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Are the Rich Golfing While the World Burns? - An Emerging Science of Clickbait

This post applies Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy to examine the reliability of web content, and is followed by reflections on web sources.

I have picked this exercise to test my skills of fact-checking on. I thought it would be fun to see how I would find the image, since the only clues that I had were the words Golfing While the World Burns. Instead of checking for the previous work, I have followed the instructions from Caulfield’s book on tracking the source of viral photos and typed in the aforementioned caption of the photo, the only photos that I had gotten were either a completely different batch of photos or the ones on Pinterest where the pictures were captioned with the words meant to cause an emotional reaction, such as golf while the world burns meme and its variations, which only confirms how propaganda could be spread easily and that we should all be going by the rules mentioned in Caulfield’s book, especially by the one which states that we should check our emotions first and then research whether they were rightly provoked. Then I have gone a bit further and added to the caption Golfing While the World Burns a word mountain which led me to the fact-checking site Snopes, so as to make sure, since I have never used this site before, and out of curiosity, I went upstream to the source and typed in the words mentioned in the Snopes’ video “Beacon Rock Golf Course Facebook”, and found the photo by typing the words in the search bar which the owners had captioned the photo with, seen in the Snopes’ video; Our golfers are committed to finishing the round!, which made me chuckle. There I was able to even find the author of the photo due to the owners of the page kindly providing information in the comments.

That is how I have learnt that the photo was not photoshopped, the place where it was taken, and the context behind it, thus answering the questions made in the exercise. I am only regretting that I did not take up a more complex exercise, nevertheless, I will certainly do some more in my spare time, this one was entertaining and educational in any case.

Why do we trust some sources more than others?
- What are the dangers of a diet of news from only one type of source?
- How do we make sure we are not excluding valuable sources?

It depends whether you are a veteran in the fact-checking business. If you are not, then you will probably take the words of your friends, family, trusted acquaintances and like the recommended sites or possibly the ones with whose information you agree with, and as you further your knowledge and start to realize which newspapers and sources are more biased, then you will start noticing a pattern and leaning more towards the ones which prove to be more reliable. The issue with this kind of approach is that you might be closing yourself to some other information and not realize that even that source might be leaning towards one side. Therefore, the cure for this is to read several sources, especially if the matter in question is of the utmost importance, even the ones which you do not like.

Why do you think that newspapers have such a good reputation for truthfulness and care compared to the average online site (or vice versa)?
What sort of economic incentives has a newspaper historically had to get things right that a clickbait online site might not have had?

I believe that these two questions are not mutually exclusive. For instance, for the first one it could be said that the clickbait mania is the answer to why newspapers are more trustworthy and careful than the regular online sites. However, today’s time proves that both might actually be on the same scale unreliable, but in different ways. Furthermore, there’s an exponential growth of printed newspapers which are getting their own online platform and unfortunately many are succumbing to the issues related to the clickbait schemes.

As for the second question, people didn’t have that many sources available before and if they noticed irregularities, which they were likely to because this was their only way of gathering important information that could potentially have life or death consequences, they would be able to sanction the ones with inconsistencies. Moreover, there were not so many journalists and not anyone could just spread information as they would like, so they usually had to adhere to the media ethics, and as a matter of fact, people knew them and, thus, they could not avoid retributions as easily as they are able to do today.

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