The tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant explosions devastated Japan. But some relevant information that is spreading rapidly online shocks me more.
The other day, I read an article on one of my Net pal’s blogs. He forwarded it from a person named “dingbangb,” declaring that the nuclear pollution is actually caused by a Japanese atomic bomb test. At the beginning of the article, the author gave the source of the news: PhoenixTV.
PhoenixTV is one of the most famous TV stations in HongKong, which is considered a relatively objective news source in China. To confirm the information, I searched its news website.
Japan’s earthquake was presented on the front page as a special coverage with lots of reports. I searched carefully and did not find anything about a Japanese nuclear bomb test. I searched “Japan’s atomic bomb test” on Google and found out the information and analysis of this “atomic test” are all from personal blogs, which none of the mainstream media have reported.
Dongsheng Li, another online friend, forwarded the article. “I swear I will never buy Japanese product,” he commented. “I will never need Japanese product, no matter live or die.”
I texted Li, “PhoenixTV never reported that Japan is having atomic bomb tests. The source is wrong.”
He said, “I have knowledge on military affairs. You need to know better.” He avoided my point.
“I am not a scientist, but I study journalism. I know how to distinguish false news from the truth according to its source,” I replied.
We started arguing. My point was this information came from an unreliable source, and actually, the person who wrote it lied about the source. I didn’t think a person that lied about the source in order to add credibility to himself could be objective.
Li did not confront my question at all. All he said was that Japan definitely has the ambition to make its own atomic bombs. Li did not argue with me about the credibility of the source but kept avoiding my question and only focused on his erroneous assumption.
In Li’s most shocking statement about why the mainstream media did not report it, he said: “The information is too sensitive. They will not let journalists know.”
The article Li forwarded looks rational. In context, the author creates misunderstandings by using esoteric language that seems to make sense but only obscures the truth.
The roots of some Chinese hatred toward Japan began when it invaded China during World War II. China has built several museums to memorialize the war. In China, every student learns about the war in schools. The hatred from history still exists.
Rumor prevails when it gives people what they want, or it confirms people’s imagination and prejudice. As long as someone presents the information with the six elements of news, and if it fits people’s appetites, it spreads quickly.
Critical thinking skills are important. Unfortunately, most people don’t think because thinking requires energy, time and may even cause anguish and exhaustion. However, without thinking rationally and independently, people always will follow their feelings, create rumors and make bad decisions.
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