iThink | The dangerous mix of fake news and ignorance

By Owen Cammayo

Recently, one of my team members came upon this interesting discovery called Paydro Live, a trivia game show mobile app hosted by my friend Sam YG, one of today’s most sought-after TV and radio personalities. Some of you may have heard of it since about 20,000 to 30,000 play this live trivia game every weekday at 12:30 PM.

To make the long story short, me and my team ended up playing one lunch break. There are only 11 questions. If you get them right, you get to win or share the pot of P20,000, sometimes P200,000 on Fridays.

It’s easy money if you answer all the questions. It covers a range of topics, from science to history to geography to sports, etc. All basic knowledge questions, multiple choice, with three suggested answers.

What human cells regenerate the fastest? A: Bone cells B: Brain cells C: Stomach cells

Answer: stomach cells (apparently, it only takes 4 days)

Who was the actor or TV personality who transferred to GMA-7 recently? A. Atom Araullo B. Wendell Ramos. I forgot the other choice.

Answer: Wendell Ramos. (We didn’t get past this one.)

There were many more questions, some easy and some difficult. My team and I could have just Googled the answers and won some quick bucks. But unfortunately, we only had 10 seconds to answer each question.

Anyway, to get to my point — in this age of Google, we’re all geniuses. The answers to virtually every question is just a Google search away. And yet, for some reason, we are also dismally ignorant. We fail to ponder deeply about issues and the knowledge already available to us.

In the 2017 Perils of Perception survey by Ipsos reported in newspapers last year, the Philippines ranked as the third most inaccurate in their perceptions of issues such as murder rates, terrorist deaths, etc. among 38 countries. And more than that, we were very confident of our inaccurate answers.

Perhaps if we conduct a similar simple survey about our government, our public officials, key issues in politics and economics, and Philippine history and geography, many will give confident answers as well. And yet, I believe, many will be wrong.

That is where the danger lies. Despite the availability of knowledge over the Web, we still fall for fake news. We succumb easily to emotions, to facts that are “plausible”, to ideas that “seem to make sense”.

We do not know how to research well, verify facts, and, most alarmingly, we don’t like to bother making an extra effort to verify facts and evaluate ideas to support our thoughts. We want instant opinions and a very loud megaphone, which, in these times, is social media.

As a professional, ethical communicator, I believe those of us in the Public Relations and Communications industry have a moral obligation to communicate responsibly. We need to support our messages with hard facts to help fill knowledge gaps and persuade people in a positive way.

At the same time, we must also provide the necessary tools to evaluate those facts. More importantly, we need to help shape the proper mindset — one that is always responsible and mindful.

The general public, of course, has a responsibility, too. They need to realize their ignorance, and the extent of that ignorance. The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after two professors in Cornell University, perfectly describes this phenomenon.

It refers to the observation that those who are most ignorant are the least aware of that ignorance.

So now what? Well, for one thing, angrily denouncing them or shaming them for their ignorance or “stupidity” won’t probably do much good. Showing them how to think about facts and news sources can help. It’s all about self-awareness and having the humility to realize our ignorance.

The ignorant, which, in a way, refers to all of us, can take solace in the wisdom of Aristotle, who said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

If you don’t believe that, just try playing Paydro.

The author is the head of corporate affairs and communications at BPI

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