Residents of northwestern Montana can breathe a sigh of relief: It turns out that predictions of 34 feet of snow falling there during this coming January were contained in a fake-news story.
Ditto with the prediction that the same area of the state would see winds of up to 120 mph in the second half of January and on into February.
I didn’t see the original fake news story, but today I ran into a disassembly of the story by Snopes, the fact-checking website. Snopes said the story was created on React365, which it described as “a social media ‘prank your friends’ generator whose content often ends up spreading far outside its purported intended audience.”
But it hardly matters anymore where something originates — whether it’s the New York Times, Russia, the Onion or a blatant prank site like React 365. Once things start getting shared on social media, where people’s “active engagement” with a given story might be five or 10 seconds, all bets are off.
I don’t necessarily think we’re getting dumber, though that could well be the case. We’re just getting too impatient, too disconnected from the sources of our information. How else do you explain people believing there is such a thing as “NASA’s Charles Darwin Research Facility,” where the predictions of heavy snow and high winds supposedly originated?
And how could anyone believe that “experts” would be making such precise weather predictions two months in advance?
On the other hand, it’s getting more and more difficult to sort fact from fiction. Other headlines on React365 included: “Iceland will pay you 4,500 euros/month to marry an Icelander,” which sounds remotely plausible; “Woman Slays Gator with Butter Knife,” which I suppose might have happened, what with that guy fending off a grizzly by jamming his arm down the bear’s throat; and “Donald Trump: ‘Anchor babies’ aren’t American citizens.”
Wait, isn’t that last one real?