Years ago, information that was created to support a point of view, but was presented as reliable information, was known as “propaganda.” And when we wanted to know what was really going on in the world, we’d watch the evening news from the primary networks. Most of us saw Walter Cronkite as a reliable source of what was real.
Recently, when a few executives from Fox resigned, explaining that some of the news they were reporting was fabricated, it shattered the illusion that the mainstream media were the true source of truth. Now we find terms such as “Fake News” and “Alternative facts” creating a problem … not knowing what to believe.
I think “Sustainable Living” should include integrity about what’s real, as we base so many of our life decisions on that information.
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How Does Your Favorite News Source Rate on the ‘Truthiness’ Scale? Consult This Chart – (MarketWatch – December 17, 2016)
Patent attorney Vanessa Otero recently fanned the flames of the fake news debate when she re-posted a chart on Facebook breaking down various sources by reliability and political viewpoint. Since then, her illustration has been shared thousands of times across social media and even landed on one of the “news” sites she labeled as “utter garbage.” See her chart in the article.
Otero received plenty of kudos for her work but, as one might expect, she was also hammered with some criticism. Specifically Infowars didn’t take too kindly to its position on the chart. This is how the right-wing website responded:
“We’ve created our own news chart depicting how
most leftist mainstream media sites promote tyr-
anny, while the conservative ‘garbage’ sites on the
previous map actually promote liberty and freedom.”
See their chart in the article. In the face of the backlash, Otero explained her thought process, and even offered a blank version that everybody could edit as they see fit. She wrote …
“I respectfully submit that if you make your own, you
should be able to place at least one source in each of
the vertical columns, because they exist, and at least
one in each of the horizontal rows, because they also exist
If you have just a couple sources that you think are in
the middle but none exist either to the right or left of them,
or up or down from them, you may be on the wrong track.”
See also this article, An Extremely Helpful List of Fake and Misleading News Sites to Watch Out For. The extensive list of No-no-news-sites referred to in the article is here.
(Editor’s note: You probably have never encountered most of these sites (the list is very long) – and some may be on your “top 10 must read” list. As the phrase goes: “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” One person’s truth is someone else’s nonsense. At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself.)
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In the 80s and 90s, I read a lot of information created by Lester Brown, when he led the WorldWatch Institute. Their “State of the World” annual report examined virtually every aspect of our lives – from what we eat, trends in fisheries, trends in land use, trends in air quality, trends in longevity, etc. And in each topic, they provided hard data that often went back a full century. When I see 27 dots in a line, each representing a year or decade, I can begin to predict where the 28th and 29th dots will be.
His detailed trends data was one of the major sources upon which I made a decision to create a Net Zero sustainable community, as a prototype for what we’ll need in the coming years. If that data is bogus, then I’ve committed a huge chuck of my resources and life on a false premise.
I don’t think I have, as the trends do seem to have continued. But if I have … my energies will have been wasted. We do depend on reliable information. The Washington Post, NY Times, and LA Times have all committed to do extensive fact-checking before publishing an article. I think questioning the reliability of data is a new phenomenon to which we’ll have to become increasingly acquainted.
For me, when I see three or more information sources, that are independent of one another and all include specific facts and statistics, saying essentially the same thing – like three photographic views of the same object – it’s proven reliable. I think each of us will need to create our own standards for believability.