If Limbaugh says it, it must be true … or is that The Guardian?

As I read Facebook and Twitter I am amazed at what people post as fact, what they share. I read some of it and my basic instincts tell me that cannot be true or at a minimum check the sources.

Some posts are so blatantly absurd it’s scary to think anyone gives them credibility. For example, conspiracy theorists posted claims that 5g networks were linked to the spread of the corona virus in England with the result of several cell towers being burned.

I read headlines, sometimes from national outlets, and then read the story and find it does not say what the headline did. Unfortunately, some people just rely on headlines because that’s what shows up on Twitter and Facebook.

Make no mistake, all this manipulation occurs across the political spectrum, but appears especially prevalent at the left and right extremes. Have you ever noticed on a given day how a key phrase pops up repeatedly on talk shows? If Limbaugh says it so will Hannity, Howie Carr and Fox. If ABC says it so will CNN and MSNBC. Coincidence?

Then I think how passionate some people are about their views and positions on important issues. Where do they get those strong opinions? Often it’s the press in one way or another. Far less it’s from scrutinizing basic research or evaluating various sources. Or, equally important, from asking questions.

Regardless of what you may think of him, Trump is the political target of every Democrat and they are using the pandemic against him, quite effectively with targeted groups of likely Democratic voters.

No matter what he did or didn’t do or should have done earlier this year, or what he did with the WHO, in much of the press, it’s wrong. When you GOOGLE the topic to find more info, nearly all the references are to the New York Times and a few other similar leaning sources. The NYTs says the WHO is Trumps scapegoat. The Wall Street Journal says, “WHO lead­er­ship let po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions color what should have been un­bi­ased pub­lic-health ad­vice. The de­ci­sions to op­pose early travel bans and to de­lay de­clar­ing a “pub­lic-health emer­gency of in-ternational con­cern” were par­tic­u­larly deadly.”

Is it possible to find objective information?

What are the assumptions used to come to reach widespread conclusions? Sometimes the very assumptions are biased or slanted to promote a cause. You can reach widely different results merely by tweaking an assumption. Try it yourself. If you have a retirement savings goal in mind, change the assumed investment return by a percent or two and see what happens.

Social Security, Obamacare, CEO pay, insurance company profits, pay disparity between men and women are all hot topics for misleading and incomplete information. Information that many people simply accept as fact.

When talking about Social Security substitute “surplus” for “reserve” regarding the trust and you get a totally different perspective. Much maligned CEO pay usually fails to note the data relate to only some of the S&P 500 companies employing a relatively small number of US workers. And “pay” is not pay but total compensation, much at risk. But the average American won’t make that distinction.

Health insurance company profits have a very minor affect on premiums and are in line with regulated utilities at about 5-7%, but you won’t see that in the headlines or that increasing profits are the result of insured volume. Few of us will do the math and see the net impact on each insurance contract. Anti-Obamacare views are rarely based on fact. As a matter of fact, I will wager those who dislike Obamacare cannot accurately articulate why.

If you look closely at many articles and news reports you will see the skillful use of key words, of an unnecessary adjective that reinforces a point of view or triggers a bias.

Is the press objective? Are reporters unbiased with no agenda of their own? That’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s not that way today. Some Americans will readily dismiss a story in the Wall Street Journal while easily accepting one in the New York Times on the same subject and vice versa.

The fact is we are being manipulated and skillfully so. If something is repeated often enough it must be true, right?

Don’t we owe it to ourselves to fight this manipulation with facts, to ask questions and to stop sharing outrageous claims and stories, to consider different points of view?

12 comments

  1. Talk about headlines! It appears you are as guilty as the media. Instead of using a general term such as ‘talk radio hosts’ (in your headline), you call out one person. Guilty!
    In my opinion, there is a difference between the specific people mentioned and the (supposed) networks mentioned. One is clearly stated in their openings as opinions but others are supposed to be news. Most Americans know the difference.

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    1. See how easy it is. Needless to say I used that headline of purpose. “Most Americans know the difference.” If only that were true.

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      1. If you don’t believe that most Americans know the difference, you live in a different bubble than me. It makes me sad you feel that way. I value opinions of all sides. That is one reason I subscribe to your posts.

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      2. I fear you are too optimistic about the influence of the media, political rhetoric and outright propaganda on many, many individuals. FB and Twitter are full of posts sharing outright fake news, and memes which are readily accepted and passed around.

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    2. You use the word “SUPPOSED” to be News. That is the whole point of this commentary. The News is not Factual, it is a story written be one person’s view.
      Most Americans do NOT know the difference since they are bombarded with all this Negativity 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. ALL Americans are only trying to use their own view and judgement using the ‘supposed’ facts (news) put out in Public space.

