Sadly, I feel I need to write this section. Everyone these days is quick to assign a label based on a single sentence and I certainly don’t need that. Additionally, people these days seem to only deal in absolutes, “you think Black Lives Matter AND you support the police – that’s fucked up…” Also, it feels like you must be for or against and there is no room for conversation. So here is an intro to set the stage.
For the record, I lean Republican, but have never voted a straight Republican ticket. I am for limited government, although I do believe that in some areas governmental oversight, policies and laws are necessary (that said, the government does not have to be so damn bureaucratic about it). I expect to pay my fair share of taxes and I expect Congress to use that money wisely, building an infrastructure that State and Local governments can use as a foundation to successfully run and grow their states and cities by providing services all people benefit from.
I am not religious; however, I am spiritual. I do believe a variety of religious teachings are beneficial and necessary for society to function and I acknowledge that churches can provide community for a wide range of people.
Additionally, equality is important to me. Regardless of color, creed or orientation, we can all be equal citizens contributing to our communities, cities, states and country.
I do not believe in socialism, however our current run of capitalism has left a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots and the shrinking of the middle class. As a country, we have the means to ensure people have basic entitlements – but nobody, regardless of station, should feel they are entitled to everything.
Just for kicks, let us do some hot-button topics…
I am against Trump for President, but that does not mean I am against a Republican for President. My ballot represents my values and sometimes that is a Republican and other times it may be a Democrat. I look beyond the label because some Democrats are more conservative than they are liberal, and some Republicans lean so far right as to be considered radicals.
I am not shouting “defund the police.” I do want there to be a conversation that includes representation from all communities regarding what we need our police to be. I want the men and women in blue to have the necessary training for the job we ask them to do. I do not want our police officers to be social workers, but I want them to be part of the social fabric of our communities.
I want our governments (at each level) to institute the programs and the infrastructure necessary so 911 operators do not automatically default to the police. Our police should be there to serve and protect, not to be mental health workers, dog catchers, day care providers, or social workers. Our police should not be the ones who are called upon because government has failed its people.
Well now, that is one heck of an opening. Let’s get on with it, shall we…
Here is a question: Do you panic or do you pause?
Do you blindly re-post memes and “articles” because they elicit an emotional response in you or do you take the time to validate the veracity of the source? Do you take a moment to understand what is being said? Sadly, on Facebook and on other platforms, most people seem to panic when they should pause.
Thousands of “publications” are flooding feeds with politically motivated “can you believe this” posts, which are nothing more than click-bait. These sites do not necessarily exist to promote a cause so much as they exist to make a profit. Because opinions are cheap and facts cost money, it is easier and cheaper to pump out bogus or misrepresented facts with an outrageous headline to get you to click and re-post because that improves their ad revenue.
And thanks to the proliferation of these types of sites on the internet, people (well-meaning or not) can find it hard to tell the difference between a crappy source and a reliable source.
It is Mostly Propaganda
Republicans and Democrats, right and left, liberal or conservative, there are a host web sites dedicated to promoting an agenda of some sort. There is nothing wrong with that until the truth and facts start getting twisted.
Propaganda is often a distortion of the truth with the purpose of making you angry or scared and the nature of Facebook (and the internet in general) speeds the spread. And that speed is exacerbated because people who panic significantly out-number those who pause.
Propaganda also plays heavily on your existing biases, seemingly confirming things you believe to be true or at least things you have heard.
The thing with propaganda is that it does not want you to think. It only wants you to agree. Blindly. You are expected to be so wrapped up in your patriotism or your support for the cause that you never consider looking behind the curtain.
The Mainstream Media
The Mainstream Media (MSM) is not what you think it is. It is a tag assigned to liberal leaning media outlets to make it appear the media as a whole has a liberal slant. However, consider Sinclair Broadcasting Group, an organization with strong conservative ties. Sinclair Broadcasting owns and controls more than 190 television stations across the country, making it one of the nation’s largest players in local TV and news.
