There’s a saying when it comes to programming: “Garbage in, garbage out.” This refers to the results of executing a program; if you intend for your program to add two numbers, but provide it a letter and a punctuation mark as input, what comes out, if anything, will be nonsensical.
It’s almost routine these days to look at the commenters on a blog post or a news article and roll your eyes at the stupidity of it. “How do these people survive the day without choking on a fistful of paste?” you might ask yourself. We all know other largely intelligent people who either buy into certain conspiracy theories, or buy into everything that Brian Williams tells them, when the truth is likely somewhere in between.
It is absolutely imperative as a representative of liberty that you have wisdom as you take in all of the information that is fed to you. It is only with good information that you can draw good conclusions. This can be anything from knowing that an individual is telling the truth to knowing when to bug out.
Ronald Reagan is famous for his line, “Trust, but verify.” This is applicable not just for relationships with friendly nations, but also when processing news from a trusted source. There are only one or two people from whom I would accept shocking news (“There’s an alien incursion in Portland”) at face value. For everyone else, I’m Missouri: “Show me.”
Let’s look at some places where you can get information and news and consider their trustworthiness.
Domestic Mainstream Media (ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX/CNN/USA Today/Your Local Fishwrap/Etc):
Usually basic facts from the MSM are reliable: “There was a shooting on Main Street,” “The president is in town today,” “The Dow dropped 1200 points,” and so on. Once they start getting into the details, that’s where things get shady.
When we think about the MSM, the first word that comes to many minds is, “bias.” Usually there’s a leftist/progressive bias, sometimes it’s a rightist/nationalist bias. For example, this link.
Most people have looked through a peephole in their door at one time or another. The image through it is a distorted view of the world outside. If you search online you can find a device called a “peephole reverser”. As the name states it reverses the effect of the peephole, allowing one to see a clear picture of what’s happening inside.
When we’re aware of the reporter and editors’ bias, it’s like being armed with a peephole reverser. We can read between the lines and extract facts from their reporting that they didn’t necessarily intend to reveal.
Look also in the comments section. Often folks will claim to be witnesses to the event being reported on or will have additional information. These sources will need to be viewed with a critical eye, but can be valuable.
Foreign News Networks (BBC, RT):
Often you’ll find that although the foreign networks have their own biases (RT is a Russian propaganda site, for instance), their reporting is a little heavier on substance and lower on fluff. In addition, it’s important to get a global view when considering foreign threats.
Aggregators (Google News, newsnow.co.uk), Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) and Social Media (Facebook, Yahoo):
In the case of aggregators, search engines, and social media, you’re at the mercy of the curators when it comes to what information and news articles you are provided with. For example, this article from Wired.com.
Also in the “really bad” camp: Facebook censored news all the time. Did you ever wonder why certain events aren’t picked up in trending topics on Facebook? There you go.
We are approaching a time where the minds of the general public are able to be molded like never before.
“Alternative” media (Infowars, Blogs, etc):
Ninety-five percent of the “Alternative” media is garbage; they sell shock and awe like the tabloids of old. Their sole job is to drum up subscriptions and advertising dollars. While there are some nuggets to be pulled out of them, you’re wiser to look elsewhere. For those who scream that Alex Jones is always right…remember: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Bloggers are hit or miss; for every Mike Vanderboegh out there doing solid journalistic work (such as Fast and Furious), there’s a million numbskulls putting out drivel from their mothers’ basements.
At the end of the day, just like what you eat and put into your body, only you can control what you read and put into your mind. What you put into your mind drives what your mouth and your hands do, and ultimately will determine how effective you are in your mission. Take the time to read, but verify your information. Don’t assume that it’s true because you read it on the Internet.