In a few months I’ll be facilitating a discussion on evaluating information, more specifically, how to judge the bias of that which we use as sources of information.
Let’s face it, our ancestors had a much easier time of this, though they may not have been better informed. We are reminded that most towns didn’t get unbiased “news” but the opinion of the publisher–usually the opinions of two publishers with rather different takes on the same issue.
If you don’t believe me, stop by your library sometimes and go to the big city papers, say during the Civil War era. I can tell you, there is no “fair” reporting. In fact, the attacks and counter-attacks were so vicious, that we nearly faint at what we read, shaking our head.
Yet many (nearly most I guess now in the boomer generation) grew up on the likes of Huntley-Brinkley, and the most trusted man in news, Walter Cronkite. We expect truth from the news, and alas, all that has changed once again. Whether by design as in Foxy News, or because we just don’t get how to filter our own feelings, like most of the mainstream services, we seldom get objective facts.
We may get facts, but they are filtered, and chosen from a long list of facts. Case in point. The Republicans have been holding up the unemployment compensation bill for weeks now, and millions of fairly desperate people are soon to have NOTHING to even buy food with. A few bluedog Dems are also in the mix, but mostly it’s a GOP thing.
The GOP claims that it is being fiscally responsible (after eight years of being spendthrifts), but in reality they are using that excuse as but a means to try to keep Obama from showing any legislative success on ANYTHING. You would think that people who are scared silly about putting food on the table would be outraged at Republicans?
Depends on where you get your news. If from MSNBC, the you are properly outraged, because it is solely the fault of the GOP and their evil pouty desire to stick it to Obama and their callus lack of caring for the average Joe. If from ABC, well you get the story differently “Congress” is being fiscally responsible, and “cannot” fund bills unless money is cut from something else. NO mention that this is factually a Republican thing at all.
The news is just all wacky these days, at least from my prospective. David Brooks commiserates with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, suggesting that he just forgot that we now live in a climate of “gotcha” news. There is no “off the record” or as he calls it kvetching, allowed anymore. It ends up in print. McChrystal, as he sees it, did no more or less than every politico in Washington does–try to make himself/herself look important vis-a-vis the other power centers around them.
He doesn’t see the “culture of exposure,” as he terms it, as a good thing. He might be right. Did we get better government when reporters delicately turned a deaf ear and eye to President Kennedy’s liaisons? I dunno.
I can tell ya something is awry when polling suggests that Jon Stewart is the most trusted speaker of truth in the world of politics. I mean really! And yet, I admit that I trust Jon and Stephen more than I do most anyone else. I love Keith, but I know he goes over the top and suffers from “damn how does Fox do it when they obviously LIE all the time?” syndrome.
We’re all being asked, with little or no training, to evaluate these “truth” givers. In reality there are too many facts, and thus they must pick and choose. It becomes our burden to know all the other facts they are leaving out. By having some clue on this, perhaps we can discern whether they are mostly right or mostly wrong, from our point of view.
For make no mistake, our point of view is no more free from bias than any of them. We read and watch what reverberates in our own little hearts you can be sure. But as always, I hammer away, we have duties here people.
Duties to read as many voices as possible. And duties to attempt to learn the trade of seeking the danger signals along the way. Use of words like “some” and “many” instead of actual linkable facts, suggests that the writer is either lazy or attempting to turn a minority opinion into something more palatable to the unwary.
Baby boomers can recall that the media made the switch during the Vietnam War from calling the opposition “war protesters” to “peace marchers.” That signaled that the mainline media reps were no longer on the side of Johnson and his administration. The questions changed, got harder, and Johnson suddenly found himself standing alone with an unwinnable war that nobody supported any more.
Being bombarded by so much these days through cable, mainstream media, and especially the Internet, leaves us all shell shocked. It also leaves one in a perpetual state of high anger if you actually care about people and the world (something verifiable psychologically about Dems). It’s why frankly, I often don’t write on Sunday, unless it’s more light-hearted and away from the political scene.
Quite frankly, I find I need more than one day away from all the stonewalling misinformation, and ad hominem assaults that each side now find more profitable than actual facts. I don’t want to be angry all the time.
So what tricks do you use to evaluate all this stuff? Who to read and listen to? How to maintain some semblance of objective accuracy in your understanding of the issues of the day? I’d be interested to know.