Virtual Realities

The (Mis)Information Economy

From digital broadcasts that allow TV stations to report more quickly from the scene of breaking news, to websites that can distribute information to tens of thousands of readers in mere seconds, to Facebook and Twitter and other social media that provide a “crowdsourcing” element, quickly able to detect and correct mistakes, the rise of electronic communication in all of its forms has been an undoubted boon to humanity.  No longer do we have to wait for the six o’clock news or the morning paper to find out what the media gatekeepers think we need to know.  The rise of “new media” and the “citizen journalist” has heralded an unprecedented age of freedom in which we have access to an unfiltered flow of information and can make up our own minds, the government and the New York Times be damned.  Sixty-five years after he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell has never before looked so far off the mark.

Just ask Ryan Lanza, the 24-year-old man who massacred 20 first-grade students and six teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.

What’s that?  Ryan Lanza was not the Sandy Hook shooter?  Ah, but for a few hours on that Friday afternoon, he was.  Even 20 days later, as I write this column, I can still find dozens of reports on news sites that...

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