Don’t rely on sources – follow the evidence

CNN pushes this mantra but many believe they promote fake news

When scientists evaluate published research we are more interested in evidence than in conclusions. In fact, the same evidence may lead scientific readers to different conclusions. That’s not surprising as in the real world no research project is able to consider all the theoretically possible evidence. Readers may, in fact, have other evidence. Or they may detect faults in authors’ interpretations.

I think this is a good thing. Considering the evidence allows competent critiques to be made and encourages knowledge to advance.

However, it annoys me that when we move outside the scientific environment we have to deal with situations where evidence may rarely be considered. People indulge in debating conclusions often with no regard to evidence. In fact, debaters seem to rely more on the real or perceived authority of their sources to support or discredit an argument, than on the evidence.

That’s just lazy. Source authority proves nothing and I would like to think that my discussion partners are capable of coming to a more reasonable position when they are forced to actually consider the evidence.

Both sides are guilty

Unfortunately, both supporters and opponents of a scientific viewpoint or consensus fall into this trap. Take the “fluoridation debate.” It annoys me that some supporters of the scientific viewpoint will respond to an opponent by disparaging their sources. The fact that the opponent is citing the activist Fluoride Action Network, the “Fluoride” journal or one of the shonky pay-to-publish journals where anti-fluoride activists sometimes get published does not, in itself, discredit their argument. On the other hand, if the actual evidence involved in those reports were discussed it might just be possible for the faulty conclusions to be exposed.

On the other hand, how often have I heard opponents of community water fluoridation reject the authority of scientific journals or published research because the workers were paid by the government (we must all get a wage from somewhere) or the journal or conference received industry sponsorship? I am not at all impressed by the refusal to consider the real evidence implied by falling back on disparaging sources.

The other tactic of supporting a claim by pointing to the high authority of the source is also repugnant. Even researchers and journals we generally consider “reputable” can still publish flawed work and even rubbish.

One of the most common arguments used by anti-fluoride campaigners is that the highly respectable, authoritative journal “The Lancent” has “officially” declared fluoride to be a “neurotoxin.” This is wrong on so many counts. The Lancet publishes research papers. It is not in the business of making official declarations on toxic compounds. The paper referred to did not describe fluoride as a “neurotoxin” – that word is inappropriate for describing a chemical of inorganic origin. The work cited in that paper was from areas of endemic fluorosis mainly in China and is not relevant to community water fluoridation. And the paper itself was not justified in making the limited conclusions it did on such poor evidence. I have discussed the paper more fully in Repeating bad science on fluoride.

The odds are, of course, that those activists citing this paper in such a manner have not actually read the paper – a common problem with people who rely on the authority of their sources rather than evidence. In fact, they are probably not at all interested in the details in most cases.

My point is reliance on authority is not a valid supporting argument any more than disparaging a source is a valid opposing argument. We should always follow the evidence – and rely on that evidence for our arguments in such discussions.

The political arena

This problem is even worse in the political sphere where so often we actually do not have evidence to fall back on. In fact, this situation seems to have got a lot worse of late where, for one reason or another, facts and evidence seem to be the last thing in the minds of “reporters” – or at least those who are continually telling us what we should think.

Unfortunately, discussion of political issues often leads people to claim they are using what they think as “reliable sources” or disparaging an opponent’s argument by claiming they are using “unreliable sources.” In fact, people who should know better, seem to often support their claims against any criticism by claiming it came from a “reliable source” or “authoritative source.” And these people who should know better will often resort to “attacking the messenger.” Criticising or rejecting information because it was reported by what they consider an “unreliable source.” The facts or evidence seem to be forgotten.

This can get pretty silly. I once had to confront the argument of a discussion partner who rejected the video recording of a statement made by a spokesperson for the US Department of State because it was part of a piece of RT news coverage! Especially silly as the video recording was probably an official one made by staff of the Department of State.

How often do we see people promoting partisan claims about the political hysteria in the US or the war in Syria by using sources like the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN or Al-Jazeera? Sources they claim are “reliable?” In my article  I described how the New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs carried out “due diligence” on the White Helmets organisation they were planning to give money to by referring simply to a report from Al-Jazeera. No attempt to dig deeper, to evaluate the veracity of the Al-Jazeera reports or to follow-up other sources critical of the White Helmets. Yet Al-Jazeera has a reputation for supporting “rebels”/”terrorists” in Syria. It is shocking that a New Zealand ministry was not prepared to make a more sensible judgment.

