Why does it work? Because there's a segment within our society that's growing at a rapid pace. It spans class, race and education; I call them "knee-jerkers". People so busy with "their lives" that they can't take the time for due diligence when it comes to what they choose to believe. They have become so lazy they blindly pick something or someone to follow. It may be a political party, a TV network, a politician, some talking head on TV or (the part that scares me) anyone spouting the "party line".
Facebook and Twitter have become breeding grounds for "knee-jerkers". The brevity of the posts on these platforms has done nothing but make this situation worse. After all; why check a fact when someone who seems to know what they're talking about posts a 140 word Tweet that you can agree with. Why bother checking out the "facts" only to find out you have been duped and all that rage you have was unfounded?
This topic was brought to my mind by this posting I recently saw on Facebook. It was posted by a comic I have known (we're not friends) since I started. He has 53,000 followers on his Facebook page and 23,000 on his Twitter account. I know him to be a very intelligent man. He is now, and has always been a very political guy; he has a great passion for politics. He incredibly successful.
Along with this meme he posted the following:
in your 60s?
think you were retiring soon?
Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins.
They hate you, you know. And they want you dead before you see a penny of what you invested in your retirement.
Usually I ignore political stuff. Since I only believe that which I can prove I find reading the opinions of people that have not done their own research is a waste of my time. Every once in while one of these will catch my attention and force me to do a little research. So, when I saw the words "immediately delay retirement for all Americans" on the meme and "Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins" I felt I needed to check to see if that was true.
It wasn't because I already have an interest in what should be done with social security. Truthfully I feel so removed from the process I just wait to see what happens. What I do have a interest in is finding out if a statement that seems as exaggerated as the one above is true. After all; how is it that the President of the United States can just change social security like that? Something that has been debated and argued about since I can remember without a lot of real change cannot be that easily changed.
Not to mention even I (who has no political savvy) knows that the President can't just change the terms of social security like that. That has to be done by law and it goes through Congress and The Senate. He has no control over either one even if his party is the majority.
So I did a quick fact check on the Internet (which took all of 5 minutes) and found Bush's actual quote. It was the same on more than 20 sites including sites like CNN and MSNBC.
He said this:
“I think we need to raise the retirement age, not for people that are
already nearing, receiving Social Security, or already on it, but raise
it gradually, over a long period of time for people that are just
entering the system," Bush said. "And I think we need to do that in
relatively short order."
Clearly he has no plans to raise the retirement age to 70 immediately. Clearly no one will lose their social security benefits, nor will anyone that is about to get it have their retirement age changed "immediately" after he takes office.
In short ... it's clearly not true. So why did this well respected comedian post this? Was he fooled? Did he actually know if was false?
The reason is not important. What is important is that on Facebook so far 270 people have liked his post and 198 have shared it. Comments like this one were made by the people following him:
is a perfect storm of stupidity. I'm collecting my "entitlement" and if
they screw with it I won't be the only one on that bus to start the
revolution. I worked 46 yrs and paid into that system and am still
paying by working part time to supplement my income. This blow hard can
kiss my fat ass."
I'm not here to discuss the merits of Jeb Bush's statement. Nor is it important to me the reason behind why this comedian posted what appears to be an absolute falsehood. I'm more concerned about the FACT that nearly 200 people shared this post as if it were the truth which it clearly was not.
The point of this writing is that it's up to YOU to make sure your beliefs are grounded in truth. Your duty is not to fall for everything you read in social networking or see on TV. Do your own research; check the facts yourself.
All it takes is a couple minutes of reading to keep yourself from looking like a liar or an idiot ...