Wednesday, August 26, 2015

They Don't Teach This In School

TL;DR - American Media is borked.  I use a computer thing called RSS to manage large amounts of news/data to consume at my leisure.
Media Bias, Confirmation Bias, Attention Bias, Projection Bias.... wikipedia has a huge list of cognitive biases for the intrepid reader.

What they don't teach in school is how to "do" the news.  I have friends that loudly decry the "Liberal Media".  I have friends that loudly decry "FOX  News".  From my personal experiences with them, these two groups share some striking similarities.   First, 95-99% of the news they consume comes only from sources that align with their ideological positions (Left/Right/Christian/Atheist/Free-Market/Pseudo-Law/ect).  Secondly, that 5-1% of news that they do consume from opposing sides, is consumed solely to be mocked/derided/infuriated-by.  Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, their discussion points and the evidence they provide to support their viewpoints demonstrates a harrowingly narrow comprehension of the issues.  Fourth, the vast majority do not research Source Documents.

Like The Food We Eat, The News We Consume has a profound impact on our mental well being.  Eight years ago my radio consumption was exclusively Talk-Radio.  I was more up to date than any of my peers regarding the latest political scandals and could quote from memory what different Politicians had to say about other Politicians.  It was the equivalent of Processed Food for the Brain, 24/7/365.  I was angry, I was in fear, I was frustrated.  The problem wasn't that I didn't care to be informed, I cared very much.  The issue was HOW I was getting my news.  The American Media is broken.  Categorically, unequivocally, perversely, broken.  The 24-Hour news cycle, and our consumer based society have colluded to create a system that is self-reinforcing in its negativity.  And it's not enough that the Major Networks have overly filtered lenses, but any yahoo with a Blogger account can rant for all to listen (such as this blog, LoL).

Two things I'd like to put out there: The Importance of Source Documents and How RSS Works.  The main issue I have with network news, is that they only tell you ABOUT stuff, they never actually show you the STUFF.  Cases in point would be the recent Planned Parenthood videos or perhaps the recent Supreme Court case legalizing Same-Sex Marriage.  Does Woody tune into MSNBC or FOX to be told how to feel?  No.  I read the full transcripts of the videos and I read the full Opinions of the Justices.  The talking heads are only there to reinforce the feelings you already have on an issue, not to educate or enlighten you to opposing viewpoints.  I choose to read the documents on which they report and come to my own conclusions.  A major aid to me in this endeavor is RSS, which stands for Really Short Syndication.  I have a feed-reader that manages the hundreds of Sources I have collected over the years.  Every time a new blog post, a new study, a new SCOTUS decision is published, a short three sentence summary shows up in my reader.  If I click on it, I can get the first paragraph or so, and if that looks good I can click to go to the actual story.  This allows me to cultivate the Sources that inform me, picking ones that aren't sensationalist, and to learn the type of spin their viewpoint utilizes.

Studying Engineering changed many things in my life.  I found that even in the crazy distraction filled world we live in, methods can be applied to the mayhem that allow reasonable thought processes to prevail.  If anyone wants to know more about RSS or the types of Source Documents I routinely study, just ask.