One of the scariest things I've seen in the world is when someones opinion is presented as fact, and due to the person's authority or respect, that opinion becomes fact, and is propagated and spread as fact, and soon it is viewed by the community as a whole as fact.
Now this may not seem like a big deal to many, which is fine, it's not really important to most. But as a person who works with groups of people who haven't got along for decades, I can say the biggest issue these people have is with how the children are given false information about the other group and because it came from respected individuals, they hold onto the belief for the rest of their lives, continuing and perpetuating the cycle.
So the main discussion point of this post is to look at misinformation and examples of how it's spread. Now this one won't be as long, but it will be important.
History, and Disinformation vs. Misinformation:
So first things first, since the invention of the internet, it has been easier and easier to to spread information in general. That trend has grown even more rapidly with social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. As these tools become a bigger part of how information is spread, and as the internet lacks true accountability for credentials and sources, it becomes easier and easier to pass of an opinion as fact, citing an unknown source.
Now this could be for a number of reason, but if breaks down into two categories, based on intent, misinformation, which is just wrong, but passed off as fact, while disinformation is intented to alter opinion, sabotage and mislead. Now throughout sports history, there have been examples of both, and since I have no contact with the authors of these examples, I will give then the benefit of the doubt, and label all these examples as misinformation, while I'm sure some are not.
I am currently studying an article written by three sociologists, that focuses on social media and the ability to perpetuate misinformation. The first thing they note is that often misinformation is spread by outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, that aren't used by eyewitnesses, or in journals or papers that aren't read by eyewitnesses. But because of how rapidly data spreads on the internet, it's almost impossible to do damage control once the data has been circulation for some time.
It just needs to be noted that since the social media rising of the late 2000's, information has become more and more corrupt. And while the internet and tools like Twitter and Youtube have many benefits, looking to those sources for information is very risky. Now I won't delve too deeply into this, but here are a number of links that are useful if you have any further questions:
Spread of (Mis)Information in Social Networks
Distributing information — good and bad — in the social media age
Misinformation Through Social Media
Limiting the Spread of Misinformation in Social Networks
A Few Examples:
Nestle, Green Peace, and Some Nasty Candy:
Disturbing? Yea that was the point.
During the late 2000's, Green Peace launched a campaign against Nestle to get them to stop using palm oil, which Green Peace believed Nestle was getting from deforestation. Green Peace's brutal, as seen by the video, campaign against Nestle caused massive damage to Nestle's public image in just a week. Nestle quickly responded with a number of studies and audits done by independent researches on Nestle's methods. They showed Nestle got over 90% of it's palm oil from tree plantations, not from rain forest, that Nestle closely monitored their providers, and that each year, Nestle planted more tree's then it took down. Despite these facts, Green Peace continued its media barrage on Nestle till Green Peace supporters asked Green Peace to stop the campaign because of negative backlash at Green Peace for ignoring the study.
Woody Paige, Orton, and the Denver Post:
Recently on It's All Over, Fat Man, TJ stole my thunder on this topic. Woody Paige, since the season ended, has, as usual been opinionated. Now I enjoy Paige's writing, he's cocky enough to be funny, and has an enjoyable style of writing. But he also has a bad tendency to make things up or start a fire where there isn't one. Now I don't doubt that Paige has connections within the Broncos organization, moreso then me anyways, we'll let's just review the story.
Soon after the season ended, Paige wrote an article explaining how Orton was a cancer to the locker room, mocking Tebow both in TC and sulking and ignoring Tebow once he went out with injury.
Now this quickly spread around the internet, especially here at MHR. The idea that Orton wasn't a supportive teammate became reality in peoples mind. Luckily it didn't spread to the rest of the MSM, who about two days later talked to Tim Tebow about the season, and Tebow was asked about his relationship with Orton, which he mentioned as one of friendship and competition. During this interview, NFL Network showed a number of clips during the SD and Oakland games with Tebow, Orton and McCoy on the sidelines, Orton pointing to the clip board and talking to Tebow. There were a number of clips of Orton and Tebow talking on the sidelines, as well as Orton cheering during Tebow's big run against the Raiders. Later in the week, Eric Decker was tweeted about the claim and said that during training camp, no one was more respectful to each other then Tebow and Orton. I asked a friend of mine who works for the media who attended two days of Denvers camps last off-season and he reported that while it was obvious Orton and Tebow weren't best buds, they talked and laughed together, and he never saw Orton mock or laugh at Tebow, but he admits he didn't go to every day. Even in rewatching the season, the very limited sideline shots show Orton and Tebow talking.
