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Just a Happy Little Lie

Just because it makes you feel good doesn't mean it isn't manipulation

The humble wombat. Some fucked up mash-up of a beaver and an otter with a dash of Hapsbergian inbreeding. Also the unsung heroes of the Australian plains.

Australia has been on fire for the last month or so with smoke turning the skies blood red in some apocalyptic Mad Max fantasy. On the heels of this tragedy is the death of an estimated billion animals, many of which aren't found anywhere else in the world due to Australia's remote evolution from the rest of the world.

But fear not! Greenpeace New Zealand tells us of reports that the gracious wombat has opened it's fire poof burrows to the hapless Tasmanian devils and kookaburras seeking shelter. In fact, they've torn a page from the Redwall series and started herding them into their burrows!

What also utter bullshit (which I too completely fell for)

The real story is Wombats don't mind other animals in their burrows, but haven't been running around and shoving small critters into their burrows. Animals sheltering in wombat burrows has been documented well before the fires.

"But Francis," you say, your eyes glassing over. "What's wrong? Just because it's incorrect, it makes us feel good about things! That there's some heroic animal out there saving animals because I feel sad!"

My question is why the lie? Why are your emotions being put into play? The tweet up there is appealing to your emotions, making you feel happiness and hope based on a lie, and then tying it off with a political jab. This claim of heroic wombats plays to both emotions that causes posts to go viral, things that make you angry and things that make you happy. It's such a small thing, but obviously had power to it. It manipulated a large chunk of twitter for a day.

I am sorry to report, but light little lies like this are still propaganda. Lies that are meant to manipulate your emotions, even (especially) if it makes you feel happy is still propaganda. There is no reason to lie unless you have something to sell, whether that be a physical product or an idea, a war or a peace. Maybe there wasn't anything insidious behind this. But you can't know unless you take the five minutes to think critically about what it placed in front of you.

I will say with the Wombat lie this was probably not done with malice. A happy little lie of hope in a dark and shitty news cycle. However we all should take this as a lesson to not believe something just because it makes the serotonin receptors in our heads feel tingly. Always look for the source, always verify.

And always question something you read on the internet (except this blog)


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