Cartoons and Fake News: A Rude Awakening into the Plague of a Digital Society

August 28th, 2018
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In an era where peddlers of fake news thrive like flies in a dumpster, people of goodwill may attempt to clean up the mess, but most will still believe the bs.

Very recently, I came across a Facebook post shared by my friend – and it’s about one of my favorite cartoons, Phineas and Ferb.

Naturally, like how most fans would ardently defend their favorite franchises, I too dispelled a page’s attempt to tarnish a cartoon show beloved by many.

 

Epiphany Through a Cartoon

The story was posted by “Trivia and Facts.”, a Facebook page with over 2 million likes. However, their Phineas and Ferb post was also a story that just frequently resurfaces in pages that attempt to lure likers by their shitpost and clickbait schemes. Upon review, one would see that the problem that undermines pages like “Trivia and Facts.” attempts to share interesting trivia and pseudo-facts is that many, if not all of their posts do not contain links to relevant and factual sources, as in the case with their Phineas and Ferb post.

I have been a fan of the show since elementary school, so naturally, I would know a lot of things about it. I even conversed with the creators of the show many times on Twitter.

However, this time around, to disprove the fake news, I took to Instagram and tagged the relevant people (i.e. the creators and people who have worked on the show.

View this post on Instagram

#PhineasAndFerb is one of the cartoons that I truly loved and it has influenced me in a good and positive way. Seeing the comments on this page really disheartened me that a lot of people believed this without actually bothering to fact-check on their own. Now the thing that worries me is that if these tweens/teens couldn't verify that the cartoons they supposedly love doesn't actually have such a heartbreaking and tragic origins… Would they believe other false stories about stuff that may actually affect them (like government policies, etc) just because it came from a "TRIVIA AND FACTS" page? 😥 #StopRuiningOurCartoons #StopRuiningOurChildhood #StopFakeNews #DontDestroyOurYouth

A post shared by Karina Thyra (@karinathyra) on

Relevant people responded and hopefully, it will put an end to click-baiters who think that Creepypasta is a credible news source. *eyerolls*

I encountered that “True Story Behind Phineas and Ferb” post in one of its iterations – words on pictures. I was barely out of high school, then. After reading it, I was dumbfounded. At that time, I knew for sure that Phineas and Ferb didn’t have dark origins, but that didn’t stop me from doubting myself and my research. I questioned myself whether it was possible that there was something crucial I missed when I read the show’s Wikipedia page or its Fandom page. Therefore, I checked again. When I did, I realized I was fooled. It was a great thing then, that I did not comment nor shared the fraudulent post. But what about others like me who was fooled for a second?

Of course, there exists a variety of cartoons that do contain messages that can be interpreted as social, economic, and political critiques; I also know that there are awesome Disney movies whose original stories were actually quite dark (i.e. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid, to name a few). But in this particular case, Phineas and Ferb doesn’t have dark and tragic origins. A quick search would link you to interviews with the creators, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. If you’re lazy, Wikipedia also has it along with the citations, to fact-check on your own. There you will see that the inspiration behind Phineas and Ferb was from the creators’ own lives and experiences; to be creative, have fun, and make the most of summer vacation by spending it with people who are near and dear to you while you can because it doesn’t last forever – just like childhood!

Phineas and Ferb has already taught me a lot of things and gave me so many good memories along with my friends when we watch it at home and talk about it the next day. I never thought it would also make me realize how passionate I can be in crushing fake news and its perpetrators.

 

Ignorant and Misinformed Comments Are Side-Effects of Reading without Critical Thinking

Now, what’s quite disheartening as I’ve addressed on my IG post, is the fact that there are people that actually believe the things they read on the internet without bothering to fact-check, and often they would add to the story as if they have actually received a response from relevant people confirming said story.

A commenter told me that the creators themselves “confirmed” the story on Twitter.

 

There were people who genuinely believed variations of the show’s “dark roots” and there are others who just used sarcasm, because it wouldn’t take a minute to know the truth, right? RIGHT?

The screenshots above are of the commenters that made outrageous claims that the creators of Phineas and Ferb have “confirmed” via Twitter that “Trivia and Facts.” and other variations of the tale were legitimate and was sold to Disney by a Russian mom whose daughter was allegedly the inspiration for high-strung sister, Candace.

Now consider if these were a topic of national and international concern – inhumane government policies, environmental issues, the government’s apparent impassivity even as China claims the West Philippine Sea, to name a few – the comments section itself would be a battlefield. Even if you just lurk and read the comments without participating in the discussion, more often than not, you would see people make all sorts of ludicrous claims to strengthen their argument without providing proof.

 

Defenders of Toxic Ideologies Silence a Thinking Majority

I know people who actually have extensive knowledge about issues that affect us locally, nationally, and globally. Often, I wonder why most of them choose to refrain from voicing out their opinions on social media platforms when many of us can learn so much from them. Then I realized that by stating facts that may undermine popular ideologies and point out the flaws in society’s largely problematic conditioning, they would subject themselves to something akin to a modern-day witch hunt. Because at the end of the day, people who really do care are tremendously affected by all the horrendousness in the world. Meanwhile, people who are brave and knowledgeable enough to post criticisms about a myriad of topics – social, economic, political, etc – backed by extensive research, at best receive ignorant and irrelevant comments; at worst, they receive ad hominem attacks, death threats, and outright harassment from strangers online.

Source: The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper

On the other hand, people who just spew hateful opinions on social media, don’t really care about the effects they have on people in real life.  Fake news has a sort of ripple effect that touches the discourse and issues in a society and how people respond. When people are not thinking critically, they just absorb information without trying to filter or verify them. When people just openly absorb information without hesitation, a medium like Facebook or any social media then becomes a tool for social conditioning, for brainwashing, en masse.

While I don’t think there will be any negotiating with people who are downright closed-minded and would rationalize bigotry, hatred, and violence, I do still have hope for the young folks I encountered in the comments section of that page; hope that they will outgrow their childishness and learn from their mistakes by enabling themselves to think critically.

 

Practice Vigilance

As kids, we probably resented having to watch the news when our parents are in front of the TV, instead of watching cartoons or whatever we wanted. As young adults forcibly ushered into a world we have probably only encountered in YA novels – the atrocities of authoritarian regimes and the normalcy of fake news are something that can be totally mind-numbing.

Now more than ever, information can be accessed with just mere few clicks. Through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we can see or participate in events and discussions as they happen – no matter where we are, as long as we have internet or data connection. We have the tools to do so, and hopefully, more will practice critical thinking especially when people in higher office are complicit when it comes to peddling fake news and oppose bills that will penalize them for doing so.

People who are geniuses when it comes to manipulation can easily use social media to peddle fake news, for they know that there are a lot of people foolish enough to believe intricate fallacies. This is why even authoritarian regimes still receive lots of support, especially from people who fail to see what lies beyond the smokescreen of bias.

As the youth who will inherit all the good and bad things our predecessors will leave us, we should not be apolitical because the older generation in power has already failed us in the past and are still failing us today. If we are apolitical, we are also amoral. This is why I implore everyone to practice vigilance in a digital society.

In a digital world, being ignorant is a choice and ignorance is laziness at its absolute worst.

 

TL; DR

Creepypasta is not “deep web.” It is also not a news source.

Always, always, always educate yourself before arguing with a fan who has an eidetic memory when it comes to the show they love. InqPOP!/Karina Thyra

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