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Being well-informed amid media madness, part I

If you’re like me (and I expect in this particular way, you are), you probably like to be well-informed — to be conversant with what’s going on in the world. Being well-informed enables us to conduct intelligent conversations with intelligent people, make better decisions, and also to prepare ourselves and our families for what might be coming at us.

“What might be coming at us” has taken on special urgency in the few last years — and months!

But how can we be well-informed when so many sources of information have either a) gone completely bonkers or b) chosen to manipulate the “news” solely for political ends or c) both?

—–

Let’s face it. Reporting has always been biased, heavily mixed with ignorance and sloppiness, and representing somebody’s agenda other than our own. From Hearst starting his wars to “Father of Our Country” Walter Cronkite faithfully conveying only what a handful of power brokers decided we should know, and even to the relatively coherent Fox and CNN of a few years ago, there’s never been unbiased or even reliably accurate news.

But used to be you could create yourself a simulacrum of unbiased and accurate by checking multiple sources. Maybe start your day out with a bit of Fox, a bit of CNN, the New York Times, and then a few well-curated libertarian news aggregators. Or visit the RealClear suite of sites online which, by design, balance each “conservative” news or opinion link with a (formerly) liberal or “progressive” one.

RealClear is still one of the best bets if you’re looking for views on several sides of an issue. Problem is, the sides themselves have become increasingly meaningless, at least as far as their news value goes.

For instance, if you want to seek a counterbalance Fox’s “TOTAL CHAOS AT THE BORDER!!!! COVID-CARRYING UNACCOMPANIED BABIES!! MS-13 ON YOUR DOORSTEP!!” you go to CNN and instead of finding a different view of the border situation it’s more like “Border? What border? We’ve never heard of any border.” (Or at least so it’s been since the border became Biden and President Harris’ problem, rather than Trump’s. Funny how, just a few months ago, according to CNN, the border was a hotbed of chaos, racism, and all manner of injustice. But apparently that’s all been solved now. 😉 )

Want to see what reasoned arguments “progressives” make in favor of the cancel culture that has the right, libertarians, and traditional liberals so alarmed? Good luck. Few outlets on the left report on the firings, speech suppressions, and ruined reputations at all (except occasionally to justify their own firings and suppressions). And the “progressives” themselves merely retort, “SHUT UP YOU CIS-GENDERED, TRANSPHOBIC, PRIVILEGED WHITE SUPREMACIST! THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE AND IF YOU QUESTION US WE’LL DOX YOU, RUIN YOUR REPUTATION, DRIVE YOU OFFLINE, AND HOUND YOU OUT OF YOUR JOB!”

Riots in the streets? There are none, absolutely none, according to the “left.” If we mention them at all, it’s because those are oppressed people peacefully and justifiably protesting. Except of course there was that one really, really horrible, deadly, racist, unpatriotic, Trump-inspired attempted coup and (did I say deadly) insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Which of course had no justification at all. Except … Nazis.

Riots in the streets? Every darned night our cities are on fire solely because of Democrat politicians and Marxist agitors, according to the “right.”

“Right-wing” news sources are generally sleazy, but do frequently report some sketchy version of what’s actually happening in the world. “Left-wing” news sources appear to be reporting from padded cells in Bedlam.

The big issues of the day? War, political corruption, the economy, the health and education of children, decaying cities … all those and more are either being ignored entirely by one side or another or covered in such absurdly twisted ways that it’s impossible to sort your way to something resembling an accurate viewpoint.

The world is filled with more political scandals than anyone can count. But look at a “right-wing” news site and you’ll get the impression that only politicians on the “left” are rotten. Look at a “left-wing” news site and you’ll see that “right-wing” politics is a swamp of child molesting, adultery, hypocrisy, and (gasp!) COVID restriction violations. But generally neither side will even mention its own side’s scandals, leaving us with little chance to find the facts.

(But I guess that’s actually okay, since both sides are so hopelessly bought, sold, depraved, arrogant, unconstitutional, and above the law that sensible people are best off just turning their backs on the whole putrescent lot of them.)

—–

Increasingly the one thing smart, well-informed people agree on is that there’s no news in the news any more. It’s all, from all sides, fantasies, lies, egregious and deliberate distortions, accounts too sketchy to take any real meaning from, and bald-faced propaganda.

That’s not news, either. You already know that.

Believe nothing. Believe nobody. Trust “experts” and institutions least of all — the credo of an increasing number of smartfolk.

Back in the dark ages, the Soviet Union had two big newspapers: Pravda (“The Truth”) and Isvestia (“The News”). The much whispered joke went: “There’s no news in The Truth and no truth in The News.”

Welcome to the Dark Ages, friends.

—–

Tomorrow or this weekend: “Part II, On the positive side …”

Meanwhile, please fill the comment section with your observations, pet media peeves, personal solutions, helpful suggestions, and collective wisdom.

20 Comments

  1. Chris
    Chris April 15, 2021 11:58 am

    No, no, it’s the LEFT that’s full of child molesting adulterers … oh well, I see your point. But then, as any dark-ages villager knew, all politics is local. Look around at those you can see and know, and respond accordingly.

