My apologies if you were expecting another rant online – as much as I want to scream at you to start paying attention, the sad truth of the matter is that most of the people who are reading this already are engaged, have made their choice and – stubborn as ever – will stick to it even in the face of being wrong. While Facebook and Twitter will play heavily into this election, most of us simply aren’t going to listen to our friends and neighbors – unless we agree with them, of course.
One of the things I’ve been meaning to get, though, is something I was called out on in Facebook. I received a message shortly after sharing information about the Trump/Obama BS involved with New Orleans – to quote the important part of his message:
I am tired of watching my fellow Americans be brainwashed by celebrities and biased media. I implore you to get the truth before you make judgements. I beg of you research information prior to making choices and decisions about our countries future.
I was very tempted to argue with him, right then and there, about the conservative brainwash machine he was trying to feed – but, to be fair, the article I was sharing was consistent with the information I had previously received, which in turn had multiple sources. That does mean I could have spent more time verifying information before sharing it – something that, after the fact, STILL verified what was being shared.
I don’t appreciate being called a liar, especially during an election that I’ve spent more time following than I care to admit. However, this is a normal response – people want to think they’re right, and they don’t want to hear other people’s opinions. When they hear them, they want to know the source – some to fact check, many to discredit.
I’m not going to tell you my information is 100% correct – facts are constantly updated, as are the opinions they form from them. I also won’t tell you they’re unbiased – “unbiased” doesn’t exist.
I will, however, give you a brief look into my biases – as well as the sources I use. Hopefully, you can use the information to better form your opinions, get a fact or two you might not otherwise get, and understand more of where I’m coming from.
The Tri-Scholarly System
The biggest change since returning to school has been learning to write papers effectively – important, since two things can ruin your grades: Plagiarism, and the ability to reference. In most of the papers I had to do, I had to reference 3 or more sources for a paper – which was something I follow when writing or researching something. (There are a few exceptions to this – but you normally don’t write research papers on how-to articles or language books for programming.)
For normal, everyday article posting, it comes to three simple rules:
- Can this be verified by three or more semi-biased sources on both sides? If Obama says something, for example, I should be able to see it on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and a third source (usually Fox or someone who will essentially skew it to their view.) If I only see it via a skewed source – someone proven to be biased towards a party, such as The Blaze – without any counter, it’s ignored.
- If it is a quote from something, I want to hear or see it. Anyone can say that person said or did something – it’s different if that’s actually able to be listened to or watched. Because of the ability to edit and generate information, I pay particular attention to edits – while I realistically don’t expect to hear or see full speeches or the full context of everything, I do expect not to hear signs in the audience or background that point to words and actions being made to fit a particular “desired” quote. If I feel like what I see/hear is garbage, I ignore it.
- Is there context, patterns and records to prove the possibility of this? I won’t rush to research as much of the latest news if I had multiple sources verifying something leading up to an event – a quick scan of Google can tell me who the main sources are posting it. An interesting thing note are the patterns in how something makes news – something may become popular on Facebook and Twitter, but may only have resources going back to the Republican Party and their supporters – hence, nothing on TV or that isn’t edited to be twisted in the sense some would like. Something legit will be spread on both sides – you’ll see something from Fox, but also something from CNN and MSNBC.
The Importance of Major Media
The constant argument I’ve heard from typical devotees (people who follow a particular party) is how biased the media is – how anti-Democrat Fox is and how they like to make information up, or how anti-Republican CNN is. While the ideal would be for all media outlets to be unbiased, the sad truth of the matter is that there are too many humans involved in it to NOT be biased – and even for those where biased can be controlled to not be attacked.
Let’s go back to September 11th, 2001 – how serious or important would that event had been had only Fox or CNN covered it? How important or serious would we consider that tragedy if only one network or news organization followed it? Yes, all outlets had some sort of skew, but the news of the tragedy was practically on almost every channel on TV and radio, in every newspaper, etc. Yes, there are now “truthers” out there, people who believe it never happened, or that it was a government job – but the overwhelming evidence shows that it did happen.
