I am increasingly concerned about the sorts of things some of my Facebook friends are sharing and circulating – not because I disagree with them (though I often do), but because they seem so willing to perpetuate blatantly untrue statements, quotes and news pieces just because they grab onto the emotive nature of the item, which, frankly, is the intention of the originator.
I’m sad to say, that it is most often my Australian friends who are guilty of this practice. It could be a result of living in a culture that feeds on and actively encourages sensationalist journalism – my recent trip home to Australia reminded me of how true this is – but it’s concerning to see people I care about and respect irresponsibly spreading lies and perpetuating the wider world view that Australia is a country full of racists.
Since I moved to Norway in 2006, I’ve encountered many who hold the view that white Australians are essentially a bunch of racist bone-heads who do nothing but drink beer, eat barbecued meat and make racially offensive statements. I was both insulted and outraged that my friends and family back home, as well as I myself, were being painted with such an obviously untrue reputation. However, while I still know that it’s certainly not true of all Australians, I’m sad to say I can no longer say it’s an entirely unfounded claim.
What has finally spurred me to blog about it was an article circulated by some of my Australian friends this week about the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and how she supposedly made statements recently about how Muslims should get out of Australia if they didn’t like the way things were done there. I was immediately skeptical that any elected Australian politician would make the statements quoted, and grew even more suspicious when I read something about the country being founded by Christians and how Christian beliefs and values should be taught in schools – this is usually a debate argued in the US. As it turns out, the article was pieced together from other articles and sources, none of which had anything to do with Julia Gillard.
Thank goodness for Snopes – you can read the article in its entirety as well as its debunking here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/likeitorleaveit.asp
Some of my friends probably think I’m being pedantic and a know-it-all when I post links to Snopes or The Smoking Gun on the stuff they share on Facebook, but it has nothing to do with me wanting to be right or prove that I know more than they do. It has everything to do with wanting people, especially my friends, to hold themselves to a higher standard of integrity and actually think and check before they share and promote lies. Every time you repost something on Facebook, you are influencing friends who trust that you believe what you’re sharing – if they trust you, they will probably believe it too.
I am not going to unfriend my friends because I disagree with their views. But I will continue to point out when they are perpetuating untrue stories, especially those that unfairly contribute to the belief that Australians and their elected officials are racists and bigots. If those friends chose to sever contact with me because they don’t want to be shown to have done something stupid, I will be sad, but more than that, I will wish they cared more about their own integrity.
Incidentally, if you begin a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but…” there’s a good chance you are.