Reading only headlines makes you stupid

I implore you to actually read this article

Graphic by: Gabriel Perez

I implore you to actually read this article

“San Francisco supervisors vote to allow police to use robots to kill”

This is a headline from a previous CNN story that caused some confusion. And with recent protests as of December 2022, that confusion is made obvious, people don’t know what they are talking about.

In short, the article talks about how the policy would be used in extraordinary circumstances in which all other avenues of approach have been used. Two board members voted against the measure saying that there was a “serious potential for misuse and abuse of this military-grade technology.”

In today’s world and political climate, people seem to spread misinformation on a more frequent basis and often believe these falsehoods as a result of not bothering to read past the first line.

A great example of this is an article by Alexandra Petri that was published in the Washington. This article was about the same situation that CNN reported on.

“I do not think killer robots are a good idea,” Petri said in the article.

Her commentary on the situation puts on full display her lack of understanding behind the decision or the context of such a policy. She instead makes comparisons to movies and what she deems as ‘common sense’.

Ignoring for a minute that this isn’t an article about killer robots, I feel it is important to state the context around this situation to get a better understanding of why headlines like these are misleading.

In 2016, a man named Micah Johnson killed five officers, wounded seven, and wounded two civilians at a protest in Dallas against the, at the time, recent killing of two Black men by police. Johnson then barricaded himself in a room, threatened to kill more officers, and said he planted explosives in the area. The officers then attached explosives to a remote controlled robot and detonated the charges in the room Johnson was in so as to not risk more lives.

I told you all of this for one simple reason: don’t just read a headline and form your opinion on a topic from only the headline.

People were protesting a decision made for very specific situations like the one in Dallas. With Petri’s ‘common sense,’ one should be able to easily put two and two together and realize we aren’t creating Terminators or robots like Chappie.

Killer robots highlight this problem simply because of how absurd the CNN headline sounds and all of the ones that were similar to it. This leads to the root of the problem; oftentimes, headlines are meant to garner reactions, and get you to click on or read the article. However, people tend to formulate an opinion on a very complicated situation before they’re even done with reading it. Oftentimes, after only reading a headline and not even bothering to read the entire article.

As people share these articles, the possibility of spreading what are known as woozles or just blatantly false information becomes larger.

These instances are different than some old guy on Facebook sharing information from a parody news site thinking it’s true. Rather, woozles and circular journalism often are perpetuated by more credible news networks who didn’t do any research beyond surface level.

I feel that there is no better example of a woozle than a man by the name of Pierre Sprey. Sprey worked for the Pentagon back in the 80’s and was involved in the development of the F-16 fighter jet and A-10 Thunderbolt. All of this is according to himself.

In reality, he was a record producer that got a job at the Pentagon because he had friends higher up, had his choir sampled in Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” had no involvement in the programs I mentioned above, and spent most of his time complaining about technology being put into military vehicles along with giving interviews to Russian propaganda networks. Most of his ideas were dumb at best and could risk lives at worst.

The Washington Post published an article talking about Sprey’s achievements after his death in 2021 despite most of the information being fabricated by Sprey himself, or his friends in the so called ‘Reformers’ movement.

Now the vast majority of people probably don’t care about Sprey and what he lied about doing, but it serves as a great example about how lies and misconceptions can be spread as long as they sound believable.

These ideas gain popularity and are accepted because people don’t bother to dig deeper into a topic or not bothering to read past the headlines.