Why do people believe everything they read?

What do we make of the news that the pro-gun Sheriff leading the investigation into the shootings at the community college in Oregon had posted an article on his Facebook page claiming that the grieving parents from the Newtown grade-school massacre were — in reality — actors!

For me, two things are evident.  One — people will believe and share anything on Facebook that supports their position.   This is simply desperation.  The notion of weeding out even favorable posts by reading them critically — assessing their accuracy, probing their logic — has gone OUT THE WINDOW ever since the arrival of Facebook.

The last book written by Carl Sagan bemoaned the lack of critical thinking in America.

Critical thinking, for example, means examining:  Is there a direct relationship between this vs. that?

The classic post along this line is:  “Don’t expect God to help when there’s a school shooting.  He has been taken OUT of the schools!”

This is not only thin theology; it’s an awfully weak argument.  The theology is thin in that:  Nobody can take God OUT of school anymore than people can bring God INTO school.  God is not a pizza delivery — to be brought here & there at a person’s whim.

Mister Rogers brought God into television.  Fred Rogers, however, omitted “God talk” (as though mentioning the Name of God marks the certainty that God is IN a school or a television studio).  Rather, Mister Rogers brought to his work all the values and cares that a God-centered person harbors, and the result is that he influenced generations.

The argument is weak that God IS some place because a prayer was led by a teacher in front of a classroom or over the loud speaker at the start of the school day   That’s all it takes to insist “God is (or isn’t) in this school”?

These posts are simply put — desperation.  They show frustration at not being able to comprehend large and complex problems — and so reduce woes to the simplest of correlations:  “It’s all happening because kids can’t pray in school, anymore.”

A second thing seems evident in this phenomenon by which people believe everything they read on Facebook.  In addition to simple desperation, people insist they won’t be out-smarted.  That’s why they accept so easily anything – especially if it goes against their favorite villain (the federal government).

Waco, for example.  The compound was set on fire (they read) BY federal agents.

Same thing regarding 9/11.  It was a federal plot to clamp down on civil liberties.

One day, standing outside of a church on a Sunday morning, I greeted a retired fellow who volunteered that mad-cow disease was a plot to raise beef prices.

Why do people believe these things?

It’s all about – “I’m not going to be fooled.”  People are trying so hard to not be out-smarted.

In combination with simplistic solutions like returning prayer in the schools or corporal punishment or building a wall against Mexico or  drug-testing welfare recipients (nobody insists on drug-testing bank executives whose businesses got enormous welfare payments from the federal government) – in combination with all such desperation, the insistence on believing everything they read because “I won’t be fooled” – is ironically creating fools like this Oregon sheriff who shares a Facebook post claiming the Newtown parents are fakes.

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