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  2. When I was a kid in the 50’s, I loved professional wrestling. The current news business has an awful lot in common with my boyhood interest.

    I imagine news as a tag team match: In one corner we have at 417 pounds, Fox News, with this week’s rotating talk radio partner Rush Limbaugh , in the other corner we have CNN weighing in at 377 pounds with partner PBS substituting for MSNBC and /or The New York Times, neither are available as they both got the date and time wrong.

    Referee to participants: You all know the rules, Clean Innuendo, Left Crosses, Right Jabber OK, No kicking above the belt, nothing outside the ring allowed including nails, glass bottles and facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another very insightful and thoughtful article. Thank you for sharing. I agree with all of your analysis of how the Media is persuading the Public masses who do not want to seek out the facts. The Media Bias is actually getting worse each year and the one Political Party is using the Media to help them create a Permanent UNDERCLASS of Citizens. That is the ONLY way that they know how to stay in Power. They believe that the needy and helpless always need them to protect them from themselves. This Underclass are sometimes called ‘Snowflakes’ and their Leaders will never show them how to Educate themselves to become productive self-supporting Citizens because they need their Vote. Very sadly, the talk and conversations about Socialism that are increasing every day tell these people that the Country will take care of them as in China. This is a very destructive Media influence from those who have forgotten what this County was founded on.
    The Media is creating a Herd Mentality and everyone should be encouraged to think for themselves and read the History of the World, the History of Dictatorships and Socialism.

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    1. During my quarantine, I have watched a few shows on World War II propaganda and how powerful the movies were and how important it was to the Nazis gaining power. But equally important was how the US used movies as propaganda to fight the war. Our leaders knew they had to convince the soldiers to fight and produced a series of 7 films called Why We Fight. These films demonized the enemy and made them less than human. It was the right thing to do at the time since we were at war.

      But some American leaders also worried about some films that went too far and did not let them be shown as is. They knew one day that the war would be over and that there were going to be Japanese and German Americans who would one day be back in American society. These leaders fear continued racism and hatred on American soil would cause unintended consequences.

      Can you imagine what is going to happen to the world when another Joseph Goebbels masters modern mass media and the power of Internet. Everyday I can see the baby steps of this happening. I also fear that one day we will all look back and realize that the line was crossed years ago.

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  4. Conspiracy theorists, flat Earthers, and people who do not know that a virus is a living thing and is not a radio wave, makes me question the world’s educational system. There seems like there is no critical thinking left in the world, just retweets. If I read it on the Internet it must be true.

    When my son was stationed in the Middle East, they had on Al Jazeera on the TV because they needed to know what was really going on locally and could not trust American sources. I often read BBC online to get another world view of America. It helped me with the trade war by understanding trade from an objective outsider’s point of view that was not directly involved.

    I very rarely read any “news” articles that contain the 5 W’s of Journalism anymore (who, what, when, where, why). All too often I read opinions without any facts. Some articles just show scene shots of tweets instead of original reporting and fact checking. Sometimes articles are published without places, date of publishing, or bylines which makes very hard to Google to verify the story. Too often they reach “out” for comments but do not wait for replies because the reply might disprove their personal agenda. These are all red flags to me. This reporting must be questioned. It is not limited to print either. 60 minutes, Dateline, and others have made up and created false TV footage for decades. Cable entertainment networks are just as bias too in their documentaries.

    No matter where you stand on Trump, the fact that the White House had to play a video clip on some of the false reporting by the press during this pandemic is sad. What was sadder was that some members of the anti-Trump press corps tried to deny the video evidence shown because it didn’t fit their narrative. Trump will mess things up on his own. When the press makes things up about Trump, they lose all credibility.

    Google often leads you to the same flaw sources requiring different creative inquires to get to a different source to either validate a report or to disprove the report.

    All too often when you question somebody’s story and ask them to back it up with a source or some facts, all you get is angry name calling.

    Being married, I am often called out for being wrong. I am used to proving that I am right and sometimes I get lucky and discovered that I was right even if it was by accident. I don’t mind. Please always challenge my facts. Don’t be a lemming. Think for yourself. The world will be a better place.

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  5. Most people get their information from actively sought out news outlets that agree with their own particular ideologies and are happy to pass it along to others of the same persuasion. Confirmation bias and the ideological echo chamber are alive and well on the internet. It’s not likely to change anytime in the future due to human nature and intellectual slothfulness.

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