  2. Simon Templar
    Simon Templar April 15, 2021 1:10 pm

    Tip O’Neill was widely misquoted. Pogo provided the correction: “All politics is loco.”

    But back to the topic at hand. My go-to source for some semblance of not-too-horribly-biased-propaganda-thinly-disguised-as-news is https://reason.com/

    While they do have a very clear libertarian bias (which is mostly OK with me), they are at least quite open in acknowledging that fact. Their other selling point is that since they are neither red team nor blue team, but rather largely excluded from active involvement in politics, they don’t really have a dog in the fight, so to speak.

    In that way they are kind of like Timothy Leary in the old Moody Blues song: “. . . He’s outside, looking in.”

    One of Reason’s drawbacks (aka another selling point) is that they have a sort of “weekly magazine” approach to the news*. They are not constantly trying to scoop the competition with unconfirmed rumors from anonymous sources.

    *I trust most of us here are old enough to understand the reference.

  3. Thomas L. Knapp
    Thomas L. Knapp April 15, 2021 1:52 pm

    Reponse to part 1: Yep, pretty much.

    Looking forward to part 2, “on the positive side!”

  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X April 15, 2021 2:37 pm

    methinks H L hit on what the problem might be;

    “How does so much false news get into the American newspapers, even the good ones? Is it because journalists, as a class, are habitual liars, and prefer what is not true to what is true?

    I don’t think it is.

    Rather, it is because journalists are, in the main, extremely stupid, sentimental and credulous fellows, because nothing is easier than to fool them, because the majority of them lack the sharp intelligence that the proper discharge of their duties demands.”

  5. Granny
    Granny April 15, 2021 4:31 pm

    I love love love your writings Claire! Your last series on men was fantastic.
    Re: The News – there’s no such thing. Stopped watching CNN in 2009 and stopped watching FOX in 2017-18-ish when I decided that “cable” wasn’t something I thought was worth my money, and I honestly thought breathless Hannity was going to have an aneurism. Dumped Netflix and everything else. Selfishly hung on to Amazon, but have mostly weaned myself off of it.

    The only two, besides your’s, regular blogs I read are Survivalblog and The Conservative Treehouse. “Sundance” from The Conservative Treehouse has been tracking the corruption of the “UniParty” (both Democrats and Republicans) for some time. I just deleted my Gab account and I’m not on any other social media. Why? Because the world has gone mad and I’m just hoping my family and I get through it.

    Oh, I do watch what my Governor, Senators, and Representatives are doing (Idaho), just to keep tabs on them. I write them occasionally with a protest. Mostly, I take very long walks with my German Shepherds, focus on the good things in life, and try to be creative and productive while loving the people around me and in my community.

    Not that I’m totally unaware of what’s going on – the airwaves are literally screaming the profane from all sides – so loudly that you don’t have to turn on the television to hear it. The world needs to calm down. Everyone needs to go outside, get in the sun, breathe fresh air, plant a garden, take a hike, read an interesting book from a hammock, fish at the lakes and streams, ride a horse, work on house or property projects, etc. The worst thing for one’s health is to stay inside with the television on, or glue yourself to social media.

    It’s been a long, hard, slog to divorce the media and politics from my life. They are all liars.

  6. Daylan
    Daylan April 15, 2021 7:40 pm

    Your premise “intelligent conversations with intelligent people” requires there to be intelligent people. 😎

  7. John Wilder
    John Wilder April 15, 2021 7:50 pm

    Exactly. CNN is a liar, Fox is (at best) vapid water carriers.

    That’s why I only trust goat entrails.

    Seriously, though, finding the actual news means you have to trust no one, which makes me go back to principles. And is also why I rarely write about current news stories unless they can be tied to principles and virtue.

    Or if I can make a good bikini graph.

  8. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge April 15, 2021 8:12 pm

    “They [Reporters] are worse than spies. They hang about the lazy shirkers, print rumors and gossip as truth and incite panic. I’d have them all shot but it would be of no use, for there would be news from Hell before breakfast the next morning. Vox populi? VOX HUMBUG!” – General William T. “Uncle Billy” Sherman

    Also from Uncle Billy:

    “If nominated I will not run, if elected, I will not serve.” – When asked to be a candidate in the 1884 presidential race.

  9. Steve
    Steve April 15, 2021 8:35 pm

    A depressingly accurate summary of affairs that we all feel. Trying to watch CNN for the Year of the Plandemic has gotten me so angry I almost smashed the tv or had a stroke. I particularly like their having only people on who you know are woke and agree with left wing views and bludgeoning the infrequent naysayer that gets on in error. I saw one of the hourly interchangeable blond CNN bimbos beat the hell out of this Western deputy sheriff, screaming at him to agree that we saw murder in the video of this guy being shot by a cop. He was cool as ice, saying we only saw one view, need more info, etc., etc. .She got as rabid as I saw woman-fondling Cuomo one time talking about guns, spitting in a way that made me wonder if he was rabid or epileptic. Two respected journalists came at different times to my small town a few years for lectures about news and the press. Each had covered stories around the world for decades but said they no longer knew where to find what was really going on. .one had worked for years for NYT and said, upon being asked, that he was not told what to write but, over time, you realized they just didn’t publish any of your work anymore.

