Roger Marolt: If we can’t beat them, we ought to get educated
Education is the only solution to misinformation
When you are in the business of column writing, messy things sometimes fall in your lap. A map landed in mine the other day. I will not tell you how or from where it dropped. It looked old, often folded and unfolded, signed and dated Aug. 9, 2005 by Pat O’Donell, former president of Aspen Skiing Co.
It was titled “25-year Master Plan for Aspen Mountain.” There is an interesting yellow line on the topographic map switchbacking upward from the paraglider landing spot in Stillwater to the bottom of Pandora’s ski terrain near the top of Aspen Mountain.
There is a hand-written note near the map’s legend. “Abandoned Mining Road,” it says. “To be reclaimed for ski area access to new base village.” Back on the map at the top of the yellow zig-zag line, small geometric forms that look like footprints for buildings are scattered in a semi-circle around a new lift’s bottom terminal. Written in red pen and circled at least thrice is “2025!”
Feel free to predict what you think this all means, but I believe it indicates more than new ski runs and a chairlift are in store for Pandora’s. A new base village halfway down the east side of Aspen Mountain, what a surprise! We knew this whole current ski area expansion proposal couldn’t possibly be just about the skiing, right?
Stop. Calm Down. This is all nonsense. I made it up. I am testing my skills to possibly explore a side venture in writing. I have always wanted to make a good living through writing. There was a time when I aspired to be a paperback writer. I dreamed of screenplays flowing from my pen. Now, I think I might want to serve my country and work for the FBI. They might pay as well as the Russians.
I don’t want to be an agent or a spy. I don’t want to travel overseas incognito making secret deals with the enemy. I don’t even want to analyze data, which might be the obvious track for a number cruncher. I think the most lucrative jobs in writing these days are in the branch of fake news.
It’s not like we don’t need fake news in our nation’s undercover arsenal. We have plenty flowing our way. We need to export some to offset it. The way I see it, we have to have as many satellites as the Chinese. We need as many ships as the Russians. We need to have as many liars as the North Koreans. And we need as many fake news spreaders as everyone else combined.
As much havoc as these fake news spreaders have caused in the United States over the past several years, it is impossible for me to believe we don’t already have a large battalion of them ourselves. Remember back in the 1970s how appalled we were when it was discovered that Soviet athletes were using steroids? Now we know that the sports innovators in our country were well ahead of them. It makes sense. If there is money to be made from something, we will be doing it first and doing it best. It’s what makes America great, right? But, now we are playing catch-up purveying bad information.
We can see how dangerous this weapon of spreading false information is. It literally kills people by creating chaos. It has shown potential for promoting insurrection. It could lead to civil war. At the very least, it is proven to make us hate each other more than the foreign enemies who are using it to destroy us.
Misinformation is a frightening weapon. Simple, misleading stories launched through sophisticated targeting and compressive dissemination is difficult to trace and can penetrate any defense that is not straight up censorship. And this may be the most frightening aspect of all: if we do try to fight it off with censorship, it opens the door for a dictatorial government to form right here.
Of course, this is the reality check for any new patriotic career I might envision for writing and sending garbage news the other way to try offsetting some of the damage it is creating here. The plan won’t work. You can’t send fake news to countries that write their own to manipulate their citizens.
There is only one solution that will work to combat this assault: education. The problem is that this solution takes time, money and mass buy-in. We better get started.
Roger Marolt knows good fake news is hard to weed out. Email him at email@example.com.
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