Friday Takeaway: Bruce Watson

Thursday, September 28, 2017

As news, fake news and boldfaced lies fester all around us, colleges have begun to teach students how to make a career in this brave new world. At cutting-edge colleges, Post-Truth Studies has crashed the traditional liberal-arts curriculum. Post-Truth majors are already creeping into the economy, spreading the rumors, innuendo and “fun facts” that fuel today’s disconcerting discourse. Did you know that…

Thanks to the internet, Post-Truth Studies is not confined to campuses. Below is a list of online Post-Truth courses from universities around the world. You can audit, enroll in, or say you’re going to take any of the following courses and then fall asleep in the first one and never catch up. Let’s get started.

Big Data 101 (Yale): Why is today’s data so damn big, and just how big is it? Bigger than a house? A condo complex? That monstrosity they’re building in downtown Amherst? This course will teach students to measure Big Data and how it differs from the Little Data that dominated the last century. Two mid-terms, plus a final project creating a Big Database you can put on your résumé.

Truth and Post Truth (Harvard): What’s “true” anymore? How can you be “sure?” How do you know your “Truth” is not my “hot little item a friend of a friend heard from her friend over a few IPAs?” And while it’s “true” that Aristotle defined “truth” as “To say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not,” did you know that Aristotle ran a porn ring out of a pizza parlor in Athens? So what do you think about his “truth” NOW? Eh? Two mid-terms and a final contest of Truth or Dare.

Information Theory for Dummies (Texas A&M): Intro to info theory explaining how code sourcing and AI create a synergistic flow of data that can be structured into systematic algorithms micro-managed to replicate a variety of data delivery systems cybernetically attuned to a whole mess of semiotic and epistemological things you can find on Youtube. Translations available.

Past Perfect: Nostalgia for Fun and Profit (Omaha State): Where can you find a perfect world? In nostalgia, of course. This class will help you cash in on America’s nostalgia craze by erasing past conflicts, whitewashing injustice, putting flawed leaders on pedestals, and polishing the chrome on your ’57 Chevy. Cherry! Nostalgia — because it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

Fake News for the Flummoxed (Oxford): Did the president Tweet THAT? Did astronauts really land on the moon? Did those hurricanes happen? No, really, he Tweeted THAT? This course will teach you how to tell when a news report is mostly true, when it is partly true, and when it’s such an outright joke that – wait, he Tweeted THAT?!?!?! Field trips to Fox News, Breitbart and the White House.

Hillary Clinton: The Latest (NYU): What is the “truth” about this woman? Fact: This highly educated, competent and dedicated public servant has been destroyed by slander and fake news. Or… Fact: This lowlife, stupid, incompetent public menace is out to destroy America. Wait till America hears THIS about her! Choose your Hillary, and be prepared to defend her. Full body armor recommended for in-class debates.

Facebook — Using Social Media to Crush Your Opponents (Moscow University): Beamed straight from the Kremlin, this class will offer techniques from the most recent U.S. election. You’ll learn how to set up fake Facebook accounts, how to word outrageous posts that tap America’s growing gullibility, and how to evade the watchful eyes of Facebook’s fact-checker. 

In the Post-Truth world, none of the above will be on the test because we’ve already failed the test.