On the other hand, how often do we see people disparaging information or claims about the current US political hysteria or the war in Syria which with they disagree because it was reported by Sputnik, RT or one of a host of other “alternative” news sources?

Both sides of a political argument now denigrate the sources used by the other side as promoting “fake news.” And, to an extent, each side is probably right as every news sources these days has its own point of view – its own bias.

Reader beware – use a range of sources

Unfortunately, many readers seem more interested in confirming their own biases than dealing with real facts or evidence. Understandably these people will select the news source that suits them. That’s OK if you simply want to follow the “party line.” But it is lazy because it avoids any intelligent or critical analysis.

It is incumbent on the rest of us who are more interested in real facts and in drawing more credible conclusions to make an effort to consult a range of news sources and to critically analyse the claims, opinions and information we get from them. I believe that in today’s world there is no such thing as an authoritative or reliable source when it comes to political information. All the media – the “established mainstream media” as well as the “alternative media” are equally capable of publishing and promoting fake news.

We need to be aware of this, be prepared to use a variety of sources to avoid the “party line” problem, and critically analyse what we read so we can separate facts from opinions and unsubstantiated claims.

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14 responses to “Don’t rely on sources – follow the evidence

  1. David Fierstien

    Does the source matter? Good question.

    You don’t like it that when you posted this video of Tucker Carlson confirming your preconceived notions about “anti-Russian hysteria” in the U.S., I said, “Tucker Carlson was discredited long before you posted his video here. It’s not about you or your arguments this time. It’s about him.”

    Is it about the source, or is it about your argument?

    You are absolutely right. Upon reflection I have concluded that you used a biased, untrustworthy source, rendering your position moot. The sad thing is that you may have been right. Maybe there is an argument to be made against an anti-Russian, witch-hunting, mindset in the U.S., . . . but by using Tucker Carlson to voice that opinion, the argument has no credibility.

    And that is exactly what he did. He voiced his Opinion. He shared Your opinion with You, and that is exactly why you presented it.

    I had asked you previously, ‘What if the shoe were on the other foot? . . . What if Mrs. Clinton had been caught with her fingers in the Russian cookie jar after she won the election? . . .What if Chelsea Clinton had arranged a meeting with certain Russians to dig up dirt on Trump before that election? . . . Do you honestly believe that Tucker Carlson would be complaining about the current anti-Russian “hysteria” in the U.S.?’ — I would be very much interested in hearing Your answer.

    The correct answer is: Hell No he would Not. He would be the first one in line pushing the hysteria. He would be screaming for an impeachment. Tucker Carlson is a prostitute. He will say whatever he has to say to defend the Republican Party. Source Matters.

    I can pay a hooker to tell me that she loves me, but I would be smart not to believe her. That is because the Source Matters. . . You, on the other hand, have found a hooker (Carlson) to tell you she loves you (to echo your own beliefs back to you), and you have used that as some sort of basis for an argument. The source really does matter.

    You have done exactly what the anti-fluoridationists whom you complain about have done. These guys, who have never before read the Lancet, now use it as a very credible source because they can cite the word “neurotoxin.” These guys have never read anything by Phyllis Mullenix, or Stan Litras, but suddenly they are authoritative sources because they echo a pre-conceived belief back at the fanatics. The source doesn’t matter to these guys. All that matters is that they get to hear what they already believe

    And you? You found a guy on Fox News who shares your pre-conceived beliefs about anti-Russian hysteria (and in reality, he doesn’t even share the beliefs), and he tells you what you want to hear. No, source doesn’t matter for you, does it.

    Why can a piece-of-puke-on-canvass sell for over $100,000 just because it has the name Jackson Pollock on it? Because there is real value in the source.

    The United States has a president who likes to use the phrase, “Fake News” in describing unflattering media stories about him. The blatant lies of this president are unprecedented – and well documented: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html

    This president’s Official Spokesman said of his inaugural crowd: ““This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.” That is not only a verifiable lie, it is such a ridiculous claim that another Official Spokesperson actually coined the phrase “Alternative Facts” in a lame attempt to justify it.

    Of this president, both you, Ken, and he, have complained of the unfairness of the media, the “Fake News.” You said, “There is currently a campaign involving the media and elements of the intelligence community aimed at constraining the president’s actions.” That statement clearly supports this U.S. President.

