"It's a Jungle Out There": Fake News & Fake Experts, What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

owedtojoy

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"It's a Jungle Out There": Fake News & Fake Experts, What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

"Fake News" is Hot right now, and is now a standard piece of abuse at stories not to the liking of the speaker or writer.

Fake Experts are maybe not as hot, but they have always been around in the guise of "quack doctors" or "snake oil salesmen".

This post attempts to offer a Rough Guide to the Fake News/ Fake Expert Jungle. It will not name names, or even The Usual Suspects, but try to provide a roadmap to separating the news from the bullsh*t. There may be better guides - feel free to join in with your own.

[Bullsh*t, by the way, is real, and has always been with us. Google Harry Frankfurt: On Bullsh!t, available on Amazon.]

(1) The bad news: It takes time & effort


Checking on Fake News, or debunking a Fake Expert is not easy, and takes time. You can use snopes.com or politifact if you wish, snopes is excellent on Urban Myths. But these are Expert Authorities i.e. you are depending on someone else's research, so wait until we talk about evaluating their expertise.

The leading authorities on how humans think, Tversky and Kahnemann, divide descision making into two types
Thinking Fast and Slow

  1. Fast thinking - we use short cuts, or cues, or previous biases to make decisions.
  2. Slow Thinking - we use critical thinking, make inferences (sometimes uncertain) & logical deductions.
The bad news is that we use (1) most of the time, and (2) rarely, some of us never. Marketing and advertising people have always grasped this instinctively, and find to fairly easy to manipulate us. This has carried over into political propaganda. See The Hidden Persuaders

The reason for his is that (2) is much more energy-consuming and takes hard work. If our animal ancestors saw a large beast with big teeth approaching, they legged it. They never had to worry about complex matters like Brexit or unbanning abortion. They were too busy surviving.

Yet all human advances in civilisation have come from (2), and it is only that can help us find a way out of the Fake * Jungle.​

(2) Evaluating Expertise

"Arn't we all fed up of experts?" famously said Michael Gove, though I am sure he excepted experts who supported his own position. In fact, it is a clear example of "fast thinking". Smart, but not so smart really.

Yes, ok, Mr Gove, but if we reject all expertise, then we are in a bit of a pickle. We take expert advice all the time and the list is endless - car mechanics, plumbers, insurance brokers, lawyers, doctors, teachers ... if you are ill, or your child is ill, or you car broken down, or your central heating on the fritz, then you need expert advice, even if you may already be an expert. You cannot exist in the modern world without relying on the expertise of someone, even a survivalist in the wilds of Alaska will need a midwife, a doctor or a vet, sometime.

So how can we tell what expertise is fake, and what is not? Weill here is how biologist and philosopher of science Massimo Piglucci puts it: Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

1) Examine the arguments presented by the "expert". Unfortunately, except when the "expert" is a politician campaigning for office, a non-technical person cannot easily evaluate the deepest arguments of oncologists or nuclear physicists.
(2) Evidence of agreement by other experts: A consensus among scientists, doctors or engineers is a powerful indicator of good expertise. That does not mean an automatic pass, just more weight to their arguments.
(3) Independent evidence that the expert is, indeed, a real expert. Qualifications are basically what is required and the recognition that it takes about 10 years of hard work and study in the Subject Matter Area to gain the right to be called "expert", and even then extra years of experience are desirable. Medicine is an excellent example.
(4) An investigation into biases of the investigator or the expert. Most notorious are the doctors whose research is or was funded by Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or the sugar industry to present biased studies.
(5) The track record of the expert. Who wants to listen to the economists who said about the Property Boom: "It's different this time"? Tricky, because anyone can be wrong once, and "wrong last time" may be just a bias of yours (Google the "Availability Error" or "Availability Fallacy"). Look at the entire career.

So when told to give up eating juicy steaks, or swilling beer, or getting the kids vaccinated (or not), by some "expert", try applying the above yardstick. Be skeptical, get a second opinion, or a third, but remember on most matters, you cannot sit on the fence forever. Professional "skeptics" are just using an escape route. You can be skeptical, and still make a decision, but revisit it.

