By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – It was a common theme on Twitter yesterday as the sheer bigotry of Donald Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslim travel into America sank in: Trump, people wrote, was a YouTube comments section running for president.

Perhaps you’ve never taken a dip into that particular sewer.

But if you’re online at all, surely you’ve clicked on the insanely vulgar comments at the bottom of a newspaper article, read the trash that some people write on each other’s Facebook pages, or simply surfed some of the endless waves of dubious facts and sketchy opinion that wash over your laptop.

It is in this context, wrote a listener from Billerica yesterday, that we should understand what’s happening here. “Trump’s comments are tame compared to the… incivility and crudeness of social media,” he wrote. “I’m sure you’ve seen even more extreme views. There are people whose entire worldview is shaped by what they read on social media, and Trump is tapping into that phenomena.”

I couldn’t agree more.

This has been building for years, as false rumors spread online and, when they are debunked by fact-checkers, it is the fact-checkers who are reviled and dismissed, not the rumor-mongers.

Even as more real, vetted information is more readily available than ever before, our lazy, narcissistic culture can’t be bothered to double-check facts and challenge assumptions.

It’s much easier to just find the lava flow of falsehood that nurtures your own biases and let it wash over you until any shred of critical thinking is smothered to death.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not part of the problem. You’re seeking out news and opinion that might be more than a cheap affirmation fix. And you’re making a hard choice.

After all, learning can be hard.

It’s ignorance that’s bliss.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

 

Jon Keller

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