Fact and Fiction

In the “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, Douglas Adams introduces the Ruler of the Universe. The perfect ruler, he does not want to rule the Universe. This man also has a very interesting view of “what is real”. He will not believe anything he does not see for himself. He even doubts his own memory.

Questioned about his method of ruling he answers thus:

"I only decide about my Universe," continued the man quietly. "My Universe is my eyes and my ears. Anything else is hearsay."

"But don't you believe in anything?"

The man shrugged and picked up his cat.

"I don't understand what you mean," he said.

"You don't understand that what you decide in this shack of yours affects the lives and fates of millions of people? This is all monstrously wrong!"

"I don't know. I've never met all these people you speak of. And neither, I suspect, have you. They only exist in words we hear. It is folly to say you know what is happening to other people. Only they know, if they exist. They have their own Universes of their own eyes and ears."

In today’s world, we usually have the feeling that we know everything. We have access to information that just a century ago would have been considered out of reach of most people. Events around the world are broadcast live for anybody to see.

And yet.. do we really know what’s happening?

In the blogsphere we inhibit - news come up fast, and once it hits one blog it spreads like wildfire. It is not always possible to trace down the source and sometimes it is impossible. How do we know what we read is true? Snouck asked me about my source for an article, but can I really verify that a news article is true? Can (or would) you believe me, if I did?

To take a case in point.. A recent article in the Sunday Times, for example, announced that a small town in the UK had decided to pass on Christmas lights this year in order not to offend other cultures. But the town’s site says this is a case of complete misunderstanding.

Was it really? It is impossible to know. One small item of “news” can roll on to extreme paranoia.

I try as much as possible to verify my facts. But on the internet, and however much we reach – we will always rely on others for our basic facts and information.

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