Weigh experts or expertise against each other, and their evidence. Look upon it as your membership of a jury, when you must look at all the facets of the case. And beware of the expert who is disparaged because of some alleged mistake - make sure the alternative is better.​

(4) Evaluating News

My contention is that reporting News is a form of specialist expertise, so all the above guidelines still apply. Unfortunately, some are now weakened (4) - news outlets, especially the online ones, are vehicles for advertising and will do what improves the "bottom line", even if it compromises their (alleged) "standards". So sift, avoid news on social media., distrust until verified.

So how do you know if news is fake? What really happened? How much is "spin"?

(1) Look for agreement by other news channels: A consensus among news outlets obviously matters. Be wary of stories that confirm your prejudice. Read a report (occasionally) is news outlets that maybe represent a different political viewpoint.
(3) Independent evidence of "what really happened". See above. Independent eye-witnesses matter. Even suspend judgement, pending further evidence.
(4) An investigation into biases of the writer or the media outlet:. Be wary of opinion pieces or op-eds that cite experts. Vet those experts. Refer back to the previous section.
(5) The track record of the news outlet. I prefer news media that have been around for a long time, they are possibly more likely to have a tradition of "straight" reporting. I am suspicious of some of the new on-line magazines though I have my preferences. Check domains and urls

Typos or misspellings are dead giveaways, like in phishing e-mails, and fake news is a form of phishing.

Google quotes (often copied and re-assigned), or search for images on Google.

Here are other hints on how to spot fake news.

10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article - EasyBib Blog

These 6 Easy Steps Will Help You Spot Fake News Every Time ... [Irony Detector: Buzzfeed!]

Fake News Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts : All Tech Considered : NPR

(5) Learn a bit about rhetoric and logical fallacies.

No harm to learn about the Argument from Authority. Expertise is a form of authority, but perhaps a legitimate one. However, Arguments from Authority can be refuted and are not infallible. Speaking of which, the Pope (to take an example) is an authority figure in faith and morals, but not in science. Watch out for the illegitimate authority, wandering outside their field e.g. the you-know-who celebrities who adopt "causes".

Beware of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Dunning and Kruger found that people ignorant of a subject tend to overestimate their expertise, and that people conversant with a topic tend to underestimate their expertise. So beware the confident ignoramus, and respect the diffident expert. And apply it to yourself - are you a Dunning-Krugerite when you expatiate on your opinions?

Learn about other logical fallacies and traps for the unwary: https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/LogicalFallacies.pdf

Thomas Jefferson believed in a Free Press, and believed it was vital in a democracy for it to keep a check on the people's elected representatives. "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.". And in Jefferson's time, the public press was as vicious and vindictive as many a website today.

The press is in danger of being undermined by an up-welling of raucous "fake news", coarsened discourse and vindictive bullying. If it is all just "noise" serving the interests of someone, then how can you tell "good" from "bad"? How can you tell when opinions are being presented as facts, something which is becoming a worrying norm, and "feelings" shaped by propaganda are held to be "true", irrespective of the actual situation?

Given that the situation cannot be rolled back, though by a process of evolution, people may generally realise which outlets are more reliable than others. I am not optimist - as in fast thinking, we are predisposed to accept that which confirms basic prejudices and reject that which does not.

A longer term solutions is improved teaching of critical thinking in schools, and preparation (as with online sexual etiquette) for children to become better informed and responsible adults.
 


Billixed

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Fake news has been hot for years. The difference today is there's plenty alternatives, and people are finding them.

This is what has governments worried.
 

Betson

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It 's easy,any thing from CNN or any of the left leaning websites is more than likely makey uppy fake news. Fox and few more are the only ones who call it like it is.
 

Accidental sock

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It 's easy,any thing from CNN or any of the left leaning websites is more than likely makey uppy fake news. Fox and few more are the only ones who call it like it is.
Exactly. Pick and instantly accept the source that suits bias and narrative.

Critical thinking is for eejits.

Personally, if it's not on 'Waterford whispers', it never happened.
 

Zapped(CAPITALISMROTS)

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Fake news is fabricated for the same reason that Toddlers like to grasp out their hands for the first time to study their surroundings, they cannot the resist the urge to find out, and though it could be messy, and even potentially dangerous for the tots...usually an adult will step in and explain in gibberish mode whats really up!:rolleyes:
 

Betson

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Exactly. Pick and instantly accept the source that suits bias and narrative.

Critical thinking is for eejits.

