You are reading one of the millions of blogs in existence. Yet hopefully you still read books, buy newspapers or at least get your news from reputable services. Don’t rely on Google for your checks. Rely on the written, or at least the online edited word. You see, editors check their facts before they agree on your copy. Some people who have never had editors to deal with, just assume that if it can be Googled and found, it’s true. And so many of us park their brains when going online.
Let me try to convince you. A friend of mine shared this image below on Facebook as The Waterfall Castle in Poland. If you search for it, you will see it everywhere. It’s on Pinterest, Facebook (Fractal Multiverse), and Best Travel Photos blog among others. People respond positively and say that they have been inspired to go to Poland from that picture.
Of course it’s not true. Who would build a castle under a waterfall and how long would the bleedin’ castle last? This is a beautiful, Photoshopped picture called Hidden Temple put up in March 2007 as part of a CGI portfolio by Ruben Darío Karamañites Arango. It took my 30 seconds to find that out.
Would that photo have appeared on the Guardian? No – there is an editor there.
Out of these alternative Internet realities perpetuated on the Net, none is worse than the manufactured quote. The week before I came across an apparently disparaging Turkish proverb about Greeks that had the Greek blogosphere up in arms. False. I recently came along this one: “A person will stand on a hill with his mouth open for a very long time before a roast duck flies in.” Apparently it is a Spanish proverb. I speak Spanish and I’d never heard it. I asked several Spanish friends; they laughed. I did some more research. Well, someone else believes this was a quote by Confucius. Maybe, maybe not.
What is eating me at the moment is the travel quote attributed to Mohammed (or Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him, if you are Muslim) which is to be found everywhere on the Net: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you’ve travelled“. I have read a bit of the Qu’ran and a bit of the Hadith (in translation) and what I remember regards travel is: (i) You can break your fast during travel (ii) Women should not travel alone while travelling (iii) you should not travel with the Qu’ran to an enemy land, lest the book is captured and debased and (iv) travelling was a kind of torment. (Mohammed did say that, Book 25, Hadith 2992). This quote that bugs me sounds more Kahlil Gibran than the Qu’ran, because travel was not an enriching experience in sixth century Arabia; it was an exhausting one.
I have traced the Mohammed quote to Leland Wong, from San Francisco, CA who first put it up on the Net on 15 Oct 1996, according to Google. He doesn’t offer any sources at all. I cannot disprove a negative, but believe me, I have tried to find hard evidence for that quote and I haven’t. If you can find its origin, please email me asap.
Would that quote have appeared in the New York Times like it has on countless blogs and tweets? No, there’s an editor there.
So, we are rewriting reality and falling into visual Photoshopped traps, half truths and extravagant claims that people accept without thinking. What if that Waterfall Castle picture was issued indirectly by an unscrupulous PR to advertise travel to Poland? Oh, but it is a dangerous new reality we are creating, for people who believe far too readily can be easily manipulated.
Only three days before that castle image, I corrected another friend of mine on Facebook who posted a series of pictures purporting to show Sharia law in practice: a nine year old boy who stole a loaf of bread was having its arm run over by a car in Iran as punishment.
Iran is not the first place I’d go to for a holiday, but I knew that Sharia law doesn’t apply to minors. I Googled and, again, it took me 30 seconds to find from snopes.com what really happened. You can find there the full sequence, including an ‘after’ picture where the kid is shown with his hand intact.
You can argue about child cruelty, yes, but this trick is how the boy makes his living. Yet, the result of not spending 30 seconds to check and repeating the scene, fuels racial and religious hatred.
Would that be news in Der Spiegel? No because..
So let’s hear it for the printed word, sanity, and … editors!