By Tyler Hersko

It was so cold this morning, I actually saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets!”

“It is an absolute fact that Republicans are aiming in their every action to create a situation where America is underfed, underpaid [and] unsafe.”

Do you feel anything other than disdain regarding the intellectual vacancy of either of these two quotes? If not, then I’ve just diagnosed you as extremely stupid. I know, it’s a shocking surprise. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.

What, is that not funny?

Well, “If you don’t think this is funny, you might be a left-wing protestor.”

That one was from the “Conservative Daily,” a 4.7 million-strong Facebook page that exists for the sole purpose of exercising masturbatory pleasure in demonizing the other half the nation for their godless, socialism-worshipping perpetuation of taxation and abortions.

Now, my sarcasm probably has a lot of you Republicans pissed off. I assure you that is not my intent. I merely think that Democrats are vastly superior liars, and are therefore more difficult to poke fun at.

Good. Now that I’ve alienated almost the entirety of The Nevada Sagebrush’s readership, we can get started.

We live in the age of information. There are entire libraries of data just waiting to be plucked through by the ordinary Internet user. You and I have an unprecedented opportunity that scholars, scientists and philosophers of yesteryear could’ve only imagined in their wildest of fantasies. Thanks to social media, cheap printing and the general convenience of modern communication, staying informed has never been easier.

It’s sadly ironic, then, that the possibilities for intellectual stimulation are being more visibly squandered than ever.

Those first two quotes? They were from the extremely popular Facebook pages “Being Liberal” and “Being Conservative.” And yes, I know the former quote was originally by Senator Ted Cruz, because God forbid people think up their own dumbass quips. Anyway, I won’t spoil the fun as to which page posted which quote, but I’ll hazard a guess that you can connect the dots.

My issue is that people — way too many of them, apparently — actually accept social media groups and similar faux-news organizations such as these as legitimate sources of information. We live in the age of information, but it seems like a disturbing number of us are content to use the tools at our disposal to do little else than reinforce our own evidently one-sided beliefs and political views.

These kinds of outlets aren’t just merely biased, they’re blatant agenda-setters. The appeal is obvious: After all, who doesn’t want to read about and root for what they earnestly believe in? While that is all fine and dandy, these propaganda dispensaries cross the fine line between legitimate news and, well, propaganda.

At the end of the day, who is really benefitting here? Sure, Obama is an Orwellian tyrant who wants to control your language, thoughts and bowel movements. I get it. So do you, but if you retweet the picture that says that, doubtlessly posted by some idiot with as many followers as he or she has too much time on their hands, what are you really accomplishing? The right-wingers will rejoice, the left-wingers will brandish their pitchforks (because they don’t have guns) and everyone will remain politically ignorant.

They say that your significant other should challenge you to better yourself. Well, I propose that we should all challenge ourselves to better ourselves morally, politically and philosophically. Don’t limit your information intake to sources that fall in line with your established boundaries of intellectual thought.

If you identify as an atheist, take strides to understand secularist positions. Read Christian ideologies and study Muslim doctrines. It’s OK to take a position somewhere, but there’s absolutely no reason you should remain ignorant to other cultures, practices and viewpoints.

If you’re a liberal, read up on world events outside of what MSNBC and Obama’s Facebook page are telling you. If you’re a conservative, close that Fox News tab in your browser. You can’t take a stand if you don’t know what the other side truly stands for. And if that doesn’t sound appealing, think of it like this: “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

Knowledge is power, and information outlets know it. As an individual, you may be largely unable to stop them from abusing their power, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

Take strides to diversify your consumption of knowledge and strive to practice to maintain a measured, thoughtful and fair voice when researching and discussing sensitive issues. You’ll accomplish a hell of a lot more.

Then again, Facebook’s “ElectDemocrats” page just informed me that “The Republican War on Women is back in full force.” Shit, I’ve got to notify my friends and colleagues about this breaking political news!

Tyler Hersko studies journalism. He can be reached at thersko@sagebrush.unr.edu.