Personally, if it's not on 'Waterford whispers', it never happened.
Exactly , that is what is so good about the amount of choice out there these days. If you don't like the news you are hearing from one outlet , just look around and you are sure to find someone covering the exact same story but with the spin you want on it.
 

ottovonbismarck

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The cover of Guns and Roses' Lies EP contains more accurate information than what I see on most sites.
 

former wesleyan

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Messages
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Fake news has been hot for years. The difference today is there's plenty alternatives, and people are finding them.

This is what has governments worried.
Sez the poster who entered a thread with …." there's nothing about it on RT "…
 

ticketyboo

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Messages
4,944
It 's easy,any thing from CNN or any of the left leaning websites is more than likely makey uppy fake news. Fox and few more are the only ones who call it like it is.
Honestly....are you drinking..?
Was it worth the time and effort posting semi-literate, incoherent nonsense like that creative gem...?
I've actually read a lot of stuff online of CNN and a lot of feature writers are a mirror of the Irish Independent's SF/IRA guff..albeit with superior style, class and creativity....depends on what we like to call our brains and our ability to process the guff and analyse it critically whether we believe it or not.....
And FOX news...the channel's tagline "fair and balanced" is possibly the most outrageous folly ever, especially when its contributors defend it a being a counterweight to what it calls the overwhelming bias towards the "liberals"...so how can it simultaneously be balanced AND a counterbalance....?
But why am I asking you this, socrates...?
 

GDPR

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I m not so much concerned about the MSM, which strikes me as more cowed that duplicitous, as the proliferation of pseudo-news sites like Brietbart and Zero Hedge. I am not saying everything they report is a lie, but they are run by extremely dodgy people whose objective is not to inform but to create a sense of impending doom and dissolution for naked political or economic motives,

I have to say whenever a poster on here links to one of those, I tend to assume said poster is a shill or totally naive.

You know an awful lot of people get news from facebook feeds and these are just a welter of shyte. Truly abysmal,

Be careful of "alternative news" - someone is pushing it, and they may be kosher or they may not.
 

Billixed

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Messages
271
Sez the poster who entered a thread with …." there's nothing about it on RT "…
I don't recall said entry..

Anyway, RT is way better than most Western mainstream crap!

They call Wahhabist terrorists Wahhabist terrorists, not 'rebels'.
 

ON THE ONE ROAD

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Messages
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"Fake News" is Hot right now, and is now a standard piece of abuse at stories not to the liking of the speaker or writer.

Fake Experts are maybe not as hot, but they have always been around in the guise of "quack doctors" or "snake oil salesmen".

This post attempts to offer a Rough Guide to the Fake News/ Fake Expert Jungle. It will not name names, or even The Usual Suspects, but try to provide a roadmap to separating the news from the bullsh*t. There may be better guides - feel free to join in with your own.

[Bullsh*t, by the way, is real, and has always been with us. Google Harry Frankfurt: On Bullsh!t, available on Amazon.]

(1) The bad news: It takes time & effort


Checking on Fake News, or debunking a Fake Expert is not easy, and takes time. You can use snopes.com or politifact if you wish, snopes is excellent on Urban Myths. But these are Expert Authorities i.e. you are depending on someone else's research, so wait until we talk about evaluating their expertise.

The leading authorities on how humans think, Tversky and Kahnemann, divide descision making into two types
Thinking Fast and Slow

  1. Fast thinking - we use short cuts, or cues, or previous biases to make decisions.
  2. Slow Thinking - we use critical thinking, make inferences (sometimes uncertain) & logical deductions.
The bad news is that we use (1) most of the time, and (2) rarely, some of us never. Marketing and advertising people have always grasped this instinctively, and find to fairly easy to manipulate us. This has carried over into political propaganda. See The Hidden Persuaders

The reason for his is that (2) is much more energy-consuming and takes hard work. If our animal ancestors saw a large beast with big teeth approaching, they legged it. They never had to worry about complex matters like Brexit or unbanning abortion. They were too busy surviving.

Yet all human advances in civilisation have come from (2), and it is only that can help us find a way out of the Fake * Jungle.​

(2) Evaluating Expertise

"Arn't we all fed up of experts?" famously said Michael Gove, though I am sure he excepted experts who supported his own position. In fact, it is a clear example of "fast thinking". Smart, but not so smart really.

