Schieffer: Ignorance Travels Fast on Internet

President Barack Obama speaks at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church January 17, 2010 in Washington, DC. President Obama spoke during a service in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
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The greatest advances in the store of human knowledge have always taken place when great minds found themselves in the same place at the same time, as when the Greeks gathered on the hillsides of Athens, and when the political geniuses who founded this country came together.

The great promise of the Internet was that for the first time, great minds no longer had to be in close proximity.

But what we have also learned now is that in the Internet age ignorance travels as rapidly as great ideas. Now not only great minds can find one another and compare notes, so, too, can the nuts and the perverts and those who are simply looking to validate their prejudices.

So, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, a new poll tells us a growing number of Americans - most of them on the right - believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, no doubt due in part to the fact that stories to that effect have gone viral on the Internet.

Disagreeing with our leaders is our right and in truth part of the fun of being an American. But to suggest the President is a Muslim is absurd no matter how fervently some who dislike him may wish it so.

The purpose here is not to argue politics but to underscore how this illustrates the down side of the Internet - the only news delivery system we've ever had that has no editor. We must always remember that. What we read there may not always be true.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.