There’s something rotten in the marketplace of ideas

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By Downtowngal (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was trained as a journalist. I didn’t practice long (about a year and a half), but I remember some of what I learned in the journalism school I attended.

One of those things was the theory called “the marketplace of ideas”. It’s the cornerstone of freedom of information. It’s the idea that out of a vast mix of many ideas, the truth will emerge. In other words, truth is the idea that gains the most traction when all ideas are allowed to be expressed.

This is a great concept, and I thoroughly support it for the most part. But every now and then, in this huge marketplace, the smell of rotten fruit is overwhelming. I smell it most strongly on social media, where far left and far right media are quoted as facts.

I worry that the marketplace of ideas was not intended to be placed next to today’s information superhighway where people are too busy to pay attention to the fruit they pick up. Is that fruit actually something they want to consume? Or was its sweet smell concealing something much more rotten?

In today’s age of too much information presented too quickly, you need to be careful what you believe and what you pass along. Ask yourself: Is the information you pass along based on real fact? Where does it come from? What other ideas has that source put forward? Are you passing it along because it sounds like truth or because it sounds like the truth you want?

Treat the marketplace of ideas like you treat any roadside stand you may stop at to pick up fruit for your family. Look at each piece of fruit carefully. Examine it for rotten areas. Think about where it comes from. Because wormy ideas are causing a great deal of sickness in this world.

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