What Albert Einstein would think of the 'false news' fueled 'disinformation crisis': op-ed
Due to his extensive knowledge and deeply evident "enthusiasm" around learning about Albert Einstein's life, journalist Benyamin Cohen was tapped by the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University to manage Einstein's social media account, which now boasts 20 million followers.
In an op-ed for The New York Times published Sunday, Cohen, who is news director of The Forward, recalls seeing a tweet Ivanka Trumps shared a decade ago, saying, "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. — Albert Einstein."
According to Cohen, the "problem" with her tweet is "Einstein never said that."
Furthermore, Cohen notes, "Election deniers and anti-vaxxers can now easily find comrades in their self-created bubbles, magnifying and emboldening their views," but even worse, "They run for office, flaunting a platform of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism, and sometimes they win."
He goes on to predict, perhaps, "Einstein, famous for his bons mots, would post a pithy tweet in response to the science deniers, flat-earthers and Ivanka Trump," and he would say, "The search for truth and knowledge is one of the finest attributes of man. Though often it is most loudly voiced by those who strive for it the least."
Cohen adds, "yes, Einstein did actually say that."
The Anti-Defamation League defines disinformation as "False information, which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda by a government organization to a rival power or the media," noting former President Donald Trump "and others in power used disinformation to mislead their followers and the general public about the election results.
The organization also notes "The danger of disinformation and other false news is evident in what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021," adding, "There is a direct connection between this attack and the spread of disinformation. Disinformation about widespread voter fraud and election rigging had been spreading for weeks, months and years leading up to this day."
The author of the upcoming The Einstein Effect: How the World's Favorite Genius Got Into Our Cars, Our Bathrooms, and Our Minds writes:
It is a weighty responsibility to speak for Albert Einstein, to protect his legacy and to use my perch to gently nudge others to understand that there is such a thing as universal knowledge and truths, and that they matter. In no small part that’s because the very idea of who a publicly venerated intellectual and expert is has radically changed since his death in 1955.
The author says the "sense of our own intellectual infallibility has led to an extreme lack of humility in all sorts of people, from politicians to celebrities to social media influencers," adding, "Asked during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election whom he turns to for advice on foreign affairs, Donald Trump cited himself."
What would Einstein, who was driven by a lifelong curiosity to discover truths about our universe, think of the disinformation crisis social media has helped stoke? I can't imagine he would be comfortable with the deluge of false news and incendiary tweets, nor of the elevation of everyone as an expert, a genius in his or her own mind.
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