The war on information

How do we discern what is going on? Well, Salvageable offers some good suggestions, but there is no fail-safe solution. Sometimes we all make mistakes.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln

Do you want to be one of those people who gets fooled all the time? Then don’t even try to learn the truth, but please don’t vote. It won’t do you any good anyway.

Salvageable

Ray Bradbury wrote a number of science fiction stories in which a totalitarian government attempted to forbid the preservation of literature and history. The government tried to maintain control over the population by restricting information available to that population, often by forbidding and burning books. In one of his stories, though, Bradbury imagined the government controlling citizens by using the opposite extreme. The government flooded the market with information, producing so much material that no one could receive it all and comprehend it all. Important matters were lost in the flood of information, and the citizens were unable to resist control from the government under that condition.

Contemporary society has, perhaps, reached the point that Bradbury envisioned. The ordinary laws of supply and demand—and not a malevolent government—have overwhelmed people of our time with information of every kind. We have at our fingertips news and history, medical information, the results…

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10 thoughts on “The war on information

  1. The article is good in general, but suffers from false equivalences and completely misses out on dedicated disinformation campaigns, an example from the past being the tobacco wars. Lesson to learn: When faced with liars and gullible enablers on one side of a discussion, the only way to get to the truth is to get competent on the subject matter. Just comparing he said she said does not cut it.

    On my part, listening to satire is a coping mechanism. If the news are dire, the least you can do is have a laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No article on this subject is complete, I fear.

      Ever read “A Modest Proposal” by by Jonathan Swift (=> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal)? For some reason he published it anonymously.

      I too seek comic relief, but I tend to prefer the comics to satire, not as angry. Only part of the newspaper that I find amusing. Even so, they stick political satire in it occasionally. Some comic strips I do not bother reading. The venom in the bite overwhelms the humor.

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  2. I’m finding it more and more difficult to get any unbiased information, anywhere.
    I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m not even sure it’s even possible to find anymore. At one time (Walter Cronkite time) the purpose of the news was to inform.
    Now it’s to entertain.
    They have to compete with all the other sources of entertainment out there so everything is written in the style of clickbait.
    Whenever I read an article of interest, I try to find the original source material if possible (the original study or survey). That’s usually very enlightening.
    Michael Crichton mentioned something called the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect that holds true, in my experience:
    ““Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    These days everyone has whiplash from the deluge of current event histrionics.
    It’s sensory overload, folks have to pick and choose…usually it’s the object most shiny (which is typically the least likely). But their attention span is limited so the outrage is over quickly. Lower the bar, wash, rinse, repeat with a fresh outrage piece the next day, and the next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @anon

      The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is funny, but true enough.

      Can we find unbiased news? Only if God decides to become our reporter of choice. It was not obvious at the time, but Walter Cronkite was biased. He and the other talking heads of his day just hid their biases well.

      One thing many of us missed when the NBC, CBS, and ABC ruled is that the FCC licensed the airwaves. Our government licenses radio and TV broadcast stations. Even though we supposedly have free speech, the government can decide who gets to broadcast his speech over the air. Thus, what we once considered objective journalism was really just neutered journalism.

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      1. Though it is true the older generation of newsmen were biased and metaphorically “neutered” everything is relative and a certain level of veracity was required. I don’t see that now. I look back at Dan Rather’s firing with a little nostalgia now.
        At least he was held to some level of accountability for giving the “fake but accurate” information. I don’t see that now. Fake news is rewarded in that it is effective and offers a powerful impact. Trying to combat misinformation is like fighting a hydra. Later when the “real story” comes out, no one cares. They’ve moved on and the impression lasts. Case in point, the “Russians hacked our election” meme.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @anon

          Oddly, I think that overall the news is better than it was. With the advent of the Internet, the big three networks have lost control, and the mainstream news media is slowly becoming the legacy news media. The mainstream media is dishonest, but their main techniques not changed. They cover what fits their agenda and they ignore what does not.

          Consider the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. US troops won, but the news media defined it as a loss. And so in political terms that is what it became.

          The news media saved Clinton from impeachment and restored his reputation. Nixon they destroyed.

          Today the focus is on the vague notion that Trump is under criminal investigation. For what exactly? Well, the fact he is a Republican seems to be all that is required. That story will be used to get the Sanders nut attack on Republican congressmen off the front page.

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  3. Fortunately, we all have the ability to filter the media we receive.

    Unfortunately, the mainstream media is mostly “fake news,” socially and morally corrupt and devilishly inflammatory and politically partisan to the extreme.

    The vast America that elected THE Donald is simmering with disgust as it watches the Empire strike back.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most of the news is blather. The talking heads just try to fill airtime with nonsense intended solely either get attention or further corporate interests.

    Since video takes more time to digest, it is usually simpler just to pick up a newspaper or visit a “print” media website and selectively read what we find most sensible. If something doesn’t look credible, but actually is, if it is important the sheer volume of the noise about it will force us to take note.

    What is most difficult is to get the news the mainstream media refuses to cover. That is what keep small Conservative news organizations in business.

    Like

  5. Sorry Tom but I could not get passed the intro:

    You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln

    Do you want to be one of those people who gets fooled all the time? Then don’t even try to learn the truth, but please don’t vote. It won’t do you any good anyway.

    There is actually no proof that Lincoln ever said that. In fact the text speech in which he uttered those words (Clinton, IL 1858) contains no such words. It is all based on rumor and recollections that were at the time (1904-05) quite untrustworthy. Even if at some point Lincoln did utter those words, if he tried to take credit for them (which I doubt) it should be considered plagiarism. Jacques Abbadie a French Protestant in 1684 in his work apologetics titled: “Traité de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne” in Chapter 2 writes: “One can fool some men, or fool all men in some places and times, but one cannot fool all men in all places and ages.”

    Maybe we do want people to be fooled all the time? Unfortunately that seems to be the norm today in all things.

    Like

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