    Here, as one of Many examples from this president, he says his “son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media” . . . . ““With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!”

    Ohh, . . . but the unfairness of it all. Sorry, Mr. President, but source matters. Sorry, Dr. Perrott, but those words are meaningless.

    Citizen Trump spent eight years trying to constrain, scorn, and delegitimize his president by pushing the story that President Obama is not a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya. Not only was Citizen Trump a blatant liar and an unapologetic racist, he showed no respect for the meager intelligence of anyone who might make the mistake of actually listening to him.

    And now we have you, Dr. Perrott, parroting the phrase “fake news.” When will we hear “alternative facts?” Your mistake is that you give weight to the words of someone whose words have no weight. Nothing this man says matters. . Truth, fiction, it’s all the same to him.

    So who are you going to believe? An unprecedented liar who coined the phrase “fake news,” or the “fake news?”

    The source matters.

    (btw, this comment from you is false: “ I once had to confront the argument of a discussion partner who rejected the video recording of a statement made by a spokesperson for the US Department of State because it was part of a piece of RT news coverage!” I didn’t reject the video. I know the video was made by the U.S. Department of State. But I sure as hell questioned its authenticity, as any rational person would, when confronted with a piece of hype from a news outlet whose sole function is to act as a propaganda mouthpiece for a regime known for the high murder rate of its own journalists. The fact that you didn’t initially question it says more about your bias than it does about mine. . . and you will recall, you did consider its authenticity after I raised the point.)

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  2. OK, David, I have just got back from a trip to see my new great grandson so am on a bit of a high in my current emotional roller coaster trip. But I still have no patience for the hostile rubbish you are coming out with.

    It was not a matter of liking or not liking your reaction to the video I posted. Your reactions are exactly what I expected from you. You are attacking sources rather than listening to content. And the fact you resort to such shooting of the messenger just confirms to me you have no valid argument against the content.

    It is lazy and dishonest because you refuse to deal with the real issues – which have nothing to do directly with sources – except to the extent they report the events and the degree of distortion they introduce in the process.

    Your reaction is not unique. I have been amazed at how many people I expected to know better have resorted to such source-bashing as an avoidance technique. I can only assume that many otherwise rational people suffer from partisanship. And anyway, it just confirms to me that humans are not a rational species. But my opinion of some people I have formerly respected has certainly dropped in the last year as I have seen their transition forms scientific commentary to political commentary.

    The purpose of my article was to confront that problem – and it seems lost on you. You say:

    “You are absolutely right. Upon reflection I have concluded that you used a biased, untrustworthy source, rendering your position moot. The sad thing is that you may have been right. Maybe there is an argument to be made against an anti-Russian, witch-hunting, mindset in the U.S., . . . but by using Tucker Carlson to voice that opinion, the argument has no credibility.”

    I agree I am right. But when has the description of a source as “biased and untrustworthy” ever dealt with the reported issues? Do you honestly believe that all experimental evidence (or even all conclusions) reported in Fluoride or FAN are wrong simply because they are reported there? Or that everything reported in The Lancet is right because you consider that a reliable and trustworthy source? I certainly don’t. I always look for the substance – and I repeat this is the normal and ethically correct thing for scientists to do. And just because I am commenting on political rather than scientific issues my methods of getting information and drawing conclusions do not change.

    Yes, I used Tucker to present what I considered a very valid opinion -= and more seriously – warning. I also presented the same warning in my own words. You have attacked both Tucker and me as sources. Tactically you think that diverts the issue from the content and limits our discussion of these problems. Yet they are very serious problems and it reflects badly on them that you absolutely refuse to discuss them.

    You attack me because I “have complained of the unfairness of the media.” Yes I have, and so have you – you are complaining wildly in this very comment of yours. The difference is I extend my criticisms, and the need to approach the media content intelligently and critically, to all media. And I refuse to be told to wear blinkers, be told what to think.

    You refer to my comment “There is currently a campaign involving the media and elements of the intelligence community aimed at constraining the president’s actions.” It’s certainly a comment I stand by and would like to see discussed (even if you wish to cover it up). I think the issue is extremely important – particularly for the US. But you are completely wrong to then say “That statement clearly supports this U.S. President.”

