A note on Antartica conspiracies & fake news

After recently watching Werner Herzog’s Close Encounters at the End of the World (2007) on Netflix, I’ve been on an Antarctica kick––inhaling Nat Geo’s polar content on YouTube and reading up on McMurdo Station.What I find most fascinating, however, is that the grim majority of search results for “antarctica” involve moronic conspiracy theories, mainly involving Hitler, UFOs, and Flat Earth weirdos. Coupled with American students piss poor results in science (LINK) and a climate change denying President-elect (LINK), we see that science literacy leaves a lot to be desired in the digital age. Factual science programming doesn’t quite circulate like garbage content that appeals to the lowest common denominator. 

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 13.00.29.pngTrash content

While there’s a lot to be said about the propagation of Internet conspiracies in the past two decades (with “Pizzagate” now a hot topic on the TV circuit), I argue what we’re currently seeing is symptomatic of shifting access to knowledge. In the past someone interested in, for example, Antartica would’ve checked out a peer-reviewed and factually grounded book on the subject. Now a casual YouTube or Google search yields wild unverifiable claims and are usually part of a larger conspiratorial narrative. Thanks to the History channel, theories involving alien Hitler gain a lot of traction. Blogs, entertainment, and fake news orgs are how most people get their news. Information gets sifted through these click hungry, viewer driven channels and disseminated via confirmation bias algorithms. This is why the creation of quality content in this day and age feels urgent to me. I feel a moral responsibility to push relevant content out there (and a hungrier urge to just share memes). 

But what defines “quality”? What are “facts”? Who defines “truth” Questions like these reflect our current epistemological war, no doubt aggravated by 

Given that global warming is “beyond the point of no return,” I feel obligated to at least try to overcome the lack of trust I have with the world before the ice caps inevitably melt. How? By creating a “brand” (for lack of a better word)––active on YouTube and Instagram––that promotes science and philosophy. Now I don’t have any illusions that I can magically reverse climate change or carbon emissions by blogging, but dedicating my energies to the subject feels more meaningful than pushing products (and consuming consumerist content, which is harder than it sounds).  Amongst all the conspiratorial and reactionary content floating around, only critical thinking on a mass scale (unimaginable) could reverse the trend.

I’m drawn to Antarctica as a subject because in the barren, hostile landscape I see a new beginning. Its bleak terrestrial landscape soothes me. How can lies grow there?

 

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