We live in the age of a perpetual ‘deluge’ of information…some true, some false and some a combination designed to make it appear believable. Information is available from many sources and even some of the sources we have grown up with have to be considered suspect. Information used to be available to us in a comparative trickle. It is available to us today as if coming from a giant firehose.
Maybe we are wise to be skeptics, but then we are challenged about what we should be skeptical and about what, if anything, we can be relaxed and believe, at least for the most part. The word ‘discernment’ is defined as “the ability to judge well”. That ability is what we need at the forefront of virtually everything we consume in the way of information. Not all information is factual either in part or completely. Some information is factual in part but still very misleading.
The latest thrust of what has become known as “fake news” has raised the spectre of disinformation being consumed as believable with no further review and no further corroboration. It is unfortunate, but many of us Americans take anything the print media throws at us as fact. A respected newspaper used the tagline “all the news that’s fit to print”, or something close to that phrase. That goes back a long, long time, so it seems there must’ve been the potential for fake news being dispensed even then.
A significant problem today is the amount of information we are expected to take in, judge, and either discard or commit to memory as being valid. Another aspect of the problem is the simple fact that our news can be of the liberal bent or the conservative bent or somewhere in between the two. If we do not take the time to determine what sources are which, we are destined to succumb to a version of the news that may not be exactly what it wished us to perceive it as being, thus we have become gullible consumers.
Simply stated, we can no longer, if we ever really could, take something we see in print or hear via radio or television as being the absolute truth. It may have elements of truth about it, but still be untrue at its heart; and, that is worse than an outright lie. If we take the time to reflect and chew on the information, to compare it to what we’ve earlier consumed, to look at its literal believability on its face, we have a better chance of being wise consumers of information. A significant problem today is the firehose-like volume of information we consume which we need to parse as we’re consuming it; that is contrasted with the earlier gardenhose volume and the even earlier simple trickle of information available to us.
This is all compounded by the fact that there is no straight-down-the-middle news source today. The slogan “all the news that’s fit to print” can no longer be relied upon to be true. My local newspaper has changed with its acquisition by the USA Today organization, subtly changed, and that is almost worse than a broadside change. This isn’t a comment on the former vs. the current believability factor; it is simply a comment that what was isn’t necessarily what it used to be either for the better or the worse.
We each need to begin with a personal believability ‘baseline’ if we are to be able to be discerning consumers of ‘news’ in the future. If you are an older consumer of news as am I, that is easier since we have something against which to compare today’s ‘news’. But, what about the younger members of our society who may or may not be consumers of ‘news’. Where is their baseline starting? If they begin consuming ‘news’ today, they will have a completely different frame of reference for believability purposes.
Are we teaching our young men and women that there is a need to be discerning consumers of news? If so, wonderful. If not, we’d better get on with that effort. You and I are responsible for that. We cannot rely on news organizations or our schools to do this for us. Those have become liberal bastions to one degree or another. If we expect there to be a conservative counter-balance in the world of politics, that needs to begin in our elementary schools and continue on through all our adult learning opportunities. If we want a liberal world, we can simply relax and know that it will happen.
Rather sobering I admit, but nonetheless of critical importance.