    I do not support the current US president – or any president of another country. I have called Trump a buffoon. I think he is laughable. But he did have one good policy platform – the reduction of international tension and cooperation in the struggle against terrorism.

    I publicly stated I think this was good and hoped he could succeed, At the same time, I also said I didn’t think he would be allowed to succeed. One way or the other he would be constrained (I specifically referred to the way the neocons torpedoed the agreement between Lavrov and Kerry on the Aleppo ceasefire to illustrate this). And I think that comment has been borne out. Trump has been a complete failure in the only policy which sensible people may have supported.

    You ask:

    ‘What if the shoe were on the other foot? . . . What if Mrs. Clinton had been caught with her fingers in the Russian cookie jar after she won the election? . . .What if Chelsea Clinton had arranged a meeting with certain Russians to dig up dirt on Trump before that election? . . . Do you honestly believe that Tucker Carlson would be complaining about the current anti-Russian “hysteria” in the U.S.?’

    The Clintons have their finger in all sort of jars – Russian (the uranium deal and much more) Saudi Arabia, etc., etc., More so than Trump ever has. Her campaign’s specific links with the Ukranian Embassy regarding influencing the election are currently being discussed. That is not a criticism – it is just what we expect in today’s global financial and capitalist world. None of these action s- either by the Clintons or Trumps – are actually illegal. they go on all the time in Washington.

    But, I ask you, if Clinton had won the election and Trump threw his toys out of the cot, threw a fit as the loser, a protested the election had been stolen via such links – do you honestly think the sections of the intelligence community and media that are driving this current campaign would have done a single thing. I don’t. Trump would have been a sole voice – a stupid loser. But the interests of the neocons and the military industrial establishment would not have been threatened one bit by Clinton’s election. Hence no campaign.

    I am disturbed to find that people I considered otherwise sensible could present that position of mine in the way you have. That shows and unthinking and extreme partisanship on your part. I am also disturbed that so many “progressives” and “liberals” who I might have in the past identified with have jou=ined this dangerous neo-McCarthyist hysteria and supported dangerous racist claims.

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  3. But he [Trump] did have one good policy platform – the reduction of international tension and cooperation in the struggle against terrorism.

    In addition I give him some kudos for canning the TPPA, though like most things he has an opinion on, he probably had next to no knowledge of, or interest in, its mechanics and content.

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  4. I must admit I didn’t think much about the TPPA issue. It seemed to me that if Obama couldn’t get it before the elections it was lost anyway.

    But it does raise the issue that Trump actually did have support for many of his policies. His supporters saw him as addressing real problems they had. But us ignorant public was not being told about this because the media are mainly concentrated in places like NY and California where those issues were not important on the whole. The media couldn’t give a stuff about the issues working people faced. So they fooled themselves. Became extremely partisan and confidently predicted a result that didn’t happen.

    This, of course, discredits the mainstream, media and only feeds the move of readers to alternative media.

    And the “official” still haven’t learned. They have gobbled up the fictions Clinton presented and now the public don’t get any real news – just reporting of the anti-Russia hysteria.

    Meanwhile, the real issue people are concerned about are being ignored by the media – and most probably by the politicians.

    Trump is not a person I would have supported for President but he did win the elections legally and if I was a US citizen I would have accepted that (just as I accept the election results in my own country which hardly ever go my way). It would be childish not to. Those who are upset about this will have another chance in 4 years. So far they don’t show any sense about this as they are not doing anything to overcome the corruption in the Democrats or develop policies the country needs.

    There is work to do there for people who support democracy and solving the country’s problems. I can only conclude those promoting and feeding this hysteria do not have this interest.

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  5. Should I feel guilty when I get my daily dose of chuckles and schadenfreude by reading MSM articles brought up on the Google news tab “Donald Trump”?

    It’s become almost addictive.

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  6. David Fierstien

    First of all, congratulations on the birth of your grandson. I wish you many years of happiness in watching him grow up.

    Now to your response to me:

    Ok, I think I get it. To sum up your comment: You = Intelligently and critically. . . Me = “attack the messenger,” and “diversionary tactics.”

    Thank you for making that so clear and easy to understand. But wait a minute, . . . One question, just so I’m clear. Would this be an example of “shooting the messenger?”

    Me, quoting an email from Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump Jr.: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

    You, responding to that quote: “ . . Goldstein seems to be rather a clown).”

