From Glenn Reynolds, a good question to ponder:

WHAT DO WE DO When The Internet Mob Is Wrong?

You can point out that they’re wrong, and tell them what the truth is, but that approach falls on deaf ears if what is wrong is what they want to believe. Also, there is a well established meme that there is no such thing as truth. Each person has the right to his own truth! And if you question his truth, you are being disrespectful!

“By now most people have heard the news and seen the picture of the boy who was killed over the new Nike sneakers. There are Facebook pages devoted to fist-shaking protests about materialism and greed. Yada yada yada. But while the scuffles over the shoes were real, the death was not. The photo was just a stock photo of some kid in a lab. We know this because of some old school reporters — Steve Earley and Justin Fentin of the Baltimore Sun. In the rush to celebrate crowdsourcing, many of us pooh-pooh the old media as ‘gatekeepers,’ but there are times when keeping that gate locked is a good idea. After all, if one of the crowd discovered the error, the signal would barely rise above the noise. There are people claiming that anyone questioning the facts is being disrespectful. Is there something we can do about the mobocracy? How can we support the best traditions of journalism while fixing the worst? How can we nurture accuracy?”

There are a lot of people who think that anyone questioning their facts is being disrespectful. And they have a point — particularly if their facts are wrong, because why should anyone have respect for lies, or for people who adhere to them?

I find myself in this position all too often, because I get the usual lying or greatly exaggerated emails that are forwarded endlessly, and I have trouble resisting the temptation to debunk them. And when you do that, no matter how politely you try to be, feelings are hurt, and if the matter involves politics (which most of them do), anyone who questions the facts becomes not only disrespectful, but something worse — an ideological suspect. If you are throwing cold water on something a lot of people want to believe,  they will not be grateful. Some of them might even hate you. (Especially if you’re dumb enough to hit “reply all” to a group email.)

So I’m reaching the point where in many cases I just ignore them. If people want to believe lies and don’t care whether they are true, is it my responsibility correct them?  I don’t see why, nor do I see how I could hope to persuade anyone who believes only in whatever “facts” favor their side — the truth be damned.

Better to just complain in a blog post than be disrespectful.