Those who follow sports might have noticed items out of New York and Philadelphia this week announcing that the Yankees baseball team and the Flyers hockey team will no longer play Kate Smith's 1939 recording of "God Bless America" at their games due to "having learned that" Smith recorded songs with racist lyrics earlier in the 1930s. The Flyers, in addition, have shrouded the statue of Smith located near their arena until completing "an investigation." I've been thinking about this affair for the last couple of days, and it's crystallized something that's been bothering me for a while -- the way in which the Internet, by its essential nature, fragments public understanding of cultural history. Please note that I'm not taking any side in the Kate Smith controversy, and if your first impulse is to post a reply to the effect of either "It was a different time! PC SJW Snowflakes hate America!" or "It was wrong then and it's wrong now!" then you're actually part of the problem and you're only proving the point I'm going to make. Those with an understanding of nuance are welcome, on the other hand, to chime in anytime. This whole imbroglio started when someone, identified as "a Yankee fan," sent that team's office links to Kate Smith's 1931 Columbia recording of "That's Why Darkies Were Born," and a clip from her rarely-seen 1933 film "Hello Everybody" in which she performs a production number called "Pickaninny's Heaven." Now, there's no questioning that both of these tunes are a product of the structural racism that dominated American culture at that time -- yes, I know "TWDWB" was intended as a satire of overblown Southern nostalgia -- and even more specifically, of the sort of religion-cloaked naivete found in the concurrent show "Green Pastures," and that it was presented as such on Broadway -- but nevertheless, the parody is a reflection of a cultural reality that existed as a form of oppression at the time. I also know that Kate Smith didn't *choose* to record either of those songs -- they were, as was all of her material, selected for her by her domineering manager Ted Collins, who controlled every aspect of her career down to the smallest detail. And I know that pretty much every performer of that era at one time or another recorded material that was just as racially fraught as these particular songs. And that therefore, you can't make a valid conclusion about whether the material reflected Smith's own views or not. Whatever she really felt, as a middle-class Southern white woman born in 1907, about racial issues is not part of the historic record. She never spoke up publicly for civil rights -- but neither did she ever publicly defend segregation. We can guess or assume what she felt -- and judge her according to those guesses or assumptions -- but we cannot *know.* But this hasn't stopped both sides of the controversy from constructing elaborate arguments concluding that Smith, a figure that the majority of those commenting had likely never heard of before the current controversy erupted, was or was not an active racist -- based solely on fragments gathered from You Tube, Wikipedia, and Google Books. And my point is -- exactly why do they think they're qualified to draw those conclusions, or any conclusions on this particular topic? Because they know how to use a search engine? This is the world the Internet has given us -- a world where there is no coherent presentation of contextualized history, but instead a jumble of fragments, scraps, and pieces thrown into a heap where every morsel carries the same weight. It's like taking a dozen different jigsaw puzzles, dumping all the pieces into one box, and then tossing the whole melange on the floor -- and expecting then to make something coherent out of the result. Please note I'm not talking here about the historical fallacy of presentism, the use of current standards to judge the past. What I'm troubled by is that the internet has given us a world where people with no understanding of how to parse disjointed, decontextualized information are nevertheless using that information to draw conclusions they are in no way qualified to draw. How do we deal with a society where "facts" are simply whatever you can Google up to support your own point of view?