Yes, ok, Mr Gove, but if we reject all expertise, then we are in a bit of a pickle. We take expert advice all the time and the list is endless - car mechanics, plumbers, insurance brokers, lawyers, doctors, teachers ... if you are ill, or your child is ill, or you car broken down, or your central heating on the fritz, then you need expert advice, even if you may already be an expert. You cannot exist in the modern world without relying on the expertise of someone, even a survivalist in the wilds of Alaska will need a midwife, a doctor or a vet, sometime.

So how can we tell what expertise is fake, and what is not? Weill here is how biologist and philosopher of science Massimo Piglucci puts it: Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

1) Examine the arguments presented by the "expert". Unfortunately, except when the "expert" is a politician campaigning for office, a non-technical person cannot easily evaluate the deepest arguments of oncologists or nuclear physicists.
(2) Evidence of agreement by other experts: A consensus among scientists, doctors or engineers is a powerful indicator of good expertise. That does not mean an automatic pass, just more weight to their arguments.
(3) Independent evidence that the expert is, indeed, a real expert. Qualifications are basically what is required and the recognition that it takes about 10 years of hard work and study in the Subject Matter Area to gain the right to be called "expert", and even then extra years of experience are desirable. Medicine is an excellent example.
(4) An investigation into biases of the investigator or the expert. Most notorious are the doctors whose research is or was funded by Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or the sugar industry to present biased studies.
(5) The track record of the expert. Who wants to listen to the economists who said about the Property Boom: "It's different this time"? Tricky, because anyone can be wrong once, and "wrong last time" may be just a bias of yours (Google the "Availability Error" or "Availability Fallacy"). Look at the entire career.

So when told to give up eating juicy steaks, or swilling beer, or getting the kids vaccinated (or not), by some "expert", try applying the above yardstick. Be skeptical, get a second opinion, or a third, but remember on most matters, you cannot sit on the fence forever. Professional "skeptics" are just using an escape route. You can be skeptical, and still make a decision, but revisit it.

Weigh experts or expertise against each other, and their evidence. Look upon it as your membership of a jury, when you must look at all the facets of the case. And beware of the expert who is disparaged because of some alleged mistake - make sure the alternative is better.​

(4) Evaluating News

My contention is that reporting News is a form of specialist expertise, so all the above guidelines still apply. Unfortunately, some are now weakened (4) - news outlets, especially the online ones, are vehicles for advertising and will do what improves the "bottom line", even if it compromises their (alleged) "standards". So sift, avoid news on social media., distrust until verified.

So how do you know if news is fake? What really happened? How much is "spin"?

(1) Look for agreement by other news channels: A consensus among news outlets obviously matters. Be wary of stories that confirm your prejudice. Read a report (occasionally) is news outlets that maybe represent a different political viewpoint.
(3) Independent evidence of "what really happened". See above. Independent eye-witnesses matter. Even suspend judgement, pending further evidence.
(4) An investigation into biases of the writer or the media outlet:. Be wary of opinion pieces or op-eds that cite experts. Vet those experts. Refer back to the previous section.
(5) The track record of the news outlet. I prefer news media that have been around for a long time, they are possibly more likely to have a tradition of "straight" reporting. I am suspicious of some of the new on-line magazines though I have my preferences. Check domains and urls

Typos or misspellings are dead giveaways, like in phishing e-mails, and fake news is a form of phishing.

Google quotes (often copied and re-assigned), or search for images on Google.

Here are other hints on how to spot fake news.

10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article - EasyBib Blog

These 6 Easy Steps Will Help You Spot Fake News Every Time ... [Irony Detector: Buzzfeed!]

Fake News Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts : All Tech Considered : NPR

(5) Learn a bit about rhetoric and logical fallacies.

No harm to learn about the Argument from Authority. Expertise is a form of authority, but perhaps a legitimate one. However, Arguments from Authority can be refuted and are not infallible. Speaking of which, the Pope (to take an example) is an authority figure in faith and morals, but not in science. Watch out for the illegitimate authority, wandering outside their field e.g. the you-know-who celebrities who adopt "causes".

Beware of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Dunning and Kruger found that people ignorant of a subject tend to overestimate their expertise, and that people conversant with a topic tend to underestimate their expertise. So beware the confident ignoramus, and respect the diffident expert. And apply it to yourself - are you a Dunning-Krugerite when you expatiate on your opinions?

