Thursday, July 9, 2009


I hate misinformation. I do not mean I just dislike it, am mildly annoyed by it or that it grates on my nerves. I absolutely loath it. But what is even worse is when people spread it around like it is the absolute truth as if they were some sort of Typhoid Mary of wrong.

Whenever I first hear it, I first must resist the urge to bang my head on the nearest hard surface and instead calmly and politely explain to them that what they believe is utter crap. Sometimes the person will accept the new explanation and stop the contagion then. But other times they will adamantly stick by their inaccurate belief. To make matters worse, others may also chime in supporting the wrong info.

When asked how they know that they are right about whatever it might be, I often get one of two responses. The most common one is that it is 'common knowledge'. Common knowledge is notoriously utter nonsense (such as the often spouted bit about the sky being blue because they reflect the oceans). The second one is that they read or heard it somewhere. They can almost never name what this source is or be able to show it to anyone else (or if they do it is from some place that is equally full of wrong).

I bring all this up because today at dinner, both my parents brought up the old myth that Michael Jackson is now white because he bleached his skin. Right then and there I spoke up saying no, he had Vitiligo, potentially compounded with Lupus. In Vitiligo, the immune system attacks the melanites (the cells that produce melanin, the pigment in human skin), leading to a lightening of the skin and, in most cases, an eventual lack of melanin throughout the body leaving the victim incredibly light in skin tone. My parents response to this? No, he bleached his skin. No explanation for how it was known, just that it was and this was the end of it.

When I got back home I brought forth the data showing that A) the beaching myth is just that, a myth and B) that there has never been a case of a person bleaching their skin to any way that even approached Jackson's skin tone (and the only times of any skin bleaching period are dubious at best). When presented with this information I got a very simple response. Verbatim, the response was "I really don't care".

This nearly got my visibly agitated (which I rarely do). The fact that my family does not care whether the information they pass around as absolute truth is actually right or not confounds me. How can you not care whether what you say is right or not? Granted I really don't care about the topic, but the fact that the info was wrong was what pulled me in.

I am further curious as to how I am the only one in my family that actually seems to give a damn about accuracy. Yes the others will want accuracy in what they know well such as their profession. But beyond that, utter apathy at best and contempt at worst. I say contempt because I have been told many times from my family that no one cares how accurate something is and I should just stop being so elitist (I should note that I don't go around condescendingly telling people they are wrong just pointing out when something is wrong and the reason it is wrong, I never condemn the person for it). I wasn't aware that valuing knowledge and intellectual honesty made one elitist, I thought it was just being responsible.

I suppose this is just one more reason why I am not that close with my family, we simply see the world in ways that are so different as to be incompatible. I find beauty in knowledge. But to know that those I am kin to not only do not care about the beauty but actually think it is an ugly, bad thing, well, I find this quite sad.
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