I found a post on Facebook today that quoted David Attenborough as saying:
I am unaware of any animal that is as cruel as Israelis -- not even crocodiles. They bomb schools, hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages, UN feeding stations, water works, power plants, ambulances, kids playing on the beach. They put millions of people in a siege. They shoot children going to school. They kidnap kids and harvest their organs. They inject prisoners with disease pathogens before releasing them. They murder by land sea and air. And worst of all, they slander their defenceless victims as "terrorists".
The post has been put on Facebook by an entity called Sotirios Sooty Thoupi who is aware that there is something amiss as he states that the post keeps getting blocked but fails to corroborate his claim with a link to any authentic source. Here is the link to the post (which may be blocked) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152157267417282, and here is a screen shot of the offending post as I found it:
|Screenshot of Sotirios Sooty Thoupi's post.|
The most probably source is from this page on Press TV's web site in the comments.
|Screen shot of Press TV comment.|
|Screen shot of comment on Independent's Facebook page.|
... and the list goes on. But nowhere could I find any serious suggestion that David Attenborough is the author of the statement.
So why lie? Why falsely attribute this quote to David Attenborough attempting to give it weight and credibility? Obviously this obfuscates the real situation and can only make it worse not better. On a simple level the question does not need answering as most people 'understand' why someone does it whether they agree with them or not. It seems on the face of it that this is a destructive and unnecessary abuse. But there is more to it than that. There are several issues it raises that are worth considering.
There is the question as to how we rate the truth of what we read. By claiming David Attenborough said it we tend to rate its credibility higher than if someone by the name of Sotirios Sooty Thoupi said it. We are less likely to question it if it comes from a source we respect. This leads to the worrying issue of why we so often believe our 'leaders' who we know lie repeatedly. That, of course, is the authoritarian oppression. We have been conditioned (or many of us to varying degrees) to accept under threat of pain (be it emotional, psychological or physical) what the people in authority decree. We need to get over that one.
Discerning the truth:
Then there is the issue of obfuscation and disinformation to deal with. Sotirios Sooty Thoupi is in fact delivering a vital service, rather like that of computer virus writers. On the surface it appears it is simply a bad thing but on investigation it turns out to be necessary. In simple terms we need biological viruses in the real world to maintain a robust and evolving immune system. We need viruses in the world of computers to force us to make them resilient against threats. Even if we lived in a world of naive trust there are still external 'bugs' and physical events that would threaten what we now rely on to survive. But worse, if we were not well protected then a rare malevolence would find it very easy to step in and take control. Misinformation on both sides helps in strengthening our ability to discern truth from fiction.
There is the issue of bias that this kind of thing highlights too. We do have a propensity to believe what we want to believe more readily than that which we don't want to believe. There is, of course, a grave danger in this tendency. It is one thing to check to see if there is corroborating evidence to support a theory or belief but it is more fundamentally robust to search for evidence against our view. This was well understood and explained philosophically by Karl Popper in his theories of falsification.
This sort of 'positive' deception is as bad as the 'negative' deception but does help us stand back from both to get a more rational view. There is a lot of trouble in our world today and mostly people don't seem to like it. I think it is fear that drives many to be self contradictory and belligerent. I have my own theories about the human neurological network and how it creates the illusion of cognition. A salient part of the theory is that we copy the world in our physical being to aid interaction with the world. It is memory of sorts. If things are working well the copy is fairly good and the openness to learning more remains largely intact. However, if the process of absorbing experience is interrupted the copy is necessarily faulty. This leads to inconsistent and flawed comprehension. It, ironically, often leads to more of the same because similar events are processed through the faulty understanding and strengthen the misunderstanding. People get more belligerent and extreme as time goes on. It is akin to the popular term 'cognitive dissonance'. Stuff doesn't seem right because the internal world view is contradictory and yet the experience of each part seems real. There then becomes this bizarre situation where people try to change the outside world to force it to match their inner flaws. The consequences are obvious.
I am often accused of 'sitting on the fence'. But I take sides. I side with truth, justice, compassion, cooperation and generally what are regarded as peaceful and creative values. I oppose lies, manipulation, aggression, abuse and division.
So, much as I accept the existential reality of the avatar 'Sotirios Sooty Thoupi' and his miscreant meme, and I understand to some degree how it plugs into the whole, it remains the case that I dislike and disagree with this sort of misinformation. It is abusive to David Attenborough and to the viewer. It also becomes the very thing it appears to be objecting to.