Learn about other logical fallacies and traps for the unwary: https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/LogicalFallacies.pdf

Thomas Jefferson believed in a Free Press, and believed it was vital in a democracy for it to keep a check on the people's elected representatives. "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.". And in Jefferson's time, the public press was as vicious and vindictive as many a website today.

The press is in danger of being undermined by an up-welling of raucous "fake news", coarsened discourse and vindictive bullying. If it is all just "noise" serving the interests of someone, then how can you tell "good" from "bad"? How can you tell when opinions are being presented as facts, something which is becoming a worrying norm, and "feelings" shaped by propaganda are held to be "true", irrespective of the actual situation?

Given that the situation cannot be rolled back, though by a process of evolution, people may generally realise which outlets are more reliable than others. I am not optimist - as in fast thinking, we are predisposed to accept that which confirms basic prejudices and reject that which does not.

A longer term solutions is improved teaching of critical thinking in schools, and preparation (as with online sexual etiquette) for children to become better informed and responsible adults.
"We can't prove he's a pig f----r." "I know that," replied Johnson. "I just want to hear him deny it."

nothing new in fake news.


be ware of the bias of the onwers of the media, be aware of the bias of the consumers of the media.
look for acknowledgement of that by the author of the piece, that could be an admission or/and an attempt at balance. It won't get balance 50% but some attempt to look at the other side of the story.

headline and byline having no correlation with the article can be an annoying one. So don't presume and read the entire article or watch the program. Don't form opinions on stuff you haven't seen or read, and as you are watching, listening or reading scan for ques, who created it, who it was created for.

Every human has bias, impossible to be immune from it but ignorant not to acknowledge it. Class, gender, religion, nationality, sports team, they may wither as time passes or people may make an attempt to purge themselves of a particular bias and ironically define themselves by it.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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I'm afraid there is only one solution and it is a toughie. Develop some critical faculties. I know this is unpopular and eats into one's time looking at funny cat images on the internet but it can be unexpectedly as rewarding.

 

Lumpy Talbot

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Truth is that the world is full of low rent morons. I reckon about eight or nine out of ten can't follow any news story without moving their lips.

Just try not to be one of them. The Fake News stuff isn't new. NBC, CBC, ABC have been pushing fake news since the 1950's in the US and the BBC isn't exactly innocent either if you'll recall the fiddling with the music charts to exclude the Sex Pistols from the number one slot in the 1970s in case someone at the organisation missed out on an OBE.

There is just a unique nexus of activity at the junction of the internet and television news now which means the Fake News is frantically active among the stupid.
 
D

Deleted member 42179

People trust the Washington Post far too much in my opinion.


The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon -- which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.

Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.

And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

As Amazon’s majority owner and the Post’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.

Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. The media watch group FAIR pointed out what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: “WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon’s webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website.”

How’s that for a commitment to the public’s right to know?

Days ago, my colleagues at RootsAction.org launched a petition that says: “The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.” More than 15,000 people have signed the petition so far this week, with many posting comments that underscore widespread belief in journalistic principles.

While the Post functions as a powerhouse media outlet in the Nation’s Capital, it’s also a national and global entity -- read every day by millions of people who never hold its newsprint edition in their hands. Hundreds of daily papers reprint the Post’s news articles and opinion pieces, while online readership spans the world.

Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the Washington Post were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society.

“The Post is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media,” journalism scholar Robert W. McChesney points out. “Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the Post itself.”

In a statement just released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, McChesney added: “If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation -- say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government -- the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine.”

From the Institute, we also contacted other media and intelligence analysts to ask for assessments; their comments are unlikely to ever appear in the Washington Post.

“What emerges now is what, in intelligence parlance, is called an ‘agent of influence’ owning the Post -- with a huge financial interest in playing nice with the CIA,” said former CIA official Ray McGovern. “In other words, two main players nourishing the national security state in undisguised collaboration.”

A former reporter for the Washington Post and many other news organizations, John Hanrahan, said: “It's all so basic. Readers of the Washington Post, which reports frequently on the CIA, are entitled to know -- and to be reminded on a regular basis in stories and editorials in the newspaper and online -- that the Post's new owner Jeff Bezos stands to benefit substantially from Amazon's $600 million contract with the CIA. Even with such disclosure, the public should not feel assured they are getting tough-minded reporting on the CIA. One thing is certain: Post reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA -- and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move.”