    Now, under normal circumstances I would have concluded that you were just shooting the messenger here because the content of Mr. Goldstone’s email was an affront to your pro-Russian bias. But, since you have made it clear that you approach ALL issues “intelligently & critically,” something else must be going on here.

    Please explain to us all your prior knowledge of Mr. Goldstone, . . . What examples of his “clownish” behavior can you provide? . . . What critical, analytical method was used, and on what empirical evidence was it based? . . How long have you been aware of Mr. Goldstone’s existence?

    Other than the fact that you didn’t even get his name right, you must have great insight into his character and business dealings in order for you to make such a “critical and intelligent” statement. (He “seems to be rather a clown.”)

    Because that’s all you do, right? You would never just “shoot the messenger,” because his comment was a threat to your pro-Russian bias. Right? . . Get real, Ken.

    And of course I’m guilty of “diversionary tactics” and you are not. Right? But I didn’t quite get your answer to this. You copy/pasted an entire paragraph that I wrote, and you left out the most important part. Let’s do it again, this time in its entirety:

    “I had asked you previously, ‘What if the shoe were on the other foot? . . . What if Mrs. Clinton had been caught with her fingers in the Russian cookie jar after she won the election? . . .What if Chelsea Clinton had arranged a meeting with certain Russians to dig up dirt on Trump before that election? . . . Do you honestly believe that Tucker Carlson would be complaining about the current anti-Russian “hysteria” in the U.S.?’ — I would be very much interested in hearing Your answer.”

    Loved your answer, Ken: “The Clintons have their finger in all sort of jars – Russian (the uranium deal and much more) Saudi Arabia, etc., etc., More so than Trump ever has. Her campaign’s specific links with the Ukranian Embassy regarding influencing the election are currently being discussed. . . “

    That is odd, isn’t it. Because you would never be guilty of any kind of diversionary tactic, would you. The odd part is, I don’t see anything that answers the question about Tucker Carlson. That was the entire point of the paragraph that you so diligently copy/pasted.

    I see stuff about the Clintons, stuff they are guilty of, a uranium deal that not only has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but I think you are trying to imply that Mrs. Clinton’s signature, one of twenty by the way, is somehow on par with crimes against election laws. . . Stuff about Saudi Arabia . . more stuff about the Clintons, and on and on, . . . and more stuff about the Clintons.

    Explain to us all again how you don’t shoot the messenger or employ diversionary tactics? I guess it’s not as crystal clear as you seemed to suggest. Explain why you are so much superior in your intellectual and critical approach? Because the only answer I can come up with is that you are delusionary past the point of reality, and somehow it all makes sense in your mind.

    Ahh . . now I get it. You’ve moved past “fake news,” and now you’re demonstrating what “alternative facts” are.

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  7. David Fierstien

    Ken, your quote: “You refer to my comment “There is currently a campaign involving the media and elements of the intelligence community aimed at constraining the president’s actions.” It’s certainly a comment I stand by and would like to see discussed (even if you wish to cover it up).”

    Ok, let’s discuss it, and let’s be honest about it. Here it is in its entirety:

    “There is currently a campaign involving the media and elements of the intelligence community aimed at constraining the president’s actions. The methods used are often illegal and certainly ethically wrong.” You Stand By This Statement.

    I accused you of lying here. Did you? I asked you to provide one example in which the media did anything illegal to constrain this president. You accused me of being dishonest and of putting words in your mouth. Did I?

    No. Let me make this crystal clear for you.

    This is your lie: “ The methods used are often illegal and certainly ethically wrong.”

    When I was in the 7th Grade, we would dissect sentence structures so that we had a full and clear understanding of what we were saying and what was being said to us. This is basic.

    A sentence must have a Subject and a Verb. Someone or something (the subject) did or does something (the verb). Some sentences have Direct Objects and Indirect Objects. (Someone did something To something, or was done By something, the D.O., or something was the object of which the subject was somehow a recipient, the I.O.). This is common Grammar School knowledge. Everyone should know this.

    The subject in your sentence is the noun “methods.” The verb is “used.” The sentence, which calls for an direct object for clarification, lacks it. (Methods were used by whom?) Therefore, the implied direct object exists in the previous sentence, “the media and elements of the intelligence community.”

    You are saying both the media and intelligence community are using illegal methods to constrain this president. You are lying. I stand by my accusation. The media has never done anything illegal to constrain this president.

