Media and truth
2016 was quite a year - so much happening - especially sad things. But the media depends on attracting readers in a market where people have ever decreasing attention spans being competed for by ever increasing media - including social media. Good news might only provide a fill-in item - but there is a lot of good news, even though it seldom features kin "the news". It has become quite difficult to know what to believe - and many people have given up trying to make sense of so much conflicting "data".
Obama reportedly repealed a law requiring media to report truth. Given the fact that the CIA clearly lies (they call it misinformation) this sounded credible - but I can no longer find the article which reported this (I didn't bookmark it at the time) and have found the whole concept of truth in news reporting is much bigger than I'd appreciated.
It is also said that when Snopes branched out into political issues, it appointed Democrats to deal with it. The writer had avoided Snopes ever since. I have used Snopes for some time as a first level fact checker. There are others, and simply searching usually produces various opinions. But I can no longer assume Snopes is totally reliable. of course I've had to use other sources - especially for older stuff - such as what St Francis - or even Einstein - actually said. (If Einstein had said a fraction of what he supposedly said, he'd have been a very busy boy.)
I recently saw a report that links cancer with an element. The first two sites in a search basically contradicted each other. As usual the truth is somewhere in the middle - some cancers are at increased risk - but what the risk is I still don't know. The same with Fukushima radiation making fish dangerous to eat. It seems fish in our waters aren't affected. Of course canned fish from Northern waters would be. But our fish is subject to other radiation. My conclusion is yes, there's some radiation in our fish - but our weekly fish intake continues as the risk is low. Obviously it would be higher if we ate fish daily.
Recently I shared the concern of many about NZ becoming anti Israel by putting forward a resolution at the UN. Some of the people I saw jumping to Israel's defence are people I have a great respect for. But eventually I searched for the actual resolution. If what I found is a true and fair account, all it deals with is the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied territory.
Even this is a complex issue. Definitions of occupied occupied territory as including key Israeli sites is problematic. Israel has Arab residents - so why don't Arabs want Israelis? However ignoring these complex issues, I found this as what I feel is largely a reasonable approach. Note I have no idea about PragerU or the individual concerned. Every person can make mistakes - but I have realised that rejecting everything from a source because that source once (or a thousand times - not thinking specifically of Donald Trump) made a mistake is a sign of laziness.
There are surprisingly many reports on the media and truth. One simple case shows just how corrupt the system is. If you want your opinion to be convincing, make sure you get the facts. But determining what the facts are, what are opinions, and what are lies is no longer a relatively simple matter. Here's an interesting article that really highlights the mess we're in. As a fan of Orwell I thought I was relatively aware of these issues. But the author is more concerned about Huxley's world - and makes some good points on analysing what is actually going on:
- Treat false allegations as an opportunity.
- Don't expect the media to do the job for us.
- Make children aware of information environments.