39. The Boy who cried 'Wolf!'

The famous story of the 'Boy Who Cried Wolf' goes something like this — one day in Ye Olden Times, in a Vaguely-European-Countryside Location, a little shepherd boy got bored. Tired of playing Candy Crush on his smart phone, and weary of the dull, classical-music soundtrack that accompanied all activities in Ye Olden Times, he turned away from his sheep, cupped his hands to his mouth, and shouted, "Wolf! Wolf! I saw a wolf!"

Hearing the boy's cries, the villagers — who were also bored when not burning witches, looking for witches to burn, or shoveling plague victims into mass graves — quickly spread the news. With fevered excitement, the villagers plucked their Anti-Wolf Pitchforks from the mantle, dug out their 'Wolf-be-Gone' spray cans, and shot into the woods in pursuit of this dastardly villain.

Days and weeks passed, and time and again, the shepherd boy would cry, "Wolf!" And each time, the villagers would spring into action.

But no one ever so much as saw the wolf.

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Eventually, the villagers realized the shepherd boy wasn't the vigilant watchman he claimed to be, but rather just a lying, manipulative phony.

You can picture the rest. When the shepherd boy cried 'Wolf!,' the villagers just ignored him, figuring their time was better spent jesting, jousting, and joining in other such merriment.

The moral of the story is that when people conclude you're a lying, manipulative phony, they stop listening to you. So when the shepherd boy finally did cross paths with a Big, Bad Wolf, his cries for help fell on deaf ears. No one came to his defense, and his last words were simply, "I really didn't think this throu ... arrgggghhhhhhh!"

By now, you've probably guessed this is a parable, or a metaphor, or some other form of cleverness, and you'd be quite right.

As the late Charley Reese once wryly observed, "Credibility, like virginity, can only be lost once and never recovered." In recent years, we've seen the credibility of conventional media outlets suffer a series of self-inflicted wounds with their promotion of "fake news" stories. When the MSM cries 'Wolf!' over unsubstantiated claims — whether it's Iraqi WMDs, Syrian gas attacks, or Donald Trump cavorting with incontinent hookers — we've stopped believing them. They're the little shepherd boy crying 'Wolf!,' and fewer and fewer Americans would shed a tear if they disappeared altogether ... or simply declared a well-deserved bankruptcy.

So what can we do about 'fake news' flowing from establishment or alternative media? For starters — assuming we value truth over 'groupthink' — we can treat everything we read or hear with rigorous, healthy skepticism, especially if it re-affirms our own pre-existing biases. Brush up on logical fallacies, hone your bullshit detector, and question everything, including your own assumptions. If a news source proves untrustworthy, stop rewarding them with your money, time, and attention, and seek out someone more scrupulous. And perhaps most importantly, shield yourself from misinformation with one of our gullibility-resistant Tees, and tell the world you know the difference between a real wolf and an imaginary one.


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