Move forward a bit to Obama’s presidency – much like Bush’s, controversy surrounds it on both sides, with documentaries pointing to lies on both sides, news posts all over the internet, and people attempting to edit videos and audio pulled from previous recordings to twist and shape what is really said. Plenty of articles going up online via sites full of bias – meanwhile, trying to get us away from major media, calling them paid liars. The biases major media has is much sharper and clearer than has ever been.
This is exactly why they’re so important.
Yes, CNN is going to tel a more moderate or Democratic tale, and Fox is going to put a Conservative spin on things – however, you’ll see the BS, and believe it happened more if the event’s on both channels. You don’t have to like the news, but trust me, it’s hard to validate anything not showing up on it.
Like so many people, Facebook has become the norm for information, and has proven itself very useful in a way that most media outlets have not. On the negative side, it exposes the most political among us, showing our side and opening us to attacks from it. On the positive side, if you’re lucky enough to be friends with people who strongly support both sides, you get an equal opportunity to see where the truth and the lies fall – and chance to know misinformation before you see it.
The information that came into question was Donald Trump’s Play-Doh passout in New Orleans, where he (and, in the case of that particular article, Trump-supporting celebrities like Kirstie Alley) verbally attacked Obama for his golfing while Flood victims needed help. The person who tried calling me out on Facebook claimed to be from the region, and said that POTUS made it clear he wasn’t going to break from his vacation. The problem: Sources for said information. While I could find many audio and video quotes for the Governor’s comments about Obama and to Trump, as well as the mishandling by Trump of his visit, The President’s alleged comments weren’t so easy to find outside of conservative sites. I found plenty of his criticism on his golfing, however. (To be fair, part of how he was elected stemmed from his calling out of George W. Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina around the same area years ago – again, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.)
Likewise, I can find almost daily updates from my friends on what evils Hillary, Obama and Trump have done – which isn’t much different from 2008, except from fewer friends posting more information to show support for their party. It’s not balanced – the majority of my friends who do post are conservative, according to the sources of the links. The comments that follow, however, give me a greater understanding of the opinions than many of the articles posting poll numbers.
Yes, Facebook is far from the most accurate source of information – but it can give you a more accurate idea of what people are thinking than any article or piece, as well as a starting point for news. While it may not change any opinions, it’s definitely influential.
The biggest difference this time – started during my long commutes between Amanda and school – is in the podcasts I listen to, something I hadn’t done before for politics. I made a choice to expand my knowledge by trying to find podcasts which would balance my information out. I listen to three on a weekly basis, each contributing a different informative aspect to my knowledge.
NPR Politics Podcast
Updated weekly as well as around special events, this podcast covers much of the important news, including sound clips from the parties and the major players in the news, opinions and facts researched by the NPR news team. While I’d advise more practice for Vocalness and more Star Wars-watching for the non-watching members, it’s an entertaining form of the news.
Bloomberg Masters in Politics
These two ladies, experienced producers Betsy Fischer Martin and Tammy Haddad, interview various political people and groups, which gives an inside look into the lobbyists and political leaders making an impact on this election.
The Nation Start Making Sense
Like Masters in Politics, this is another interview podcast where Jon Wiener interviews usually 2-3 people with political influence (usually authors and writers for The Nation.)
Like the Podcast, the news, the internet and print media, documentaries have helped to fill in gaps on both sides of an argument, providing information not typically covered on TV news or in print/internet articles in a visual form. Unlike most forms of media, however, all forms of documentaries are biased – the filmmaker is trying to present an argument to you, like a “mega-commercial” for why you want to see things their way. As such, it is recommended to follow up these movies with some investigation – Not everything presented will be fact.
