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Fishing in the information stream

A discussion about politics last night brought to mind an unfortunate defect in a lot of "moderates" and "libertarians" in the internet/IT business: despite the avowed intent of the public schools to teach "critical thinking skills" over the last 30-40 years, most people still suck at it, and at worst wind up being a bunch of snarky nihilists who can't evaluate and process news to save their lives.

It's a truism that intelligence agencies spend a lot of their time looking at foreign media: newspapers, TV, radio. Open-source intel. This works just as well for totalitarian regimes and dictatorships as it does for free republics and democracies, but an important and ongoing part of the work is evaluating the reliability and accuracy of sources. As someone who was trained on the collection side of the house, I didn't get much formal training in analysis, but to be honest, growing up Catholic and conservative made up for that. I knew from very early on that major newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times simply could not be relied on to report honestly on what the Church was doing or what conservatives/Republicans actually said and thought. This was even more true of the major TV networks.

So when election time comes around, conservative and libertarian candidates aren't just trying to beat their liberal opponents, they're facing a tag-team of liberal candidates and their media spear-carriers. While there are people who argue that the mainstream media are conservatively biased because of their corporate ownership, this doesn't hold up under even minimal scrutiny. Journalists and editorial writers are cut from the same liberal cloth: they want to make a difference in the world by expanding government, and naturally sympathize with politicians who want to do the same thing. This isn't me being all ; this has been well-documented, and even the media don't bother to deny it any more.

This brings us around to the left-wing blogs that make up the "netroots", or Nutroots, as we call them on our side of the fence. They've been having a hard time lately because their space in the infosphere is already occupied by the media, specifically MSNBC and the more loony pundits/editorialists at the NYT. It's an insult to my intelligence, frankly, to suggest that I keep an "open mind" and treat the Nutroots as an authoritative news source about stuff going on in the GOP. As part of my Unpaid Blog Intern duties at Stacy's place, I have to read Memeorandum five days a week, and Nutroots blogs like TPM, ThinkProgress, and The Moderate Voice (sic) are all over the place like flies in a dungyard. And that's about as close as I want to get to those news sources. While the MSM may be deliberately inaccurate now and again, most of them have some pride left and will correct their mistakes...on page A16 for an A1 story, true, but at least they DO it. You can't say that about the Nutroots. They have amply proven themselves unreliable and inaccurate - so why should I waste my time on them when I already have to read articles by the MSM?

It depresses me that so many of my friends waste time reading crap from those blogs, but as I've remarked before, you can't talk to people who don't listen. They're smart people. Maybe once their oxen get gored a few times they'll figure it out.

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( 2 comments )
(Deleted comment)
wombat_socho
Oct. 26th, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't know about Fox being as bad as CNN, to say nothing of Comedy Central. (I have complained about Jon Stewart's "serious when I wanna be"/"clown nose on - clown nose off" persona elsewhere; suffice it to say for now that he's an irresponsible prick, and a major contributor to political illiteracy.) Fox has yet to be caught sucking up to some foreign dictator, as CNN did, and tends to have a lot more liberal pundits around than CNN has conservatives. This is all second-hand news, mind you; I don't actually watch Fox or any of the other broadcast networks.

Your criticism of the education system is one I heard constantly during my years in ed school, but as far as I could tell from my own kids' experience and what I see in the news/blogosphere, the public schools are every bit as crappy at teaching the facts as they are at teaching critical thinking. So they're not really doing *anything* well, especially the urban school districts.
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