• Jeffrey Walter

What is Misinformation?

You hear it everywhere today, misinformation, disinformation, fake news. You hear it on broadcast news, cable news, internet news, and social media. How do you know what is really true or not?

The first thing you need to do when you hear something new is nothing. Don't react to it. Give it at least 24 hours first because it might come back and get rebuked pretty quickly.

A few things you need to know up front:

1. The standards for journalism have changed from the way they have always been before. Journalists used to corroborate their information with 2 sources before reporting. In these days of the internet, that has been thrown out the window with the rush to be the first to publish online.

2. CBS news was recently caught telling their people their job isn't to report the news but to shape people's views. (Of course, I can’t find any links about this now.) News sources will remove facts that support the views they don't want you to have.

3. The news companies have really taken a financial beating since the introduction of the internet. They no longer have a monopoly on news. They are not flush with cash like they used to be. They are struggling to stay alive. CNN pays airports to put CNN on the TVs there. News companies are businesses and with all business models, the idea is to make money to keep the company going. No longer do they dig for the truth. If they think they can make money on a story they will run it without verifying it. They will even make up a story to get views so they can sell advertisement. This link is older but has several examples. It shows that it’s been happening for quite a while and is not limited to one or two media outlets - it seems they all do it.

4. Everyone has an agenda these days - the government, newsrooms, social media, friends, etc. They are more about activism than reporting. Several reporters have outed their companies recently for altering facts, being told not to ask hard questions to certain people their managers like, and editors that will tell them not to report a story because it supports the other side. They hide the truth.

The bottom line is the only one you can trust is yourself. So how do you do that?

Claire Marie has written and published two articles on critical thinking (here and here). I call critical thinking, "think like a Vulcan" (or logic for you non-Trekkies). You have to put the pieces down and see if they fit together in order. Does A lead to B. Does B lead to C. Does C lead to D. But when you are done does D still make sense from A. Let me give you an example:

(A) Global warming leads to higher temps which leads to ice caps melting which (B) leads to more precipitation which (C) leads to more snow which (D) leads to colder temperatures. So, does D make sense from A? In this case (A) global warming leads to (D) colder temperatures. Wait what? I saw that in writing one time, and it left me scratching my head.

Here is another one:

Global warming is going to make the ice caps melt and the sea level rise. Ok this one is a bit harder. This one you have to remember back to your high school chemistry class. Water is a unique substance on earth that does not act like anything else. What are the 3 states of transition as a substance changes temperature? Solid <-> liquid <-> gas. Most of the time, as a substance transitions from cold to hot it expands. Water does not. When H2O (water) transitions from solid to liquid it contracts (ice to liquid). Then as it transitions to gas it expands.

So, try this experiment. Put an ice cube in a glass and fill it with water to the brim. When the cube melts the glass doesn't overflow. People see this ice sticking over the brim and think the volume has to go somewhere but because ice shrinks when it melts the volume doesn't increase when it melts, so it doesn't overflow. True science always wins.

So back to the question, how do you know what is true? You have to run it through a series of tests to see if it makes sense. Don't take it as true or false just because you were told to so by whoever is saying it. Think it through. This is how wisdom is gained.

How informed are you? Do you believe everything you're told? Do you take everything at face value, or do you research it for yourself?

#Misinformation #CriticalThinking #VulcanLogic

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