I’ve commented in the recent past about a coworker of mine who recently became enamored with Louis Farrakhan after having watched a number of his speeches and interviews on YouTube. He’s since become enamored with other folks who claim that Christianity is a completely false/made up religion stolen from ancient Egypt and used to oppress black people. My coworker’s problem is that whatever he watches on YouTube he receives uncritically. It’s too bad I can’t get him to watch any Christians speaking intelligently about Christianity!
But he keeps insisting that I watch these videos to learn why my religion is false and why Jesus is a myth and blah blah blah… I told him that I have no interest. I don’t have the time to waste on nonsense. But it struck me that the internet, great invention that it is, has really made it possible for any old crackpot to get a fair shake from an unassuming audience. I’m not so naive as to think that peer review guarantees quality work (trust me, I’ve read enough bunk that’s made it through peer review to know better), but it’s way better than nothing at all.
I get why scholars who teach in institutions have in the past been (and many in the present still are) leery about their students quoting online sources (particularly blogs) in research papers and dissertations. It’s just too easy to get something out there online without accountable to anyone else. And the real problem is that the internet is unstoppable; once the bunk is on there it’s near impossible to get off. And once it’s out there it’s easy to spread. All one has to do is link to it on Facebook or Twitter and all of a sudden dozens to thousands of people are reading it and consequently sharing it.
Bad scholarship being disseminated so easily is like a terrible rumor. By the time it’s proven wrong it’s already done it’s damage and left a stain that’s hard to get out. And the sad thing is that I don’t see a fix in sight. Good information is out there but it doesn’t spread nearly as fast, or so it seems. May God have mercy!