Sunday, June 05, 2005

La, La, La...I can't hear you

The Dallas Morning News Sunday edition had a front page article Christians flocking to religious media [link requires registration].
When Family Net reported on the recent Miss Universe pageant, the Fort Worth-based Christian TV network edited out footage of the swimsuit competition.

When World magazine wrote about a church embroiled in controversy, the Christian publication noted that the "mainstream media had badly garbled the story."

And when the Christian Broadcasting Network covered founder Pat Robertson's trip to India, a reporter matter-of-factly described miracles that had been delivered.
The article goes on to describe how many Christians are turning to religious media for their news.

"Sacred media is more trustworthy than its secular couterparts...religious news outlets provide an alternative for those who reject mainstream media."

This trend isn't unique to Christians. Islamic extremists have for years been getting their unique perspective on world events from various middle eastern outlets. In the US, many on the right have been getting their news in recent years from "Fair and Balanced" Fox news (a counter, many of them say, to the inherent left bias of the other news outlets that has existed for years).

Increasingly, people are only listening to those with whom they agree, only getting their news from those outlets that reflect their existing world view, only hitting the web sites and RSS feeds of those who tell them what they want to hear.

Is there no source for unbiased reporting?

Admittedly, there probably never was. John Leo loves to make a career out of pointing out how the left leaning media slants and even ignores stories that don't agree with their preconceived views (although how such a self-editing left-leaning press would publish anything by John Leo is conveniently ignored).

But even if you don't buy into the "vast left-wing/right-wing/ secular/religious/ power-broker/World Government conspiracy to control the press," it is probably fair to say that with limited distribution channels for information, it was easier in the past to control the dissemination of information and bias it toward whatever viewpoint the gatekeepers chose. (Control of information dissemination is integral to every entity vying for power, from China to our own government and corporations. We just happen to have more rule of law that makes our government have to be much more clever about such control.)

The internet breaks down the barrier to information dissemination. It is likely that "The Truth Is Out There." If you can find it.

And there's the rub. Each individual must sift through the myriad of web information sources, trying to discern the trustworthy from the misleading and downright disinformation sites.

And so each picks their information source, be it television, newspaper, or web site, based upon a comparison of the information from that source and the information the individual already "knows" to be true.

Depending upon the critical thinking skills of the individual, some will make better choices than others. Most will subscribe to sources that feed information that fits neatly into a set of preconceived notions, because that is how they found their audience in the first place.

Everyone will be sure that anyone spouting information that differs in content from that received by their media outlet of choice is wrong - dead wrong. Not even worth listening to. "La, la, la...I can't heeeeaar youuuuuu..."

It is difficult to come to consensus or even compromise on different worldviews when the basis of facts can't even be agreed to. There is no common ground.

And that doesn't bode well for democratic processes for decision making.

We need a Truth Machine - something that can let everyone know when an individual at least believes they are telling the truth. Perceptions of events will still differ, but at least we can triangulate between truthful recitations of perceptions to come to some common understanding of the facts of an event.

Without a Truth Machine, we only have disinformation vs. spin, with the truth lost to a little unread site in cyberspace.

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