Tuesday, June 05, 2007

If You Repeat A Statement Often Enough, People Will Believe It

EoR recently saw a fragment of a creationist video where the oft-repeated statement "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it" was displayed as a quotation from Adolf Hitler. Obviously, if Hitler said it, then evilution is a godless satanic plot.

But did Hitler say it? EoR had previously seen the statement sourced to Goebbels. Not so far from Hitler, perhaps, but an error of attribution nonetheless. So, EoR went searching on the internet. He quickly found the phrase attributed to Hitler, Goebbels, Reagan, Lenin, "and others".

Did they all say it? Simultaneously, or were they copying one another? The majority of references are, indeed, to Goebbels as the originator, but a popular vote still doesn't indicate proof. Since no one provides any primary sources that can be checked and verified, the question remains open.

Sometime ago, EoR was asked to verify the source of a rather obscure claim on the internet. As far as he could ascertain, all the quotes referenced each other, and there seemed no primary verification. Someone (who, it is unclear) had made the claim, and everyone else had repeated it as received truth.

This is a major problem of the internet. Much information is available. That information is available almost immediately. Sadly, very little of it has any imprimatur of truth or correctness, or lacks the necessary further information to confirm it. This is, of course, the problem with a lot of the alternative health information on the internet. Often, the same phrases and articles can be found from site to site, without any indication of who copied whom, let alone where the facts (if any) were obtained. It's not just a problem of altie beliefs, of course, but it's far too easy to make a statement than it is to prove it on the internet or to spend some time sourcing it and providing references.

It's not only the internet that no longer appears to have any claims to veracity or authenticity. The established media fell for the obviously fake photos of Hogzilla, and Mediawatch has exposed the Daily Telegraph for publishing statistics about the rise in ADHD cases and Ritalin prescriptions which where all false. Nonetheless, other media outlets repeated them, and now the Dore Program is using them:

Say no to high risk drugs
DORE developing skills, for life.

- The Daily Telegraph, 16th May, 2007"

Of course, this post is also published on the internet...

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