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  8. David Fierstien

    Ken, you ask: ” if Clinton had won the election and Trump threw his toys out of the cot, threw a fit as the loser, a protested the election had been stolen via such links – do you honestly think the sections of the intelligence community and media that are driving this current campaign would have done a single thing.”

    Yes. Absolutely. If Hillary Clinton had won this election . . . If Trump’s hacked emails had been dumped out onto the internet by wikileaks which had links to Gucifer 2.0, . . . If Chelsea Clinton, the president’s daughter, had been caught in a meeting trying to get political dirt on Trump, a meeting that was arranged with an email chain which included this: ” “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mrs. Clinton.” . . . And if the Republicans held Congress as they do, . . Impeachment hearings would be underway by now.

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  9. David, your attempts to misrepresent me are childish and the accusations of my lying are just getting tiresome (although quite consistent with the current attempts to cut off the head of asnyw=oen who points to the absence of clothing on the Emporer.

    it would be nice to think that your concentration on my vague sentence “The methods used are often illegal and certainly ethically wrong” means you accept that my charge that “There is currently a campaign involving the media and elements of the intelligence community aimed at constraining the president’s actions. Or is it just a diversion because3 you cannot find any way toi challenge my substantive suggestion?

    I purposely did not identify specifically those who are guilty of illegal and unethical actions. After all, so far no legal changes have been laid (except against the Democrat National Committee for misrepresentation of their selection process and I think that is a civil action).

    But, again, I think it is telling that you restrict your challenge for specificity only to the media. Is this again an acceptance on your part that people in the intelligence community are guilty of these actions? or is it again an attempt to divert attention away from parties who clearly violate the law and could possibly face criminal charges.

    The media report contacts with unnamed intelligence personnel who have passed information to them. They report having been shown classified documents. Now I do not pretend to understand US law but surely the hysteria over Chelsea Manning and Snowden would suggest these unnamed intelligence sources would face serious criminal charges if and when they are identified. Maybe they will claim they lied as part of a political campaign to protect themselves but I am not sure that could be a defence against the criminal act of leaking.

    So clearly these “leakers” in the intelligence community are guilty of criminal acts – and I think you diversionary attempts indicate you accept that.

    As for the media – again I am not familiar with US laws but understand legal, political and economic threats were a factor discussed by the US and UK media which finally released the information from Snowdon that had been passed on to them.

    I think this indicates that there could be grounds for prosecuting people in the media guilty of publishing classified information. it seems logical that the leaking process has two elements – the intelligence agent passing on the classified information and the media persons making that classified information publicly available. Given the political power of the press, it may be difficult to bring legal charges against individual reporters or media.

    The ethics of both sides are of course very questionable -especially as so much of the information has turned out to be fake or at least presented in an extremely misleading way. The fact that major news agencies have retracted stories indicates, on the one hand, the fake news they were reporting and on the other hand, possiblke attempts to protect themselves against legal action.

    So, I think the leaking and publication of classified information (even false information or misrepresentation of it) do, in principle, make both parties guilty of criminal acts.

    I do not think we can expect much sense from the current president but one would think a strong and principled president would devote large resources to finding and charging people in the intelligence community that are committing these crimes, potentially treasonous crimes. If that were to occur I imagine there could well be legal results for their partners in crime in the media.

    There is another intriguing possibility. Several state leaders in the US and NATO are demanding laws to control the dissemination of fake news and legal actions – even banning – against news agencies guilty of this. Their targets are of course Russian news media like Sputnik and RT (and those news agencies occupied the majority of the discussion in the major US intelligence report – perhaps indicating their real concern). The mind boggles at how they will achieve this. it will probably be something as simple as just banning alternative, particularly Russian, news sources. However, if they were ever going to make a charge of fake news stick in a court of law I wonder how they could avoid the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, CNN, New York Time, etc., from being declared illegal.

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  10. Goldstone struck me as particularly clownish because he seriously referred to a Russian Crown prosecutor – it doesn’t take much thought to recognise that is stupid. He is an intertainer and I don’t think anyone seriously sees him as a reliable political source. My comment about the weird behaviour of some of the people involved in organising this meeting had nothing to do with your statement or quote.