The rich and powerful blow hard against the flame of truly independent journalism. If we want the lantern carried high, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.
Jeff Bezos Is Doing Huge Business with the CIA, While Keeping His Washington Post Readers in the Dark | Alternet
 

Morgellons

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Messages
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Excellent OP that throws up some interesting food for thought. When it comes to the medical profession though, things can be especially tricky with different doctors-experts-sometimes giving different diagnoses and plans of action. Who is one to believe in here? They all may seem convincing.
 

cunnyfunt

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I m not so much concerned about the MSM, which strikes me as more cowed that duplicitous, as the proliferation of pseudo-news sites like Brietbart and Zero Hedge. I am not saying everything they report is a lie, but they are run by extremely dodgy people whose objective is not to inform but to create a sense of impending doom and dissolution for naked political or economic motives
The problem with this comment is it is based on feelings. Its this simple, if what they report is a lie........its a lie. If what they report is true................its true. Clearly, the vast majority of what they report is true. Because it upsets a certain demographic of left/liberals... is quite simply... tough.

The left need to acknowledge they are the very reason why Trump/Brexit were voted for. In the following video Jonathan Haidt gives an excellent speech on the complexities of politics and the driving forces behind the whole left/right arguments (an excellent watch imho). One particular quote I liked ..."you c'ant have diversity without a shared sense of identity"...

[video=youtube;TWgM2gBRQrA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWgM2gBRQrA[/video]
 
Last edited:

derryman

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Sep 17, 2011
Messages
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"Fake News" is Hot right now, and is now a standard piece of abuse at stories not to the liking of the speaker or writer.

Fake Experts are maybe not as hot, but they have always been around in the guise of "quack doctors" or "snake oil salesmen".

This post attempts to offer a Rough Guide to the Fake News/ Fake Expert Jungle. It will not name names, or even The Usual Suspects, but try to provide a roadmap to separating the news from the bullsh*t. There may be better guides - feel free to join in with your own.

[Bullsh*t, by the way, is real, and has always been with us. Google Harry Frankfurt: On Bullsh!t, available on Amazon.]

(1) The bad news: It takes time & effort


Checking on Fake News, or debunking a Fake Expert is not easy, and takes time. You can use snopes.com or politifact if you wish, snopes is excellent on Urban Myths. But these are Expert Authorities i.e. you are depending on someone else's research, so wait until we talk about evaluating their expertise.

The leading authorities on how humans think, Tversky and Kahnemann, divide descision making into two types
Thinking Fast and Slow

  1. Fast thinking - we use short cuts, or cues, or previous biases to make decisions.
  2. Slow Thinking - we use critical thinking, make inferences (sometimes uncertain) & logical deductions.
The bad news is that we use (1) most of the time, and (2) rarely, some of us never. Marketing and advertising people have always grasped this instinctively, and find to fairly easy to manipulate us. This has carried over into political propaganda. See The Hidden Persuaders

The reason for his is that (2) is much more energy-consuming and takes hard work. If our animal ancestors saw a large beast with big teeth approaching, they legged it. They never had to worry about complex matters like Brexit or unbanning abortion. They were too busy surviving.

Yet all human advances in civilisation have come from (2), and it is only that can help us find a way out of the Fake * Jungle.​

(2) Evaluating Expertise

"Arn't we all fed up of experts?" famously said Michael Gove, though I am sure he excepted experts who supported his own position. In fact, it is a clear example of "fast thinking". Smart, but not so smart really.

Yes, ok, Mr Gove, but if we reject all expertise, then we are in a bit of a pickle. We take expert advice all the time and the list is endless - car mechanics, plumbers, insurance brokers, lawyers, doctors, teachers ... if you are ill, or your child is ill, or you car broken down, or your central heating on the fritz, then you need expert advice, even if you may already be an expert. You cannot exist in the modern world without relying on the expertise of someone, even a survivalist in the wilds of Alaska will need a midwife, a doctor or a vet, sometime.

