Tag Archives: Media

Critical thinking, not censorship, is the solution to fake news

All this talk about fake news brings to my mind a picture of people in glass houses frantically throwing stones. The fact is that many of those complaining about fake news, especially those dominating our mainstream media, are guilty of promoting fake news – and have done it for years.

I can’t help thinking what really upsets them, is that their readership may be becoming a bit more critical and looking for other sources of news. They are trying to poison the water.

Edward Snowden’s interview from last December 13 is very relevant here. The above video is just a clip from the full video where he talks about fake news – why it’s happening and what to do about it. I really like his conclusions:

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.”

This really is a time when we have to oppose attempts to limit our access to information. We must not allow the political and media elite to tell us what we can and cannot read and view. We must not allow them to tell us that some news sources ar “out of bounds.” We must not allow them to put blinkers on us.

Alternative media only part of the answer

Sure, accessing alternative new sources is not the full answer – it is only part of the answer. All news sources have a bias, an agenda. For the unthinking person, the solution might be to choose the news source which confirms their own bias or agenda. But that is really unthinking – and it certainly is not a defense against fake news. Quite the opposite. The unthinking acceptance of fake news only encourages it.

No, the answer is to resort to critical thinking. By recognising that all sources may be guilty of fake news – and all news sources have a bias and agenda – we can start thinking for ourselves. We develop the skills of listening and viewing these sources critically. Balancing the information from one source against another. Thinking about the credibility of news stories and the sources they rely on. Recognising bias and false news when we come across it.

Moving towards censorship?

Unfortunately, the political and media elite are working hard to discredit alternative news sources. And their attempts are determined, serious and occurring at a high level. It is hard to envisage truly democratic countries accepting the sort of censorship this seems to be promoting. But have a read of Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia.” Produced by the right-wing Henry Jackson Society this report actually advocates a range of extreme measures, including legislation, controlling the media appearances of politicians and the deliberate intensive undermining of the credibility of “non-approve” news media.

I have seen local journalists actually advocating measures as if they are lifted unchanged from this document – so much for a professional approach to their occupation. And this approach is inherent in the recently adopted resolution of the European parliament on the media and “anti EU-propaganda.”

It is hard to see how such censorship could even be effective in the age of the internet. But the incessant propaganda about false news and attempts to discredit alternative news sources – not for the news they carry but just because they are alternative – is encouraging forms of self-censoring for many individuals. People are being encouraged to reject information because it is from an alternative new source, and not because of the information itself. They are being encouraged into wearing blinkers.

Avoiding self-censorship

A simple exercise. How many time do you see a comment or piece of information on social media rejected out of hand because it was reported on RT, or another alternative news source? Then compare that with the number of times you have seen similar rejections because the report was carried by CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, etc. Yet all those news media are just as capable of carrying false news as each other. One has only to have followed the US Presidential elections or the Syrian war to recognise that.

Full video

The full interview of Edwards Snowden by Twitter’s  Jack Dorsey and Snowden’s answers to Twitter questions is well worth watching. He is a very intelligent man and should not be ignored.

Here is the full video.

Conclusion

Again it is very much a matter of “reader beware.” We have to stop trusting news sources just because they are “mainstream”.”official,” or “approved.” We have to resist the pressure for self-censorship and the wearing of blinkers that the current political and media elite are promoting.

We should be unafraid and should take advantage of all the sources available to us in this age of the internet.

And, above all, we have to develop and protect our critical thinking skills so that we can use this media – mainstream and alternative – wisely.

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Studies show – or do they?

studies-show

This article from The Spud – Sentences that start with “studies show” usually followed by bullshit, study shows really resonates with me. I have had a gutsful of terms like “studies show” or “scientists have found,” etc. They are simply used to give authority to all sorts of claims – but authority requires the reader to do a bit of work. Check out these studies. Find out exactly what they do say. Don’t take such claims at face value.


A recent study in the Journal of Studying Studies, concluded that sentences which start with “studies show” tend to be followed by inaccurate information.“We looked at several health news stories, anti-vaccine websites, pseudoscience pages which cover things like homeopathy and naturopathic medicine, and found that in almost all cases when a story or headline begins with “studies show” it usually meant the studies were very poor and the author didn’t fully understand the evidence they were presenting,” said researcher Dr. Ernest Young.In response to this latest news, Natural News founder Mike Adams replied with “Studies show that almost all of the studies going against natural medicine are funded by big pharma and all part of the global conspiracy perpetuated by the Illuminati and Agenda 21. I know how to juggle.”The report will be available in next months issue.

Source: Sentences that start with “studies show” usually followed by bullshit, study shows – The Spudd

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The Bain illusion

Cover via Amazon

The recent media discussion of the “I shot the prick” is rather distasteful. That’s the discussion about a “hidden message” in the recording of David Bain‘s emergency phone call on the day his family was murdered.

Whether or not this should have been submitted as evidence during the trial there is no doubt that the interpretation is highly imaginative. Trouble is with these sort of things, once you are told what the alleged “hidden message” is there is no way you are not going to hear it. We are all very suggestible this way.

Michael Shermer describes a beautiful example of this illusion using the song Stairway to Heaven played backwards. Initially you don’t make sense of it but once you are told what the message is meant to be you can’t help hear hear demonic lyrics. He describes this phenomena, and other similar illusions in his TED talk “Why people believe strange things” in the video below. He also goes into this perception problem in his book Why People Believe Weird Things.

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