Posts Tagged ‘Fake News’

I came across this blog entry from about seven years back earlier this morning. While the painting remains a favorite of mine for a number of reasons, the thought behind this entry hit a chord with me this morning. It seems that even in 2011, the idea of alternative facts had taken hold and was a dark omen for our current state of affairs. 

This is a new 12″ by 24″ painting that sits in my studio at the moment. It draws a lot of my attention at the moment and I’ve been enjoying it over this time. I find this a very hopeful piece, the whiteness of the house’s reflection of the bright rising light set in contrast to the dark foreground. It’s this contrast that creates the hope I see.  Like many things, hope is relative to the conditions of the situation.

I’ve left the landscape bare of other trees other than those in the foreground which form a stage-like setting for the scene beyond, wanting to create  more focus on the starkness of the house. The path moves from dark to light and also conveys this sense of hope, of moving towards a more illuminated situation.

I’m thinking of calling this Obscurity. I know that this doesn’t convey the hope of which I speak but I have been thinking of a line from John Locke’s An Essay on Human Understanding that has been bouncing around in my head for a week or so. Locke states:

 Untruth being unacceptable to the mind of man, there is no defense left for absurdity but obscurity.

It sounds wonderful. In a perfect world, the absurdity of obvious falsehoods would only exist in the darkest and most obscure corners of humanity. Unfortunately, we live a most imperfect world, leaving me to wonder if, in fact, the opposite might apply to our times: Untruth being acceptable to the mind of man, there is no defense for rationality but obscurity.

This thought has hung hauntingly on me for some time and maybe I see this house as a refuge of some kind for rational thought in what seems an irrational time.

A place of obscurity.

Or maybe it’s just a house. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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false-news-1903I’ve been saying for while that fake news is a dangerous thing.  And it turns out that it has been killing people for over a century.

And I have the proof.

While going through some old family genealogy, I came across this story about a great-uncle of mine from three generations back.  His name was Sylvester Odell and he was a fairly well-to-do farmer in Central NY  who was about 77 years old in 1903.   Like the Britney Spears item from earlier this week, a rumor began and spread through social media that Sylvester had died. Of course, social media at that time consisted of the mail, telegraph, an occasional telephone and yelling out to your neighbor.

But even so, the rumor spread quickly.

Friends and family gathered and headed out to Sylvester’s farm where they found him alive and well.  In fact, he was doing his normal chores in his barn.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief then shared a big laugh.  A few hours after everyone in the party had left, a still surprised Sylvester sat in his chair and passed away.

He just couldn’t take the news of his own death.

Damn fake news!

The news of his actual death after the false report made all of the newspapers around the state.  Even when reporting the facts, some of the newspapers still got parts of the story wrong.  For example, the item above is from the Syracuse Telegram.  It gives the location of the story as Dresden when in fact Sylvester lived ( and died!) in Dryden. False or not, we seem to have trouble getting the story straight.

So there you have it, proof positive that fake news kills.  Be careful out there, folks.


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