“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” ― Mary Harris (Mother) Jones

There’s allegedly an old rule among professional journalists about facts. It goes like this: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

In the last half-century, it has become increasingly obvious that fact-checking is no longer considered necessary, even—or perhaps most especially in—the mainstream corporate media. Instead, “news” stories are composed in such a way that vital information is buried at the bottom, or the opinions of non-professionals are offered as “balance” for statements made by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

In one newsroom where I worked, it was standard policy that any reporter who had broad background and/or personal experience on a subject was automatically eliminated from being allowed to cover it. Oh, there were exceptions, which is what made the other examples so flagrant. Even then—and this was more than twenty years ago—a reporter known for doing excellent work was not just permitted but encouraged to write up an interview with an individual who had a personal axe to grind without any balance from the people he was criticizing.

This leads me to my first recommendation if you’re going to rely mostly on the mainstream media (MSM) for your information on what’s happening:

  1. Any news story regarding a subject that requires special knowledge—science, medicine, education, economics—that does not contain at least one contradictory voice from a professional source can be assumed to have that knowledge is slanted.
  2. The corollary to this is that any alleged “fact” on a subject requiring specialized knowledge that doesn’t come from someone possessing that knowledge is an opinion, not a fact, unless it’s supported by verifiable citations for the source of the information.

To put that another way, if I publish an article that says the moon is made of green cheese, that’s not a fact. It’s my opinion, because I’m not an astronomer or a lunologist. If, however, I say the moon is made of green cheese, and include in my article numerous links or references to information provided by astronomers and lunologists, the chance what I’m saying is true is greater.

However, it may also be that all those are not scientific sources. So, step two is to verify that my sources are, in fact, actual astronomers and lunologists. Step three is to then search to see if there is contradictory information, and whether the contradictory information outweighs what I claimed to be factual.

One of the best-known cases where “scientific” evidence has resulted in disastrous results is the anti-vaxxer movement. Most of those who adhere to it still base their belief vaccines are dangerous on a “study” that has not only been shown utterly without merit but resulted in the physican who wrote it having his license revoked. So pervasive has the fiction that childhood vaccines cause autism become it’s now more a religious tenet than anything else.

And then there are the X% of US residents who are firmly convinced Saddam Hussein had chemical and other weapons of mass destruction and was on the way to developing nuclear capability.

Those are just two examples. My goal with this series is to address the many, many ways the MSM is being used to manipulate the people who read the news and/or watch it on TV. While Fox News will likely come into the discussion, their position as a right-wing propaganda organization is so well established as to be a non-issue.

Meantime, when it comes to the news, the best advice is Fox Muldar’s: Trust No One. Not even me. And if your mother says she loves you…

So, what's your thought?

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