The internet brings to mind Pinocchio when it comes to online stories about Israel.

A recent Washington Post article by Elizabeth Dwoskin reveals the viciousness of lies the internet often spreads. Its title summarizes the story: “How the Internet is erasing the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre.” However you feel about Israel’s response in Gaza, facts are facts. Until they’re not. 

A Telegram group, Uncensored Truth, believes that Israel was behind the unspeakable attack on its own people. And the United States helped. The goal: genocide in Gaza. Hashtags linking Israel to a “false flag” operation, according to Dwoskin, are spreading far-right and left.

How can people dismiss an atrocity so well documented? Technology may play a role, but this involves something more disturbing: human nature.

Hitler explained the “Big Lie” in Mein Kampf. People would believe the most colossal and offensive lie because no one would think anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis’ information minister, repeated this principle. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. . . . It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and . . . the greatest enemy of the State.”

Technology has brought us digital deep fakes. Granted, some are “benign.” Carolyn and I saw the movie Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Harrison Ford, 81, was made to look decades younger. Believable? Absolutely. In this case, harmless.

Other, menacing deep-fake videos and audios abound. Recently, robocalls sounding like Joe Biden went out to New Hampshire residents (and some Bostonians). “The President” urged Democrats and independents not to vote in last Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary. Why? They could have tipped the scales towards Nikki Haley.

Shouldn’t people be more discerning? Donald Trump, using social media, long has brought the Big Lie—the name calling is another story—to special prominence in American politics. Nikki Haley, he said a few weeks ago, isn’t an American citizen. Forget that she was born in South Carolina. A decade ago, Trump questioned Barak Obama’s citizenship. Years later, he backed off after Obama made public his Hawaii birth certificate.

Believers fear truth. Many people grow up with certain ideas and never question them. Sometimes, they cast aside old ideas for new ones, also without questioning. Some grind an ideological axe. If facts don’t support their dogma, they blithely contrive their own facts, no matter how ludicrous. Following corrupt ideas takes less effort than examining them.

Towards that end, many believers fall victim to confirmation bias. They get their “news,” “facts” and “truths” only from sources—often on the fringe—who think like they do and tell them what they want to hear. Evidentiary truth of an opposing nature stands by definition as a lie.

We’ve suffered through Holocaust deniers, election deniers and now October 7 deniers. Scrubbed video and audio, and artificial intelligence can create something out of nothing and cause us to misread reality. Those falsehoods create dangerous images on the blanked-out, highly malleable canvas of the willing human mind. 

October 7 happened. And if you think antisemitism isn’t splattered across many malleable canvases, check your nose.

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  1. Sandy Lipkowitz on January 26, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    It’s despicable and frightening, at the same time, how some news reports say people died on October 7th. To say they were killed or died, is erasing the manner in which they died. They were slaughtered, burned alive, gang rapped, mutilated, decapatated, forced to watch loved ones executed first. Innocents tortured. No one should ever be tortured.
    Another big lie is the 2 state solution. For decades, from 1948, on, the Palestinian governments were offered a 2 state solution and turned it down. Until finally the Israelis gave up.
    Genocide and Apartheid are also lies. How can you be an apartheid government if the minority has a judge on the Supreme Court, holds office in the Knesset, has the right to vote. More can be done, but it’s not apartheid. Why isn’t “From the river to the sea” called genocide? Which entity is calling for the elimination of an entire country?

    • David Perlstein on January 26, 2024 at 3:53 pm

      Despicable indeed, Sandy. But despite the sad history of the two-state solution, I see that as the only way to move forward and out of the cycle of violence. The details will require much work.

  2. RONALD EATON on January 26, 2024 at 4:31 pm

    David, My problem, which we’ve discussed, isn’t credulity but extreme skepticism. I have grown skeptical of everything and everybody: governments, the media, religious organizations, scientists, scientific reports, political parties and their candidates, etc. To take one example, we general skeptics are sometimes called “science deniers”. I believe that the scientific method is the best way to determine truth about the world, but I am skeptical of the honesty of scientists and their reported findings. Scientists are no more to be trusted than the clergy: they seek advancement, honors, money, and so forth. They are subject to confirmation bias and the pressure to publish. If the International Astronomical Union, the New York Times, and NASA all projected that the sun would come up in the east in the morning, I would believe it; I’d still be tempted to go buy a lantern. As Ronald Regan said, “Trust but verify”. And the verifying is sometimes very hard to do. RWE

    • David Perlstein on January 26, 2024 at 4:46 pm

      I understand the lengths to which your skeptical nature takes you, Ron. I simply don’t go there.

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