Information, Rumor, or Opinion? Check your sources

a lot of bunk masquerading as information

That’s how Joshua Greenbaum describes much of the information available on the so-called “information highway”.

we live in an information age that has gotten long on information and short on attribution and verification. I blame not the Internet so much as the gullibility of a society that has transferred a sycophantic trust in the printed word to a similar trust in the pixelated word. For too many people, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true – common sense and access to the Internet’s own powerful tools for verification notwithstanding….

we tend not to question the source, and therefore the veracity, of information. This, in a sense, is how spam came to be so successful at cluttering our lives: It started from the fact that people actually believed their problems – sexual, monetary, health or whatever – could be solved by answering an anonymous e-mail that promised something too good to be true.

The integrity of all information – corporate or private – rests on the ability of users to judge the validity of the source. So heaven help us if no one calls the bloggers and wikites on the carpet when they mislead and misinform; degrading information on the Internet will globalize ignorance to an incredible degree. And the last thing anyone needs these days is more global stupidity. We have enough politicians contributing to that problem already.

In my mind, this links to an even greater problem: For the most part, we no longer have access to “news” or “journalism” — instead, we get editorials and opinion pieces masquerading as news, with no attempt to encourage the reader to even consider the distinction. This is as true in newspapers and radio and television newscasts as it is in the world of online forums and blogs, and potentially more dangerous since the hard-fought right of citizens to a free press gives us the illusion of an honesty and integrity that in most cases no longer exists. A handful of people control the overwhelming majority of media outlets, often the same person or people owning both the print media and the broadcast media in any given region, and the denials of bias and publisher intimidation or intervention seem as credible as the protestations of gas station owners that there is no collusion about the price of fuel, when prices at the pumps rise and fall around weekends and holidays virtually in unison.

Joshua Greenbaum is correct: We need to become less gullible and we need to start teaching our children to question what they hear and read. Especially when it comes from the internet. 

information, journalism, internet, rumor, opinion

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