The one thing I would encourage everyone to do, especially if they’re going to reference documentaries, is to find something legitimate and representative of the opposite side you support – if you vote Democrat, look into Republican-view Documentaries; if you vote Republican, look into Democrat-view Documentaries. If you can look past what you feel to be silly and ridiculous, you can come to a better understanding of those people you disagree with, and find common ground to agree on.
The other thing I would suggest is focusing on the topic in discussion – NOT the party or players involved. It’s easy to paint someone as evil and dirty based on these films, but the important discussion isn’t always the people involved – it’s the viewpoint in question. That’s more difficult than people realize – which makes it EXTREMELY important to mention.
A final note: Although these are recent films, none of these are on either Hillary or Trump, and limited because of the intended focus of discussion. I welcome a film discussion in the comments below – maybe by getting a decent list of g00d films to watch, we can better understand all sides of a problem.
Inequality for All
Robert Reich, current “Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley” and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton’s presidency, gives an important lecture about the economic divide, the death of the middle class and the rise of the 1% since the early 1970’s. Sadly, the numbers can be backed up, and play a much larger and more important role in economics today.
America: Imagine the World Without Her
Remember what I was saying about viewing a film from the opposite party? Here’s an example. This film, made by Dinesh D’Souza, is very much right-wing propaganda – but there are common and agreeable points in there as well.
The Billionaires’ Tea Party
This is heavily focused on the Tea Party movement that has played significantly over the last decade of politics, but the plays made aren’t too different between parties. The most significant thing to note is how this movement started and is operating – you may understand why I have such distrust for openly-biased media.
Classes, Social Involvement, and the importance of Discussions
The biggest thing influencing what I post now was my recent return to college – pursuing an Associate of Arts to get my Bachelors degree in Computer Science allowed me to take some necessary but forced classes in Sociology, Politics, Psychology, Biology, History, Philosophy, Religion, Speech, and other subjects which will educate, inform and prepare people for the real world. You don’t need to return to school, however – there are plenty of resources, online and in the cities, that allow people to have discussions and educate themselves in political matters.
Discussion, really, is the most important aspect I can encourage. You can find plenty of media to fulfill the information need – but some of your best sources are going to be the people that you speak with. Even when you disagree, you can find more information on which to search for the next argument, find common ground that both sides agree on, most importantly, find the important points to take with you into November. You may see more opportunities than Hillary and Donald, and find an understanding to why both the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter movements are important. Agreement isn’t important – education is.
Conclusion: Educate yourself, Discuss with Others, Get Out There and Vote
Back to reality for a moment: This isn’t the same level as someone with a political science degree, a lawyer, professor or politician speaking – at the end of the day, I never pretended to be an expert, and I hope none of you will, either. I may dislike politics and politicians for what they do, but I won’t pretend for a moment that I can do better. (I lack the patience for it…)
I am, however, a concerned citizen -worried about the rights we have and the lives we live, and the impact these larger figures play in our lives. We don’t usually think about how their decisions impact us until we go to do something they change – then we get frustrated and angry, saddened, but ultimately accepting, of their decisions. We need to stop that -and fast. We’ve always had the power – but we’ve brainwashed to believe otherwise, and will remain so until we accept it.
I hope by sharing my sources and insights to my understanding you examine your own sources and choices. While I would like everyone to avoid voting for Trump, I don’t care about that as much as you learning to seek the truth – and understand that the other side isn’t your enemy. If, after doing your searches and reading, listening to, and watching your sources you find that Trump or Hillary are the best candidates, so be it – as long as you’re ignoring the ones that say that Hillary made a deal with the Devil or Trump’s a born-again Australian (or something equally ridiculous – wasn’t Obama an alien from another planet?) as well as the ones only designed to make you think in a particular bias, that’s what’s important.
I’ll probably post more political posts in the coming weeks. If you have a particular documentary or podcast to recommend, feel free to comment it below. (I’d suggest avoiding criticism of my sources, since the creators most likely won’t read them.)