So how can we tell what expertise is fake, and what is not? Weill here is how biologist and philosopher of science Massimo Piglucci puts it: Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

1) Examine the arguments presented by the "expert". Unfortunately, except when the "expert" is a politician campaigning for office, a non-technical person cannot easily evaluate the deepest arguments of oncologists or nuclear physicists.
(2) Evidence of agreement by other experts: A consensus among scientists, doctors or engineers is a powerful indicator of good expertise. That does not mean an automatic pass, just more weight to their arguments.
(3) Independent evidence that the expert is, indeed, a real expert. Qualifications are basically what is required and the recognition that it takes about 10 years of hard work and study in the Subject Matter Area to gain the right to be called "expert", and even then extra years of experience are desirable. Medicine is an excellent example.
(4) An investigation into biases of the investigator or the expert. Most notorious are the doctors whose research is or was funded by Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or the sugar industry to present biased studies.
(5) The track record of the expert. Who wants to listen to the economists who said about the Property Boom: "It's different this time"? Tricky, because anyone can be wrong once, and "wrong last time" may be just a bias of yours (Google the "Availability Error" or "Availability Fallacy"). Look at the entire career.

So when told to give up eating juicy steaks, or swilling beer, or getting the kids vaccinated (or not), by some "expert", try applying the above yardstick. Be skeptical, get a second opinion, or a third, but remember on most matters, you cannot sit on the fence forever. Professional "skeptics" are just using an escape route. You can be skeptical, and still make a decision, but revisit it.

Weigh experts or expertise against each other, and their evidence. Look upon it as your membership of a jury, when you must look at all the facets of the case. And beware of the expert who is disparaged because of some alleged mistake - make sure the alternative is better.​

(4) Evaluating News

My contention is that reporting News is a form of specialist expertise, so all the above guidelines still apply. Unfortunately, some are now weakened (4) - news outlets, especially the online ones, are vehicles for advertising and will do what improves the "bottom line", even if it compromises their (alleged) "standards". So sift, avoid news on social media., distrust until verified.

So how do you know if news is fake? What really happened? How much is "spin"?

(1) Look for agreement by other news channels: A consensus among news outlets obviously matters. Be wary of stories that confirm your prejudice. Read a report (occasionally) is news outlets that maybe represent a different political viewpoint.
(3) Independent evidence of "what really happened". See above. Independent eye-witnesses matter. Even suspend judgement, pending further evidence.
(4) An investigation into biases of the writer or the media outlet:. Be wary of opinion pieces or op-eds that cite experts. Vet those experts. Refer back to the previous section.
(5) The track record of the news outlet. I prefer news media that have been around for a long time, they are possibly more likely to have a tradition of "straight" reporting. I am suspicious of some of the new on-line magazines though I have my preferences. Check domains and urls

Typos or misspellings are dead giveaways, like in phishing e-mails, and fake news is a form of phishing.

Google quotes (often copied and re-assigned), or search for images on Google.

Here are other hints on how to spot fake news.

10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article - EasyBib Blog

These 6 Easy Steps Will Help You Spot Fake News Every Time ... [Irony Detector: Buzzfeed!]

Fake News Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts : All Tech Considered : NPR

(5) Learn a bit about rhetoric and logical fallacies.

No harm to learn about the Argument from Authority. Expertise is a form of authority, but perhaps a legitimate one. However, Arguments from Authority can be refuted and are not infallible. Speaking of which, the Pope (to take an example) is an authority figure in faith and morals, but not in science. Watch out for the illegitimate authority, wandering outside their field e.g. the you-know-who celebrities who adopt "causes".

Beware of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Dunning and Kruger found that people ignorant of a subject tend to overestimate their expertise, and that people conversant with a topic tend to underestimate their expertise. So beware the confident ignoramus, and respect the diffident expert. And apply it to yourself - are you a Dunning-Krugerite when you expatiate on your opinions?

Learn about other logical fallacies and traps for the unwary: https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/LogicalFallacies.pdf

Thomas Jefferson believed in a Free Press, and believed it was vital in a democracy for it to keep a check on the people's elected representatives. "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.". And in Jefferson's time, the public press was as vicious and vindictive as many a website today.

The press is in danger of being undermined by an up-welling of raucous "fake news", coarsened discourse and vindictive bullying. If it is all just "noise" serving the interests of someone, then how can you tell "good" from "bad"? How can you tell when opinions are being presented as facts, something which is becoming a worrying norm, and "feelings" shaped by propaganda are held to be "true", irrespective of the actual situation?

Given that the situation cannot be rolled back, though by a process of evolution, people may generally realise which outlets are more reliable than others. I am not optimist - as in fast thinking, we are predisposed to accept that which confirms basic prejudices and reject that which does not.

