§80 TAKE care when you get information. We live by information, not by sight. We exist by faith in others. The ear is the sidedoor of truth but the frontdoor of lies. The truth is generally seen, rarely heard. She seldom comes in elemental purity, especially from afar—there is always some admixture of the moods of those through whom she has passed. The passions tinge her with their colors wherever they touch her, sometimes favorably, sometimes odiously. She always brings out people’s disposition, therefore receive her with caution from him that praises, with more caution from him that blames. Pay attention to the intention of the speaker; you should know beforehand on what footing he comes. Let reflection test for falsity and exaggeration.
Emphasis is mine.
Written in the 17th Century, Gracián’s thoughts in The Art of Worldly Wisdom* seem equally apropos today; perhaps even more so.
Replace “the ear” with “the internet” in sentence four:
The internet is the side door of truth but the front door of lies.
I’d say that fits.
What a powerful tool for crowdsourcing information and bypassing traditional nodes of centralized power.
What an easy way to disseminate propaganda, falsehoods, and forgeries, enticingly wrapped up with all of our cognitive biases.
It behooves us all to think critically about our sources of “truth.”
Let reflection test for falsity and exaggeration.
Humans are uniquely blessed with critical faculties. We live in an era uniquely abundant in sources to which we may—and must!—apply our highest powers of thought.
If we fail to do so, our technology may prove to be our undoing, calling to mind the soft, feeble Eloi in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Think! Or prepare for your descendants to be fed to the Morlocks.**
*I’m reading Joseph Jacob’s translation on my Kindle
**Metaphor! Follow the link about Eloi or pick up a copy of The Time Machine and find out for yourself.