Information highway has many roadblocks and exits

We have so much information literally at our fingertips. Search mechanisms can yield answers to so many questions. It is a virtual information highway. Yet, two major problems exist that provide roadblocks or exits to the information highway.

First, answers are often not that simple and depend on the questions being asked. Many problems are complex and need context, as the answer afforded by the results of searches you might click on, can steer you in the wrong direction. Any time you look for a medical solution, you must be careful not to over-diagnose symptoms. If you have ever had children, the croup is one scary looking illness. Yet, it is not as bad as it looks, and a few simple solutions can remedy the problem.

Second, all answers and sources do not have the same level of veracity. Unfortunately, there are information sources whose modus operandi is to mislead. There are groups of entrepreneurs who will craft official looking websites whose main intent is to obfuscate the truth or get a candidate elected. Then, there are portrayed media sources who, on their best day, offer a spin doctored version of the news or mask editorial opinion as news. On their worst day, they can misinform as well as anyone.

Unfortunately, the duty falls on the reader, watcher or searcher, to ascertain the veracity of the information and its source. The groups who make a living at bending the truth, do it very well, so it is hard to know you are being duped or not told the whole story. Now, we have candidates and a President-elect who tell you to doubt the media, saying they are biased. This is often done to mask that the media actually may be on to something.

The main stream media has a key bias and that is toward conflict. Conflict sells. I find they often give too much credibility to an argument and portray it as 50/50 with side-by-side arguments. Climate change deniers have been given too great a voice these days, as the scientists who know the issues have agreed it is a problem and is man-influenced. Yet, you can find websites that will tell you it is a hoax and have even influenced our President-elect.

The main stream media also has a bias toward entertainment and can be conflicted with funding sources for commercials or their owners. As a result, issues may not be discussed at all or covered in a shallow form. While our President-elect claims the media was against him, from my vantage point, they enabled his success by covering his events and controversial statements and not his business history and plans.

So, we must be diligent and dutiful to confirm sources. We must read and listen with curiosity, but remain skeptical of sources. We must ask questions – why, what, when, how and how much or long? If you do a search, look at the source. If you read routed information on Facebook, again look at the source of the underlying document. An overly biased person may also be a lightning rod that the information being routed lacks veracity. And, watch reputable news sources and not politically biased ones.

Democracy demands an informed electorate. We just elected a President who lied about 3/4 of the time on the campaign trail and says he will represent people he has taken advantage of throughout his business career. It boggles the mind that this man was not vetted more. And, as a President, we will need to hold him accountable. We must recognize the roadblocks and exits to seeking the truth. It won’t be easy.

 

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Information highway has many roadblocks and exits

  1. Critical thinking skills seem to be at an all-time low. I’ve written my checks to Planned Parenthood, The Environmental Defense Fund, and several others John Oliver recommended. I’ve also started to subscribe to the NY Times. I encourage others to give what they can. We need to remain vigilant.

    • Janis, great work. The absence of critical thinking is a focal point of Hugh Curtler’s blog. If one only reads what confirm their beliefs, right or wrong, it will be hard to make good decisions or understand them. Keith

  2. My post tomorrow is on the same subject, news source and who is to blame for misinformation. They are now pointing fingers and as you say we need to be aware where the information is coming from and ask the right questions.

  3. Absolutely true and in huge need of attention. I often find it perplexing to trust my sources. But I do at least make an effort to see who is supporting said source. I wonder if kids that are now growing up in a Google world are more savvy about recognizing false banners? Do they learn how to vet online sources? I think the issue is particularly difficult for a segment of the boomer population who did not grow up with Google, nor did they necessarily learn how to do scholarly research because that wasn’t needed in the lives. Without that background, they are easy targets for the proliferation of all sorts of false banners and misinformation. Courses on how to vet online sources would be a good topic for schools (if that is not already in the curriculum) as well as for adult education in the form of Osher Institute and city adult ed programs.