Sinclair has been fined for presenting paid segments to the public as though they were news reports or programs. In fact, FCC investigators found that 64 Sinclair stations aired such paid segments as news more than 1,400 times. Additionally, Sinclair mandates its stations’ newscasts broadcast pro-Trump commentaries.
Considering most people get their news from local stations, a company with over 190 local stations and a conservative agenda seems relatively “mainstream” to me.
My point is, liberal AND conservative politics are well represented across the so-called mainstream media.
Here Are a Couple of Clues People Can Get
If something seems fishy, Truth or Fiction and Snopes are unbiased websites that weed out conspiracy theories, urban legends, fake news and fiction that is being circulated on the internet. For example:
- Multiple social media groups claimed that a “pro-police” march in support of law enforcement went unreported by the “mainstream media” in July 2020. In addition to misrepresenting the date of the event, the posts mislabeled a religious “Jericho March” as a “pro-police effort.”
Know the source. Media Bias Fact Check is the most comprehensive media bias resource available, letting you know how far left or right a news site, website or “publication” leans; the accuracy of their reporting; and whether or not they promote conspiracy theories. Some examples:
- The Washington Post is “left of center” in their bias and their reporting is considered highly factual due to the use of proper sources and a reasonable fact check record.
- Fox News is firmly “right” in their bias and their factual reporting is labeled “mixed” because they use pundits with poor records of fact-checking as resources.
Know the source part two – Many news sites are not news sites; they are opinion sites. Opinions do not make something true or false. On one end of the spectrum, opinions are the simple perceptions of an individual (vanilla ice cream is better than strawberry ice cream). At the other end of the spectrum, opinions are propaganda, meant to incite or induce an emotional response, even if there are no actual facts involved. Sadly, many opinion sites are disguised as news sites and their “stories” are as valid as something you would find in the National Enquirer.
Finally, pictures are often not what they seem. Never mind that manipulation is almost constant these days, but people use pictures that were taken months or even years ago to prove a current point.
- Several right leaning publications/websites called Joe Biden and the Democrats hypocrites for not wearing masks at their convention in August 2020. As proof, these publications published three different images of a crowd around Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. No one in the photos — not the politicians present, nor the tightly-packed supporters — wore a mask. Of course, what was not disclosed is those pictures were taken in early March 2020 at a Joe Biden rally, prior to the public being encouraged to wear masks.
What do you do?
I suspect (opinion by the way), most of you will continue to panic rather than to pause and that is your right. It is hard to pause. Pausing takes work; pausing takes you out of the moment and makes you think. But maybe you would like to think. If so:
Choose your news sources wisely. Facebook is not a news source by the way. Personally, my go to news sources are those that present accurate facts. Conveniently, the more right or left a source leans, the less accurate they are with the truth. My sources are centered or are slightly left or right (at least according to Media Bias Fact Check), but all have high or very high marks for factual reporting.
Do not surround yourself with only people who agree with you. This puts you in an echo chamber and you become more susceptible to bullshit and misinformation.
Ask why and look for the root cause. Some people are up in arms over protestors regardless of how peaceful or violent they are. Do you think maybe it does not matter to certain groups how people are protesting, only that they are? Do you think that what is being said in these protests scares certain people more than how it is being said?
Take a moment to pause. Even if you don’t want to take the time to validate something, you still don’t have to post it.
Why Does This Matter to Me?
There are a couple of reasons. First, I was a journalism major back in the day and I was taught you must be unbiased in your reporting and that you must double-check and verify your facts, so this current climate is distressing. Second, while I am not really a fan of Facebook (and its practices), it is a good place to maintain relationships. But whether it is friends or family, I didn’t connect with you to look at political memes, unverified and biased articles, and other crap. I want to know how you are doing because you are a relationship not a news source. I want to know the good and cool things you have going on because I cannot be there to participate. And yes, I do want to see your memes on how the Dallas Cowboys are distancing themselves from the Super Bowl!