Thursday, August 13, 2009

Viral Reality

We live in a viral reality. It’s almost as if somebody decided the word “virtual” has too many letters.

What is a viral reality? A viral reality is a world where what passes for knowledge does not require support in facts and logic—or even in an authority. All that is needed is faith in whatever is widely disseminated on the channels of communication to which individuals are routinely exposed.

So, in a viral world, it may make sense to believe that the White House will force Congress and the American people to approve of death panels to decimate the elderly and infirm—even though nothing of the sort has actually been proposed, and those who assert that this is in fact the President’s scheme are unable to provide evidence—any evidence, much less sufficient evidence to support the claim.

In a viral world, the mere possibility that Barack Obama was born outside the United States and later fabricated a birth certificate to appear that he was born on American soil suggests that the assertion is probably true—no, wait, CERTAINLY true … even OBVIOUS … without a doubt—if only one has the faith to believe it.

It’s possible that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq in 2003—and that possibility alone, in the absence of supporting evidence, at the time or later, is enough. Unlike probability, possibility carries no burden of proof—“possibility,” in fact, dares the doubters to submit evidence to the contrary. “You cannot prove that mermaids do NOT exist; therefore, they MUST exist …”

… in a viral world.

In a viral world, the old saying “let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” is the measure of all truth. In a viral world, simply because it has been run up the flagpole, a good many people WILL almost certainly salute … and the media will be there to film them saluting … and in the interest of “fairness and balance” (mere words today, mere words), the media will not point out the obvious—that not everything on flagpoles is worthy of our allegiance.

In a viral world, the old saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” becomes “where there’s smoke, there are mirrors.” In fact, who needs smoke? Simply say the word “smoke”—and hundreds and thousands will swear on a stack of their seldom read, but ardently believed bibles that there is positively a fire.

In a viral world, fame—which is something less than “familiarity,” we should frequently remind ourselves—is better than character. Critics of Sarah Palin err repeatedly when they laugh her off—pointing out the obvious inconsistencies between her image—good wife, good mother, independent tell-it-like-it-is thinker, enemy to phonies and big oil alike—and her message. Her “message” is no longer what she says, what she does, or even what she said and did in the past.

In fact, to her followers, the mere fact that so many smart people criticize her message or her character strongly suggests that there must be something to it.

In a viral world, it only matters that the “message” is insidious … and impervious to close scrutiny—not that scrutiny matters in a viral world—after all, scrutiny is difficult, it takes time, and it often disappoints us to see clearly that what we so devotedly hope and expect to be true is not true in reality.

But, then, reality belongs to another time and place. Who cares about reality anymore? Reality is old school. Everything that matters anymore is viral. And the thing about a virus is that it is ubiquitous, invisible to light, and quick to replicate.

It is infectious—like the catchy jingle you just can’t shake out of your head all day; it doesn’t have to prove anything.

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