There is a growing belief that April Fool’s Day is terrible, and it’s totally understandable. The whole idea of exploiting mankind’s natural inclination to trust each other for straight lols does not really vibe with the whole Millennial brand. Increasingly, Google’s attempts to bring in every April Fool’s Day with some sort of cornball wouldn’t-it-be-nice app feel like a doting grandfather pulling a “got yer nose!” Seriously, Google? A drop the mic app? How about a drop the surveillance of private data app?
And yet! April Fool’s Day does herald a valuable and tragically rare spirit on the Internet, and it’s something we could use far, far more of. On April Fool’s Day, every last mother’s daughter with a wifi signal is imbued with an appealing skepticism. Every Facebook post is not an opportunity for argument, but deeper analysis. Every news article is not something to be mindlessly shared, but carefully checked for cues regarding its veracity. People are thoughtful. They check sources. This is the Internet as it should be. This is life as it should be. Every day should be April Fool’s Day.
Hear me out! As it stands, the current state of civilized debate is a mess. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one big one is that people indiscriminately believe things they want to believe. The election process is the most obvious example, of course. Donald Trump says any and every fanciful piece of garbage that burbles up from the swamp of his mind, and his supporters take it as gospel truth that can not be disproven by the most reasoned evidence. This is infuriating, as a trail of suspended GOP presidential campaigns can attest, but it is far from the only or even the most egregious example.
Think of police brutality. Since the death of Michael Brown, our country has suffered from case after highly publicized case of a black person being killed by a white police officer under suspicious circumstances. 88 percent of black people in America believe they are treated unfairly by police officers. Only 59 percent of white people agree. Those numbers grow even starker in the South, where 90 percent of black people believe they are treated unfairly by police, while only 55 percent of white people agree. In the American justice system, black people receive 20 percent longer sentences than white people do for the same crimes.
The 41 percent of Americans who believe that black people are treated fairly by police, and the 88 percent of white people who believe Officer Darren Wilson was justified in killing Michael Brown (compared to only 22 percent of black people), are faced with a decision. They must either conclude that the majority of black Americans are inventing untrue narratives about how they have been treated by police officers, or that they, as white people, simply understand the black experience in America better than black people do. They must also determine that the incredible amount of research that’s been done proving ongoing mistreatment of black people in America is uniformly flawed or else part of some agenda that’s out to get you.
But put all this through an April Fool’s Day filter, and what happens? People are looking for an agenda. They’re trying to decide if what they’re reading is true or is part of some broader conspiracy to manipulate their ignorance for the ends of the system. They would see that attempts to discount claims of systemic racism in America by labeling them “political correctness” or whatever are really just cruel pranks, designed to reinforce the status quo. This is how it ought to be. That is why every day should be April Fool’s Day.
And what about this piece from Salon (originally at Media Matters), labeled: “The dirty secret of conservative journalism is that little of it constitutes journalism.” It was a Breitbart takedown, and there are few targets in modern journalism riper for takedown than Breitbart. But one of those worthy targets is Salon itself, which has so insulated itself within the elitist, faux-woke neo-progressive bubble that its own grasp on reality is in severest doubt. “There is no liberal version of Breitbart, or The Drudge Report, or Fox News,” the article boldly proclaimed, and Salon ought to thank New Atheism that the right has no Jon Stewart equivalent to call them out on that audacious bullshit.
If every day was April Fool’s Day, places like Salon and Breitbart (not to mention MSNBC, Fox News, and other icons of unfair and unbalanced reporting) would be subject to the trials they richly deserve and any right-thinking person would laugh them off as a prank. Instead, we tend to spend our days assuming that any media outlet generally agreeable to our worldview—however ill-defined it may be—has our back, wants what’s best for us and our country and has an unflappable interest in verifiable truth. And when presented with cold, hard evidence to the contrary, we just hold our reasonable self’s head under water until it cries uncle.
Not on April Fool’s Day though. On April Fool’s Day, we remember that not everything is inherently on our side, and even previously trustworthy sources may need to be double checked. On April Fool’s Day, we’re smart. This is how every day should be. It is a rare and beautiful spirit of thoughtful discernment, and we could use more of it. Keep the spirit of April Fool’s Day alive in your heart all year long.