    Interestingly though, the Russian lawyer involved (whose family is currently threatened and who has been disgusted with the misreporting of her position) has made it clear that while she will no longer talk to the media (because of their misrepresentation) she is keen to talk to a serious legal body – even before Congress. Considering her interests she could well have explosive information (explosive for Clinton too) to do with the corrupt draining of Russian resources by the criminal businessman and Magnitsky Act lobbyist William Browder and possible political use of his funds in the US. I hope she does get a chance to provide her information to Congress – although I imagine there will be powerful people who won’t allow it.

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  11. David Fierstien

    I’m going to start with this hypocritical “shooting of the messenger” from you:

    “Goldstone struck me as particularly clownish because he seriously referred to a Russian Crown prosecutor – it doesn’t take much thought to recognise that is stupid.”

    His comment was probably a reference to Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika, Russia’s Prosecutor General. This error could easily have resulted from Goldstone’s country of origin and would be quite understandable. It would not have been the outrageous mistake you would like to characterize.

    Hell, YOU make more serious mistakes than that all the time. Let’s recap comments from your past two posts, shall we:

    First, you accused the media of illegal activity, . . . and then you said you never said it, and you accused me of putting words in your mouth. . . . Then you said you never accused any specific parties of illegal activities, after having said U.S. Intelligence committed illegal activities by leaking. . . Then again you said Intelligence did commit illegal activities . . . then you said the media committed illegal activites also.

    Any objective person (oops, that lets you out) reviewing your comments can see the truth in my recap. And I would be happy to document and quote if need be.

    By your own criteria you are a clown.

    Nevertheless, you are still shooting the messenger. Objectively, you are a blatant hypocrite.

    Of Goldstone, you say, ” He is an intertainer and I don’t think anyone seriously sees him as a reliable political source.” (Shooting the messenger again?)

    Trump is an intertainer (sic.). Why do you consider him a reliable?

    And this is, from you, is a joke:

    “the Russian lawyer involved . . is keen to talk to a serious legal body – even before Congress. Considering her interests she could well have explosive information (explosive for Clinton too) . . . I hope she does get a chance to provide her information to Congress – although I imagine there will be powerful people who won’t allow it.”

    What powerful people!? Republicans hold the Presidency, the Congress, and the Supreme Court – All three branches of government. Republican own U.S. political power. If there is anything “explosive for Clinton” to be revealed, the government would pay 1st class airfair and provide secret service protection.

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  12. No, I don’t see Trump as reliable – I don;t what ever gave you the idea to suggest I do.

    You are now seriously suggesting that Goldstone’s clownish reference to a crown prosecutor refers to “Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika, Russia’s Prosecutor General.” Any evidence for that? No, I thought not. My specific memory is that the prosecutor generals office has denied the whole suggestion – explaining that is not how they work. If they have material to convey to US authorities it goes through official channels. Goldstone is hardly official. He is an entertainer with links to Trump through the entertainment industry.

    You ask what powerful people. Obviously, those behind the current campaign (includes Republicans and well as Democrats as well as members of the deep state. Natalia Veselnitskaya’s concern seems to be the way her country was robbed. William Browder despite being a criminal in Russian eyes is flavour of the month in the US – as are all those other oligarchs and criminals that fell foul of Russian law because of their robbery, murders and non-payment of taxes. I cannot see the powers that be in the US allowing the truth to come out about him.

    But we will see – she has made the offer. And I am sure she has some interesting information.

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  13. Isn’t this a battle between system I and system II thinking? Following the evidence being slow, time-consuming system II behaviour that we can’t all afford to do, and trusting a source being a useful time-saving, fast system I shortcut? We can’t all afford to follow all the evidence all the time.

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  14. I agree, Andy. Following evidence is time-consuming – not easy. But isn’t trusting a source dangerous. Have a look at my article on the Boston Free Speech rally (https://openparachute.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/from-charlottesville-to-boston-a-lesson/). I got a real shock when I actually checked out the facts here. The mainstream media – practically all of it, had grossly misrepresented that situation. The counter-demonstrators were grossly misinformed. That is dangerous. History shows us many cases of the tragic consequences arising out of a misinformed mass movement (for example the Maoist Cultural revolution in China).

    I find more and more the best policy is to actually withhold judgement in cases where I haven’t been able to check the facts.

    Perhaps what I am recommending is for people to withhold blind trust, rely on a wider range of sources for their information (take off those blinkers) and develop the habit of withholding judgement instead of blindly following what the mass media is recommending.

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