  10. Toirdhealbheach Beucail
    Toirdhealbheach Beucail April 15, 2021 8:54 pm

    Claire, for certain periods of my life I have had to had to avoid media – not so much because I do not know want to know what is going on (I was a Political Science major, for goodness sake. I crave current events) but because the way the news was reported, not necessarily the news itself, either raised my blood pressure to probably unhealthy levels or depressed me to no end. Facts are things – dangerous things – and my impression, at least from growing up, was that that was what the media was supposed to do: report facts. Sadly, that has changed to “report our facts as filtered through what we believe we should be doing” facts.

    Economics news is the least depressing, and (if you find the right sources) the least impacted by “fill in the blank” colored glasses. Domestic policy is the worst: I am hard pressed to think of whom I would go to for unbiased news (and that is what I want: unbiased facts, not equal sides). I would avoid it mostly if I could, but as my friend Glen always reminds me (and he is right), if nothing else you need to know what the opposition is seeing and saying.

    As to the article reference – thank you. It mirrors a short interview I heard with a Chinese national some years ago. When asked what it was like to live in an unfree state – Communist China – he laughed. His response was that the Chinese had far more economic freedom than anyone is the West. He was right in general (with the unfortunate example of losing your business and possibly your life, as occasionally does happen in there): Americans are almost completely bound and tied in terms of they can and cannot do economically.

  11. Sam Hall
    Sam Hall April 15, 2021 9:40 pm

    One option is to get news from a source outside the US. The Economist is biased (OOoooh, they hate Trump!), but provides facts and one can read through their prejudices.

  12. Sam Hall
    Sam Hall April 15, 2021 9:43 pm

    Back in the days of the Soviet Union, there were two major national newspapers therein, “Isvestia” (News) and “Pravda” (Truth). Soviet citizens had a saying that there is no news in Pravda and no truth in Isvestia.

  13. Noah Body
    Noah Body April 16, 2021 8:11 am

    Yes, it’s getting creepy how the US is getting more and more like the old Soviet Union. With the mainstream media nothing but propaganda, especially regarding COVID. And the silencing of any dissident voices. And Konstantin Chernenko (I mean Joe Biden) keeping the seat warm until he dies and Kamala can officially take over. Why hasn’t there been a State of the Union address this year, and why isn’t the media asking that question? Obviously Joe’s handlers fear he couldn’t get through a speech like that without showing how damaged he is mentally.

  14. Comrade X
    Comrade X April 16, 2021 8:33 am

    If you get your news from morons my question is what does that make you? I see the results every time I go out in our so-called civilization. I don’t even need the sun glasses from “they live” now to see what is really real.

    I think the same goes for government, a government run by morons is pretty much like being governed by morons. Methinks the key is to find the morons you agree with the most, that’s the best argument I know for federalism.

    However going back to the news, JW’s goat entrails would be a lot easier and probably more truthful.

    Click to Edit –

  15. R R Schoettker
    R R Schoettker April 16, 2021 9:05 am

    I expect that what has always been the case in the past is still the case in the present and will be so in the future; you can believe only what you see with your own eyes. Whether that is “true” depends on if those eyes are connected to a functioning brain in a sapient individual.

  16. Thomas L. Knapp
    Thomas L. Knapp April 16, 2021 10:14 am

    “Why hasn’t there been a State of the Union address this year.”

    Because newly inaugurated presidents don’t deliver State of the Union addresses their first year in office. They do usually address a joint session of Congress, and they usually do so in February, but it’s not a State of the Union speech. SOTUs and the inauguration year speeches are given at the invitation of the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to Biden to address a joint session is for April 28.

  17. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 18, 2021 6:15 pm

    Mostly I read the news for laughs. For instance:
    NYT just published a list of corporations that failed to make political statements about Georgia’s “Jim Crow 2.0” law. Remember when the Left totally melted down after SCOTUS held that corporations like Citizens United had Freedom of Speech?

    A CNN article said racist voter suppression laws had been proposed in 40 state Legislatures. Do these people listen to what they say?
    If I was a CEO I’d think very carefully about making political statements disparaging 80 percent of the states I did business in.

    “We’re going to send police and National Guard to take your guns!”
    Um, that would be the defunded police, and the USNG you told to bed down in parking garages?

    But then I’m just an old gray-haired guy who remembers stuff.

  18. Leslie Martinez
    Leslie Martinez April 23, 2021 8:26 pm

    All mainstream news is nothing more than political psychological warfare operations on the American public by and for those who seek to transform society into a hightech version of the former ussr.

    The the smith-mundt Act was a law from 1948 that was meant to prevent the US government and the media from using propaganda on the American people but it was repealed in 2012 under the Obama Administration and replaced with the smith-mundt modernization ACT 2012.

    The military-industrial complex has been using psychological warfare propaganda on the American people for decades IMO.

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