A longer term solutions is improved teaching of critical thinking in schools, and preparation (as with online sexual etiquette) for children to become better informed and responsible adults.
The Aussies have a definition of an expert. " a man who knows 49 different ways of making love, but doesn't know any woman". This board is filled to the rafters with those kind of experts.
 
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derryman

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Sep 17, 2011
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Truth is that the world is full of low rent morons. I reckon about eight or nine out of ten can't follow any news story without moving their lips.

Just try not to be one of them. The Fake News stuff isn't new. NBC, CBC, ABC have been pushing fake news since the 1950's in the US and the BBC isn't exactly innocent either if you'll recall the fiddling with the music charts to exclude the Sex Pistols from the number one slot in the 1970s in case someone at the organisation missed out on an OBE.

There is just a unique nexus of activity at the junction of the internet and television news now which means the Fake News is frantically active among the stupid.
I am sure you are not suggest that the BBC s worst act if duplicity was manipulating the pop charts .:lol:u
 
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sadcitizen

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Sep 27, 2011
Messages
4,271
Pretty good OP.

It seems like we're interpreting "fake news" in different ways though, and that a guide for spotting it only works once you know what you're trying to spot it for. Are you trying to get the truth? The truth according to who? What do you want your truths for?

It looks like you're fundamentally interpreting it as being instances of poor media, i.e. specific articles or interviews which are so poorly realised that they don't offer you 'the truth', or even sinisterly hide the truth, and that this fakeness can be assessed by analysing the piece, the ideas, and the creators.

My interpretation of "fake news" is something closer to "propaganda". Well, it is propaganda. It is impossible to assess it for fakeness by an analysis of metadata (by looking at who wrote it, who is interviewed, spelling mistakes, professionalism, expertise involved) because fundamental to the immutable effectiveness of propaganda is that it *must* communicate real expertise, trustworthiness, and it must represent an attractive ideology which in turn undermines your inclination to question it in the first place.

Example: compare caricatures of the stereotypical 'evil Jew' drawn in early 20th century Germany to ones drawn now (they still exist). They're conceptually identical, almost visually identical. In Germany they were an effective form of propaganda because they were viewed as authentic. They were a visual representation of shared expertise, and communicated (as caricature) the opinions of genuinely very intelligent psychologists, doctors, professors, politicians etc. Caricatures drawn now, although very similar, are ineffective forms of propaganda because they specifically don't communicate expertise or a coherent ideology and are therefore viewed as inauthentic, except to people who already hold those beliefs. They couldn't even be called propaganda now, because they aren't disseminated widely enough to affect anything.

So although I liked your OP, on the basis that propaganda only works when it feels true and appears authentic, when it represents genuine expertise and authority, when it seems that all experts are in agreement, when there are independent verifications which corroborate it, and when it's widely disseminated, I feel that the *opposite* of your OP could be just a good a guide at spotting "fake news".

As verification of what I'm saying, look at every single major event in Ireland or in the west in the last 15 years (which is about as long as I've paid attention). The Dotcom bubble, the Great Recession, housing crises (as you mentioned), the invasion of Iraq, Arab spring, Brexit, Trump...there wasn't a single event where every audible expert was not telling you why you're wrong to even have questions. Why wouldn't you just commit suicide if you're questioning it, the Taoiseach said. Every media organisation - who all had great track records - corroborated the facts, every article had perfect spelling, every economist/politician/statistician/medical expert/military expert that you'd be likely to hear was in agreement. In each case there was a sinister fringe of people who correctly disagreed with the common view (writing articles etc), and your OPs criteria would deem their views to be the ones worth focussing your scepticism on. You'll also notice that, after a level of truth comes out after the fact, the idea always memetically spreads that either "sure the dogs in the street knew Saddam actually didn't have WMD/the economy was overheated" or "sure nobody could have ever predicted Trump would win even though he did" as organisations tumble over themselves to re-authenticate their expertise, and simultaneously undermine the expertise of the sinister fringe in that case.

I think that the only way you'll get to something like an 'objective' 'truth' is if you embrace the poorly written news, the well written news, conspiracy theorists, crackpots, mainstream experts, fake data, real data, and try to triangulate the truth yourself using the ideas expressed in OP. I agree with Billixed in that it's the ability for people to do this now which has western governments freaking out.
 
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