when coming from a superior like a professor, is highly likely to be believed and spread further.
One of my professors my Freshman year mentioned in his class the old “you eat 5 spiders in your sleep every year” myth as if it was true, when, ironically, that “fact” was completely made up in order to trick gullible people. This was a mostly harmless instance and I didn’t do anything about it, but I’ve seen other times where more sinister things are slipped into lessons. In philosophy classes the professor does not tell you that Plato’s view of the world is true and then send you out into the world to spread the message. Instead, you learn about Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, and Marx, as people with ideas, and are allowed to have your own conclusions or ignore them entirely. It’s not teaching you a philosophy, it’s teaching you about philosophy. Other areas of education are not so objective. I had one professor in the past who, after I asked why she was assigning readings that only showed one side of an issue, told me privately not to speak up in class anymore. I would like to end these types of misinformation from spreading via professors in courses where students are paying to learn facts, and felt like responding to our professor’s post with a few tweets containing the truth about the matter was a small way of combating that.
What I managed to do: I know that he read it, because he would have gotten a notification and he reads all of our posts every week. My assumption, and this could be totally wrong, (and since I know he’ll be reading this I want him to know I’m not accusing him of anything, it’s just what I have to write because the assignment says I have to), is that he didn’t really know that the article he posted was about anything controversial and didn’t want to get involved with something he didn’t know about, and so didn’t respond to me. So I really didn’t accomplish anything.
What insights I gained: Never use twitter to try to explain subtleties to people because 140 characters is never enough and you have to split it into 6 messages.