Inspector Gadgeting the World Wide Web

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The Internet is an amazing source of information, but I am learning more and more about how much of a source of misinformation it also is. In a way it’s fun – everyone becomes a bit of a detective, Inspector Gadgeting their way around the big bad Web. But although I have always known just how much bad information is on the Web, it hit me particularly hard today when I read a post on the CNN Wire speaking of the Baha’is in a very demeaning way:

From The CNN Wire: Baha’i missionary arrests reported by Iranian media

Iranian authorities have arrested several women for doing missionary work for the Baha’is, the religious group facing persecution
in Iran, a semi-official news service said.

The Tabnak service did not specify how many women arrested or when they were seized. But the arrests did take place in Kish Island, Iranian territory in the Persian Gulf, the agency said. Tabnak said some of those arrested came from Tehran and others from abroad.

“For a long time now, those who wanted to recruit young Iranian men to join the Baha’is used attractive women as bait,” the site said. “Israel has given sanctuary to the leaders of this perverted group (Baha’is) for many years and the United States and Britain have provided them with billions of dollars to engage in propaganda.”

We use attractive women as bait? Seriously? For a community known for its drive for excellence, this doesn’t seem to be much of an ‘excellent’ technique to ‘bait’ people and recruit them, what with beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all… Then again, I am choosing to take this as a compliment. Thank you for calling Baha’i women attractive, it’s a lovely compliment.

Now I’m a Baha’i, and I know for a fact that we don’t use attractive women as bait. But what if this story had been written about a religious group I have never heard of before? If I go on their official website, I will only see their version of the truth. I could go on blogs and various websites, and would probably eventually figure out the truth – in this case, that Iran’s record of human rights is terrible and that Baha’is are only one of the minorities being persecuted, and that the Iranian government has quite unfortunately oftentimes used false propaganda to advance its agenda. But my major concern remains that I don’t have the time to research every single thing that I read. Even if I were to spend all my time reading, I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to conquer the sheer amount of information that exists out there.

This reality is challenging to me, and it makes me want to try to read and figure out as much as I can – but that’s because I’m a nerd. This CNN Wire article has made me realize, through a series of convoluted yet related conversations with friends, family and perhaps with me myself and I, that the reason why so many people in industrialised countries who are seemingly uninterested in politics and the world are quite simply overwhelmed. In this context, the disinterest becomes a self-preservation technique, and the way to revitalize our communities to become actively involved in the betterment of the world shifts in a very fundamental way.

And by the way, before you go on hating CNN, I have to let you know that they have posted other articles about the Baha’is that show boths sides of the story, like the one here. Yay for impartiality!

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