It is not unusual to encounter information on the internet that sounds perfectly reasonable and correct but is bogus …
Here is an email sent to me by one of my close friends who believed it to be true although there is no historical reference that attributes this work to either Socrates or Plato. But, it is well worth considering in today’s environment when even prestigious mainstream media outlets confuse rumor and speculation with fact.
Keep this philosophy in mind the next time you hear, or are about to repeat a rumor. In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.
One day, the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students...?"
"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three."
"Test of Three?
"That's correct", Socrates continued "Before you talk to me about my student, let's take a moment to test what you're going to say.
The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"
"No", the man replied, "actually I just heard about it."
"All right", said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"
"No, on the contrary..."
"So", Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?"
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Socrates continued, "You may still pass though, because there is a third test - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?
"No, not really.."
"Well", concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"
The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.
This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher, and held in such high esteem.
- Source: The Internet (Apocryphal)
This appears to be a great start to building your Bullsh*t Filter …
Is it true?
One would presuppose that information should be correct – but if this were literally true, we would miss the examples of poor behavior, rumor-mongering, or self-serving information leaks that say more about the source than the object. In many cases, it is impossible to determine the absolute truth, especially if the information has been filtered through a self-interested third-party. Think of the distortion of communications in the children’s game of telephone where one whispers something in the ear of the first person and as each person whispers it down the line, the information loses its meaning, is distorted, or it wrong.
Is it good?
One would presuppose that information should be good – but this is not the real world. Negative information also has value in keeping us safe and aware of potential threats. Many people shade the truth out of kindness and respect, but this prevents you from seeing the whole picture, warts, and all
Is it useful?
Again, usefulness is subjective. Any information that is actionable, good or bad, is useful to someone in the pursuit of their agenda.
I would add a fourth test, Is it necessary?
Most information conveyed by the mainstream media, both educational and for entertainment purposes, is only necessary to attract and maintain an audience that can be monetized or transmuted into political power. Since there are competing sources of information and the background noise level is so high, you will find information being reported in such a manner as to shock and titillate the sensibilities just to gain attention. Unfortunately, this means that evil is feted over good and despicable acts are given more attention than acts of kindness.
Bottom line …
There is only one test that is valid for each individual. Does the information I am receiving comport with my innate sense of conscience, good or evil, right or wrong. It is up to you to assign a weight to the information you receive and to filter the results.
And, what do you do with a person in a position of power which lies without shame, lies about lying, and when confronted with absolute proof of lying, changes the subject and berates you for not understand what they meant?
We are so screwed.
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius