By Michael Emero
May 9, 2016
Those who are aware of the now ubiquitous agenda-based and corporate-influenced misinformation that permeates our society tend to critique various sources (TV, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, "news" channels, blogs, etc) but then miss the overall point by ending rants with easy media-blame scapegoating. But the problem isn't just the messenger, it's also the recipients - you and I.
Even when news organizations had journalistic integrity, there was still misreporting and gaps in coverage. It's inevitable that every source has flaws. Granted, now it's become more planned / sponsored than simple oversights, but either way, it's the responsibility of those who receive information to do their due diligence and verify it before believing and repeating. We may not be used to doing so, but in today's hyper-connected internet world, there's simply no reason to keep being gullible dupes, other than misplaced trust, laziness or willful ignorance.
Assumptions make us look the fool even when we're challenged on concrete facts, if we don't have the evidentiary knowledge or citation to explain why we believe something other than "I heard it". When pressed in these cases, people on both sides tend to get emotional and defensive, because it's become a battle of opinion. Then discussion / debate often turns into a personal grudge match of abuse and ego, a pointless battle of wills that further discourages truth-seeking intellectualism. Paid trolls are excellent at purposely engaging in this approach.
This is all easy to solve. Listen, read, watch, and absorb everything, from everywhere, but believe and speak as fact only that which you can responsibly verify with a preponderance of evidence. Learn to gracefully accept truths outside your existing world view, because being accurate is much more important than simply accepting anything that conveniently validates your personal bias. The former leaves us informed, prepared, and educated - the latter just limits us to accepting 'knowledge' based on what we want to hear, and counter-productively surrenders our beliefs, critical thinking skills, and values to mere baseless hearsay.
Knowledge is the one resource we can never run out of; we'd be fools not to utilize it fully. While public false narratives are indeed a problem, personal accountability and self-empowerment are always a more feasible solution than continuous external blame. And perhaps the pervasive widespread use of the misinformation we rightfully complain about might yet be curbed- if we just all stopped being so susceptible to it.