Caveat lector. Let the reader beware.
The average person used to know better than to believe everything he read in a newspaper, heard on the radio, or saw on television or the internet. Unfortunately, common sense is not so common anymore.
In part, that’s because so many teachers, media personalities, and politicians have spent decades encouraging us to be gullible, to take the word of so-called experts, and to accept the party line on any given subject.
Whether it’s because we don’t know any better, have lost the ability to think critically, or simply aren’t willing to subject ourselves to ridicule, a lot of us parrot the propaganda.
We don’t hear the expression much anymore, but the concept of caveat lector is enshrined in President Trump’s catchphrase “fake news.” Is the news fake, or isn’t it? It’s safe to say that sometimes it is, and sometimes not. The trick is figuring that out, but it’s our obligation as citizens to make the effort, stop acting like dazed cult members, and learn to distinguish between the real and the unreal.
There can be serious consequences to the dissemination of fake news. Businesses can be destroyed, lives can be ruined or lost, entire nations can be overthrown.
Why would anyone propagate falsehoods that could have such disastrous consequences? The answer is surprisingly simple: because they expect to profit from the ensuing hysteria.
Take the EtO scare, for instance.
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a manmade chemical used in production of other industrial chemicals, as a fumigant, and as a sterilant for medical equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled EtO as carcinogenic, prompting ravenous plaintiff attorneys to launch lawsuits against companies making or using the product.
Most previous EPA measurements of airborne EtO levels targeted particular emission sites. More recent efforts measured ambient levels of EtO in the air in general and found no significant difference. In other words, levels near the sites of alleged “contamination” are no higher than anywhere else.
So, is the hoopla over EtO fake news? Caveat lector.