    • Linda, you are so right. Just looking at HRC. You can still find disproven claims by her opponents over time. Yet, she had to reprosecute them in this election. You can still find the Karl Rove sabatoge of John McCain fathering a Black child out of wedlock, where the actual story was he and his wife adopted an Indian girl. I like your idea of training. Keith

  4. This is a powerful post Keith. NSA director and U.S. Naval officer Adm. Michael S. Rogers said at a Wall Street Journal Conference that a ‘Foreign Power’ used ‘Wikileaks’ to affect the U.S. election. I read that to mean that in his opinion ‘Wikileaks’ was a disinformation campaign that the American people were and still are manipulated psychologically by a campaign to deceive and divide us.

    People have to stop clinging to what they think they know and force themselves to look at their sources. There is an objective reality. Not all things are relative and some systems are more corrupt than others are. The real questions are these: if Adm. Rogers is right, why would a foreign power spend so much time and money to make Donald Trump the President of the United States and why are so many Americans oblivious to the damage Trump’s ‘win’ does to our Nation’s credibility as a global leader?

  5. One recent story,just this week, concerning fake news sites was about a fake news site with a wordpress.com extension. Monday I think, and about final election results….and for hours it was top a google search. I’ve been yelling about top down feeds and SEO manipulation for years. And currently mad at Facebook brass for dismissing any thought of fake news sites effecting election results.

    Regards,
    Doug

    • Hi Doug, welcome back. These sites are prevalent. There was a report about some people based in Macedonia who have profitable businesses of creating misinformation websites. Truth will be an increasingly rare commodity, so we should treasure it and protect it. Keith

  6. Dear Keith.

    I love this blog. The other sin by media is laziness and this includes the NY Times. The press loves to to be presented with leaked info that leans towards a hot story. Not sufficient diligence is given to make sure that there is sufficient context to paint the complete picture or the possible harm the vetting of the sensational material does to the public.

    For example, Wikileaks presented stolen emails by Russia from the DNC, the U.S. State Department and HRC’S campaign manager. The press disseminated this data which was hacked by a foreign government. a Russian tactic that the editors knew was designed to cause chaos in our democracy. Yet, the editors didn’t care about any of this and you are now seeing the resuts.

    The public would be sick to know that the investigative reporters never interviewed ex-US. state department experts regarding the internal handling of its emails, both classified and non classified. But if the media establishments’ reporters had done a minimum of this due diligence, the story on HRC’s email scandal would have lost its sensational news value.

    Ciao, Gronda

    • Gronda, this is a terrific addition to the discussion. PR people also feed storylines to news media, sometimes even writing the story. Media that takes the bait without question is lazy and culpable.

      One of my favorite examples is a well off family had to leave their house after the fracking industry released natural gas into their house. It could have exploded. After suing for damages, Fox News ran a spoon fed story about a family trying to take advantage of an important and trusted industry.

      On the flip side, PBS Newshour grilled the CEO of the company building a pipeline after he said there is no chance of the pipeline leaking into the Native American water supply. PBS had the CEO on his heels using data of pipeline leaks. PBS did their job, while Fox was doing PR for the industry.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Keith

  7. Note to Readers: The key word is accountability. We must be well-informed to hold leaders accountable. Bashar al-Assad denied on camera during an interview that his tanks were not rolling into a Syrian city, while the news source was showing his tanks rolling into the city. Our President-elect says his transition team is smoothly working, while evidence of chaos is apparent. Here is a key to remember over the next four years – if Trump attacks a source (he used the phrase “failing NY Times”) – he is more than likely lying. If he says, “believe me” after any comment, he is more than likely lying.

  8. great post Keith. I get my news from various sources. At the same time I never read anything from sources I know that spread disinformation, such as Fox News, Washington Times, Breitbart. Those are just a few. Keep up the good work of informing people!! and thank you.

    • Thanks Toby. With Trump in the White House, biased news will be there to perfume bad outcomes. He has to blame others when things don’t go his way, so he will find those outlets. Keith

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