February 11, 2019 by liebestropfchen
In my youth I believed my parents and their friends were so wise. My siblings and I spent many nights with my parents and their friends as they worked on little side projects. After hours of hard work, we kids would have to sit (not very still, mind you) and listen to them shoot the breeze, chatting about whatever was on their minds. Through a steady stream of jokes, deep conversations about world issues, and reminiscing about their own youth, I witnessed adults who seemed to know everything.
At the time, I couldn’t wait to grow up and have the knowledge, money, and experience to make those adult decisions my parents apparently knew how to make. Being an adult (in my naïve mind) brought all the tools to navigate this crazy world, and I wanted to desperately to be like them! It would be fun, and I would be as smart as them, and I would make them proud!
Boy, was I dumb.
These people supposedly have more life experience than we do, yet over the past decade I have seen my parents, their friends, and even some of my former teachers lose all sense of critical thought and deductive reasoning. The men and women I respected have completely abandoned simple facts in favor of believing every nonsensical news story they see on Facebook.
Social media has become their closest companion, and they cannot seem to tell the difference between fake newsTM and ACTUAL fake news.
My parents bought our first computer in the 1980s, and my dad even worked in IT for many years…so why the hell do I STILL have to explain to them that Hillary Clinton didn’t have a devil-worshiping-baby-eating séance with her campaign manager in 2016?
Why are Baby Boomers so susceptible to click bait, internet scams, and fake news? Why are church pastors becoming radicalized and prioritizing anti-liberal propaganda ahead of a biblical duty to show kindness and love to all? Why has my sixth grade teacher now become so angry that he calls me a “libtard” because I pointed out the text of a Supreme Court decision that countered his views?
As a member of Generation X, I had the privilege of growing up in a world before the internet. CNN launched when I was in diapers, but most people didn’t have cable TV then. At the ripe age of 7 ½ years old, when I stared at the television as Oliver North testified in front of Congress during the Iran Contra hearings, I could see news anchors did not often (if at all) provide their opinions while summarizing news stories for the American household.
They just told the “who/what/when/where/how”, but the “why” was up to the viewer. Only in hindsight can I truly appreciate the stark difference between “news-lite” (as I call the news coverage of yesteryear) and the 24-hour übernews of today.
Gen Xers like myself really didn’t become adults (and therefore, regular absorbers of news) until several years after the internet was commonplace in our homes. We often categorize our life-before-internet and life-after-internet experiences – never quite married to either. May I tell you how many times I’ve had to remind my Gen X husband, friends, colleagues and myself that we can google answers to our questions? We all know Google exists, and we use it all the time…but occasionally our brain reverts to the “Damn, I don’t wanna go to the library to research stuff, so I’ll just ask you” instinct.
Happens all the time, folks. Old habits die hard.
We are forever straddling the two worlds…but lately I’ve determined that might actually be what spares us from going insane in our internet-surfing retirement years.
Walter Cronkite was a trusted newsman for The Greatest Generation, and subsequently for their Baby Boomer children. Anti-establishment hippies in the 1960s and 1970s (my parents) didn’t like the images on their television screens, but no one would accuse Walter Cronkite of being a “partisan hack”. He covered thoroughly but fairly, and other anchors modeled his behavior.
Unfortunately, these examples of “my news source is trustworthy” is corrupting the Baby Boomer mindset today.
“Walter Cronkite was TV’s patron saint of objectivity,” TIME magazine wrote of him shortly after his death. Growing up when objectivity was delivered on a silver platter, no Baby Boomer was required to spend time learning how to think objectively when it came to news. The news was fact. Therefore, I am not surprised they are struggling to understand the “tells” of a fake news story.
Where a Gen Xer or a Millennial has learned to analyze whether a story is credible (i.e., the web address a legit domain, the “About Us” section of the website doesn’t say it’s a parody, the hyperlinks within point to legit websites/documents, etc), a Boomer’s instinct is to be spoon-fed from their preferred news outlet as if Cronkite were the source.
I call this the Cronkite Syndrome. Many Boomers have become angry, some even radicalized, by fake news stories circulating on the internet. The headline will be click bait, and the body of the “news” story will read like the National Enquirer on steroids, but sure as shit they will believe every word of it. Even worse than the propensity to believe the false stories is their inability to believe solid, factual, evidentiary support that proves the story is fabricated. Anyone who tries to tell them it’s false is a “traitor libtard”.
I took screenshots of quite a few of these types of stories from my dad’s Facebook page shortly before the 2016 election. I was in awe of how ridiculous the stories were, and of how wholeheartedly my dad believed them. He still believes them.
Thankfully, I’ve seen enough sensationalized news in my adult life that I haven’t come to trust ANY news source as Cronkite-Tough. I will do my due diligence to view each news story with a critical eye, even if it fits my world view. I would rather share something that sparks conversation with facts, than to share something inflammatory anyway.
As I approach my 40thbirthday, I’m not yet suffering from the same level of habit-breaking difficulty with analyzing news sources as I am with forgetting about the card catalogue in my local library….
….or the notion that my elders are inherently wise.