October 13, 2011

I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists asks:

How do you differentiate truth from propaganda when you consume information? How do you wade through the intentional misinformation, disinformation, manipulated "facts" that aren't facts and formulate your decision? Group Discussion.

Because it kind of matters.

People on the Internet answer:

Either you don't care and smoke alooooot of.... or, you do care and and read articles from as "middle of the road" sources as possible, all the while using commonsense and history to decipher bullshit from objectivity.

By living. I live in a poor world, I am a poor person scraping by. I don't need some person on the news, or in articles to tell me what it is like living like this, or what I need to change so that I don't live like this. I don't listen to them, I listen to my life, and I listen to my friends and families lives. I study something if I don't understand it, from as many different objectives as I can. As for wading through the misinformation and facts, easy, we see the truth every day walking down the street.

Being a social scientist, I give priority to stuff with footnotes that sounds scholarly and doesn't come a Koch-afilliated think tank.

Look for red flags... "Some people say".. opinions stated as fact with no reference.. actually that is the advantage of the written word.. fact checking.. references.. truthfulness.. while differences of opinion and interpretation are to be expected and embraced, you must look at the basis for those opinions and interpretations.. the format of a television interview says a lot about its value... a reporter gets someone on their show and asks them questions and lets them answer..they then grab an opposing person to speak to the issue..without that back and forth, transparent discourse.. you have.. propaganda.

Red herring, straw man, appeal to fear, appeal to authority, begging the question, bandwagon fallacy, ad hominem, appeal to ignorance, appeal to emotion, slippery slope, and my favorite, reductio ad Hitlerum - these are the basic tools of the propagandist. Learn to recognize them and develop argument super powers. Almost everything said by O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Beck, etc., falls into one of these categories. It would be amusing if so many people didn't fall for it.

1. Have more than one source of mainstream media, both in print and video. If you watch MSNBC, then you HAVE to go to FOX for the counterpoint. In other words, get the whole mainstream media story. New York Post vs New York Times is another example. Also, international news companies report on issues differently (at least somewhat) than American media; so its good to check out BBC, Al Jazeera among others.

2. Consume independent media that is NOT produced or sponsored by mainstream cable outlets or major print media. Although the video content is not as prevalent as in big-budget operations, the print media and blogs are 20x more informative than half of the garbage that makes it into the major papers. Alternet, Truthdig, RT, Democracy Now and MoveOn are my choices. Also, Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS.org is a great resource for the issues facing our country. This process is where the true counterpoint begins to show in mainstream/corporate media bias.

3. Read world and American histories. Though even history books are often skewed, a greater arc of the histories of wealth, distribution of power and war reveals itself. Class structures, inequality, labor conditions (feudalism, tenant labor, slave labor etc), poverty, dis-empowerment and the rise of banking and corporate structures becomes clear. Spend extra time learning about the founding fathers of America, the democratic process, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Study the major philosophical and social movements of the past 500 years; particularly in Europe and America. Know the difference between "enlightenment thinkers" and the power-hungry. One wants good for everyone, while the other wants good for himself alone.

4. Learn how to think for yourself and critically analyze the information you consume. This entails going outside the box of comfort (see steps 1-3 above). First, you have to do research. Include reading independent studies, scholarly papers, academic journals and expert opinions on major topics like law, economics, labor, government, philosophy, sociology and so forth. With a basic grasp of these subjects, then you can make greater sense of media content instead of having it explained to you by some corporate spokesperson or pitched by pundits/lapdogs. Critical analysis isn't just having the information for reference, it is reading between the lines and coming to your own conclusions.

5. Study current events. Discuss current events with your peers. Know your rights.

6. See the bigger picture. Get an idea of who owns what and what different groups advocate. Come to your own educated opinions on matters instead of allowing major media, independent media or anyone else telling you what to think (which is the hallmark of bad journalism). The best way to distinguish propaganda from fact is whether or not the agency, reporter, pundit or panel allows opposition opinion to be heard and admitted to the debate. If there is only one side of the story being respected and the other is either non-existent or berated as a general rule...well, I shouldn't have to tell you its contrary to the democratic process.

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