Redefining Pi, or How Fiction Becomes Fact (recovered Article)

I just read an amazingly funny bit of satire fron Ian Squires. It is well written, funny, and makes it’s point without being cruel or overtly partisan. It in, Squire pokes some fun at the way Washington tries to resolve problems by not actually addressing the problems. In the article, a member of Congress has offered up a fictional bill to redefine Pi as exactly 3 in order to make it easier for American students to do better on math tests. It is a fun bit of satire that makes a great point.

But my good mood was dampened when I started to read the comments. Apparently, the art of satire is lost on most people. If something is too subtle, they just can’t get the joke. While the majority of posters seemed to get the satire, far too many apparently thought the article was real and immediately launched into partisan attacks. Much of it seems that they didn’t read passed the headline and first paragraph. They glanced at the headline, formed an opinion pre-determined by their political leanings, and launched into an attack.

This, unfortunately, is how fiction becomes fact in the minds of people. In fact, the satire is actually a spin on an old email that has gone around in the past. Which makes it all the more depressing, beause 30 seconds of independent thought and a Google search would have turned up the joke. But instead, the story became real, because it reinforced in many people’s minds the (unfortunately well deserved) stereotype of Tea Party politicians trying to redefine science to suit an agenda. It sounded like it COULD be real, so people accepted it as fact without checking to see if it actually was.

Mark Twain once said that a lie can travel around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. We no longer think in complete sentences, but instead in sound bites. We pull things out of context and make them fit with our pre-conceived ideas, ignoring the facts around the quote or image that actually define the reality. If we were just stupid, we could blame those that deliberately lie to us and distort the truth. But we aren’t stupid. We are something worse. We are willfully ignorant. We no longer CARE about facts or reality. We want our own personal realities instead. We prefer to be lied to, told what we want to hear.

At some point when I get home tonight, I expect to log on to my facebook account or Twitter or check my email and find a friend or associate asking me to sign a petition to prevent Republicans for redefining Pi. And I will cry when I get it.

Leave a Reply