Posted at 11 a.m. Oct. 18, 2016

Internet factoid:

90 percent of Internet statistics are made up on the spot

Dakota AirlineAbraham Lincoln

Internet memes can provide endless hours of entertainment or propagate some of the most blatant lies and political half-truths on the Internet. Facebook seems to be a breeding ground for memes of this type. For example, a recent meme shows a photo of countless thousands of people rallying around what the meme claims are the protesters at the North Dakota pipeline. But it was quickly proven to be a photo from the first Woodstock by Snopes and other internet fact-checking sites.

Another misleading meme has been spread in the last few weeks by Breitbart and Paul Joseph Watson. It claims that Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe Hillary Clinton mentioned at the first presidential debate, was once a porn star. Machado did star in a show called The Farm which was a Spanish inspired version of the American show Big Brother. She did have sex on camera but it was in the dark and she and the male were under sheets on a bed. They were barely recognizable without heavy scrutiny. Machado also did a Playboy photo shoot, but that has been socially acceptable for decades. Countless models, actors and athletes have done nude shoots but nobody care until politics become involved. Instead of focusing on actual political issues, Breitbart and Watson have people angry at a former beauty queen, for no reason.

While this is not the same as the repurposing of a Woodstock photo, it is harming an individual’s reputation by telling half-truths to push a political agenda and further enflame individuals who already succumb to the mob mentality.

Winston Churchill said “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

While registering to vote and actually voting are important, they should not be treated as some arbitrary responsibility. Being educated on ballot issues is almost as important as voting. Voting for someone to run a city is just as important as voting for the person who will run the country and should be treated as such. With modern resources like the Internet and smart phones there is no reason a voter should not be able to find the information on issues they care about.

Wyoming does not have a straight ticket voting option but that does not prevent low information voters from choosing all Democrat or Republican candidates without knowing their positions or the problems they face. This is essentially voting blindly. The right to vote should be taken more seriously than simply checking boxes in the same row and having the right to vote should imply having a duty to employ it wisely. Candidates should be well researched and understood by voters before they ever have a chance to mess things up.

If you chose to vote there are numerous places to learn about the different candidates and their policies. Local candidates can find information at laramiecountyclerk.com, information for state elections can be found at www.soswy.state.wy.us/Elections/Default.aspx and people that want to check questionable political statements can go to snopes.com, politifact.com or factcheck.org.

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