Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Engage Brain, Please.

I try to check my information very carefully.  Unlike some, I do not see Snopes or or Hoaxslayer or Politifact or mainstream media as some sort of conspiracy.  I visit a lot of sites of various political persuasions, and if the only place I find a story is on the same political style site, I dismiss it as inaccurate.  There are few sites that I would ever post from on that website's reporting alone.  I will not post from  sites like The Blaze or Britebar or MSNBC or Fox without outside corroboration.  Years ago, I might have posted from Fox, but when they actually started to post news stories from other sites re-written, I decided I would never use them as a source without documentation again.  For example, with the recent government shutdown, they actually took Associated Press wire stories and replaced the word shutdown with the word slimdown.  This isn't just tilting the news, this is rewriting another's work for political advantage.  It is propaganda.  I look for what's missing when I see a post from a political site.  It is often not what is being said that's untrue, but what is being left out. For those of you who don't know, that's still a lie.  It's called lying by omission.

Take these two stories about Far Right Spokesperson, Sean Hannity.  Both took place in the past couple of weeks.  Hannity interviewed three couples about how Obamacare ruined their lives.  The problem was that not one of the couples had even checked, and two of the couples said they would not check, to see if the ACA would help them. It would.  True story.  A few nights later Hannity called the ACA hotline and had an operator on who said many of her callers were unhappy with the rollout.  She was fired for violating her media clause which she was apparently unaware of.  Hanity offered her a year of her salary to make up for the firing and then advertised on his show to help her find a new job.  Also, a true story.

A meme with factual information,
but politically spun. 
Both events have been spun by the various conservative and liberal groups for advantages.  I am sure that there are memes for both, but this is the only one I could find to give  you an idea.  The facts of the meme are true.  It's the question at the end of the meme that lacks support.  Be sure to note the unflattering picture which is also a wonderful and typical propaganda tool. I chose this story not because I support Hannity.  I don't.  Generally speaking, he is a very divisive figure and spends time trying to enrage the far right base. Still, I wanted to show what would happen if you only went with far left or far right reports.  You might miss the bad reporting on the ACA or the supportive gesture that he made when his anti-ACA phonecall cost someone her job.  I verified both of these stories not on biased sites but through sites like the Huffington Post or other mainstream news sites.

And what was that lie exactly?
If you see a post that says something like "Why aren't the mainstream reporting on this?" You can be pretty sure they are reporting on it.  The post is relying on the fact that most of their readers will blindly spread it as if it were true. They are usually relying on the idea that their reader has bought into the idea that the media is either government controlled or too liberal to tell the truth.  Ironically, they are more than willing to use the report when the report supports their position, but when it doesn't, the mainstream is liberal or not reporting the "correct" facts.  This is actually a propaganda technique, by the way.  It's called "scapegoating." I remind you, "You are entitled to your opinion. But not you are not entitled to your own facts." (Patrick Moynihan) Honestly, most mainstream outlets are almost too concerned about equity in reporting.  CNN, according to the Economist, is so worried that they may appear biased, they are actually losing ratings and their reporting has become ho-hum.

Really? Have you even turned on a
TV recently?
Finally, consider what you are reading and posting.  If you only see a story on all the "patriot sites" without a link to anything except another "patriot site" of the same nature, you need to get out of your comfort zone and look elsewhere or realize the story is most likely biased or untrue.   I've even followed stories that are not verifiable but word for word the same story on every biased site.  And try to remember what you've checked.  I find the Huffington Post, Time, even Rolling Stone are good places to check.  Be sure that you are also actually looking at news and not editorials.  Editorials, good ones anyway, will support with actual links to actual sources. I saw one editorial  that sited a "study." The study was from a conservative thinktank and the writer of the editorial was a lead on the study.  Hardly unbiased, but if I hadn't followed the link, I would have never known the bias.  Follow the links too.

To give one some of the more bizarre examples of how little people pay attention here are one or two that happened to me.  A friend posted the hoax headline that Jackie Chan had died. I posted the Snopes link that this was a hoax.  The person thanked me for having her back.  Two days later, she posted the exact same hoax again.  In another instance, I had a person who posted a blatant statistical lie about something.  I don't remember what it was about, but I reposted the links to what the statistics exactly were from a  reliable source.  What did he do? Rather than admit that it was inaccurate, he deleted the links and kept on posting the lie.

We all want to be right, but the fact is that too often we post things that aren't.  It takes time to become informed and sadly, too many people just blindly post undocumented facts. We don't check, we don't verify, we just think it sounds good.

It isn't.