Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three Men Make a Tiger: Information in the Digital Age

Jack Rhodes

The three men make a tiger theory makes a lot of sense. I find myself on a daily basis being fed false information from a friend or on the internet, and the reason the false information made it to me in the first place is because a variety of others believe it to be true. When a rumor is spread, the more people that believe it will make others start to believe it as well. For why would everyone else be wrong?

The fallacy to break it down comes from a speech from Pang Cong, who was an important political figure in Chinese history. In the speech, Pang recalled a conversation that he had with the king, in which he asked him, "if one civilian saw a tiger roaming through the marketplace would you believe him?" The King replied no. Then he asked the King the same question, but said if two people reported the tiger, the King if this time said he would start to wonder. Finally when Pang asked the King if it was three people, he replayed he would believe it, even if the claim was preposterous.

In today's world this fallacy seems way to relevant. In a time where social media is one of the most viewed medium's to get news and information, we are living in a time filled with fake news and opinions viewed as fact. Celebrities, people on various types of social media, even our president, all have access to the whole entire world because of the internet and because of this, false information spreads faster than ever before.

An example of this fallacy in real life is a fake news website. Satire has always been funny, manly in a time where something strangely political is happening. That's why sites like the Onion or Clickhole are great, because when something like the presidential election is happening, they can take something that actually happened and jokingly make an article funny, ridiculous, but better yet, almost believable. Now I always believed that these sites were so over the top that they were known to be fake, sometimes that is not the case. Just a few weeks ago my roommate showed me an article he saw on Facebook, and while I can't remember what the article was about, I remember my roommate telling me how dumb he thought people were. When I asked what that had to do with the funny article, he proceeded to show me the people in the comments on the article. They were all arguing over their view points on this fake issue. The tiger theory had struck again.

Another example is people on social media stating "facts". Social media platforms are a great way to  voice opinion and personal information. Yet, due to the amount of friends or followers someone has on a social media account it makes the person's word seem more like fact. Take Donald Trump's Twitter account. Now that Trump is our president not only did he gain more social media followers but his credibility became more believable. So if Trump would tweet out, "we are going to build the wall", people may now start thinking that the wall has began construction or that it is a definite thing that is going to happen. While other's know that this is just a thing that Trump says all the time, and while it is something he would like to accomplish, a simple quick tweet to the masses is not the same as a signed law.

The problem with this fallacy is that a mob mentality is not good enough to promote fact. Just because others have believed something that is downright insane does not mean we have too as well. The internet is filled with this type of reasoning. For any reason at all, anyone at anytime can be deemed as a person with credibility. The more credibility someone has the more someone is likely to believe them. The same goes for rumors. Just because a rumor is going around and everyone believes it does not mean you have to. It goes as the old expression, "if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it?" Information travels fast, so when some happens to fall into your lap, look up some other information first before you believe it.

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