Luckily this information was refuted quickly, but it did some big damage here on MHR, and some still hold onto this misinformation. Whether you like Orton or not, it's unacceptable to spread incorrect data.
BYU, The Denver Post (again), and Independence:
At the end of the NCAA football season, Brigham Young University, one of the staples of the Mountain West for some time, was rumored to be considering leaving the Mountain West to become independent. At this point, there was no real news, just end of the season rumors. But near the end of August, the Denver Post reported that since teams must inform the Mountain West a number of weeks in advance to leaving the conference, and it's sources, both at BYU and at the Mountain West, said no report had been filed and that a number BYU sources had reported said that BYU was looking forward to staying in the MWC for years to come.
There were a number of sources referenced in the article, at least two at BYU and one at MWC. Within a week, there were over 105 articles saying BYU wasn't leaving, including sites like SI and ESPN, in two weeks, if you searched "BYU staying MWC" you got thousands of sites, all reporting the same thing, and they all had one thing in common, the Denver Post article. Just three weeks after the Denver Post article, BYU went independent. This was a shock to just about everyone because the media had been propagating the idea that BYU wasn't leaving. The Denver Post rapidly took the original article down, but the shame had already spread. The Post issued a statement shortly thereafter saying that one of the researches of the article had lied about his sources and had been fired.
Because one man, for whatever reason, made up a story, it spread around the news and internet, and became the reality, till it was shattered. Misinformation, like what this man provided, made the Denver Post look bad, got him fired, and gave fans the belief that what they were believing was correct, though it was blatantly wrong.
Taco Bell, Lawyers, and Real Beef:
In late 2010, an Alabama-based law firm took a case out in California against Taco Bell for false advertising, claiming their "meat" was only 35% beef. The law firm started an advertising campaign against Taco Bell, and soon the information that the lawsuit was based on became public. In the following months Taco Bell lost millions of dollars worth of business, and the basis of the lawsuit actually was broadcasted as fact on the news, from Fox to MSNBC to Comedy Central.
And just this April, the law firm withdrew their case when Taco Bell presented their recipes and evidence showing their meat was actually 88% pure beef. The law firm, who launched their case loudly, withdrew quietly. Taco Bell, in response, started a large scale marketing plan to try and undo the damage that was done. They took out full page ads in the New York Times, LA Times and other major newspapers and online, that mocked those that sued them and set the facts straight:
Shooters, Vaccines, and Asking for Another Opinion:
During the tragic shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, a women claiming on Twitter to be witnessing the events began tweeting updates of what was going on. She mentioned multiple shooters, using hunting rifles, and acting in certain patterns. The media, lacking any sources and trying to keep track of the story, latched onto this women's account and used it as their primary source for updates. Even major politicians, who hadn't been contacted by the military, used what this women was saying. Shortly thereafter, as the military started releasing details, the information provided by the women on Twitter was proven to be incorrect. This action by this women cause the media to send the wrong message to the people, caused many politicians and military family members to look foolish, all, as she said, to get on TV.
The last example I will use started in 1998 as a medical study done by a British doctor showed a connection between Autism and vaccines. Within a year, parents were calling for vaccines to no longer be required for public schools, or that vaccines should just be outlawed. Due to this public groundswell, it was estimated that over a million children, who would be vaccinated, weren't. Despite a number of other studies done following the 1998 study that showed there was no connection between Autism and vaccines, due to the rising Autism rates, both in the US and globally, parents were taking action. Boycotts, marches and other actions were taken, even lawsuits against the developers of a number of vaccines. In the following years, a number of studies used the British studies numbers to prove the connection, the spread of information based on one source had begun.
Then in late 2010, the author of the original study, Andrew Wakefield, was discredited as the notes and video logs of his study became public. It turned out the study had been fixed, and the research was designed to give the desired result. Along with children being reported to have Autism on the study who didn't have Autism, money transfer between parents and the company, and just plain falsification of information, the study was disproven. But because the study had been in the public eye for over a decade, that information had permeated a generation, and that long term misinformation doesn't go away easily.
I know these weren't all football related, I didn't want to use any examples of misinformation that had been started on MHR, but I hope I got the point across. purposefully starting rumors, or passing incorrect information off as fact only makes you look bad in the long run, hurts the image of those you spread misinformation about, and makes the community look uneducated and foolish. So whether intentionally or on accident, try and get multiple sources if you have a controversial statement or are challenged on it, if you can back it up, you'll only look better, it's worth the effort. So please, let's step up our game on MHR, keep the facts straight.
Next time on Becoming a More Educated Fan: Accountability, Double Standards and Fan's Honor