As I write this, Americans have exercised their right to choose the person they believe is best suited to lead our country through the most insane period in US history. I sure hope we chose wisely because many of us have been played like a banjo these past few years. Facebook algorithms, Twitter bots, Russian agents, Chinese electronics, your crazy aunt Linda on Facebook, and the President of the United States have all conspired to demolish our ability to tell truth from fiction. We have to fix that!
I’m no expert in these kinds of things, but my moniker, “Computer Skeptic,” was inspired by my deep appreciation for the power of being skeptical of incredulous claims and scam artists. Being a skeptic does not mean one is immune to falling for scams and fictions, it just means that I make a conscious effort to raise my eyebrow when I come across some extraordinary claim. Y’all, we are going to need all our powers of skepticism to navigate the bumpy road ahead of us. So here are some basic tips to discern the trash from the truth.
First, keep in mind that the creators of disinformation purposefully manufacture content that is designed to elicit an emotion from you. “Anger” is one of the most effective triggers. If they can raise your hackles, they have you in their claws. Remember that when you read a story about votes being suppressed or certain pandemic viruses being a hoax.
Second, get your news from a wide variety of mainstream sources. Yeah, yeah, I know “liberal MSM” is a nifty catchphrase but that is nothing new. The cries from the left and right were just as loud during Watergate and the Bay of Pigs as they are now. The difference is that we are able to choose what news agencies agree with our sensibilities. I personally listen to Fox news until they give me an aneurysm, then CNN until I throw the remote at the TV. I then allow established sources such as the TimesDaily, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Hill to give me their slants on various items. My goal is to avoid bathing my brain in everything that is agreeable. If it makes me uncomfortable or disagrees with my biases, at least I’m thinking about it.
Lastly, this is the hard one: When you repeat or accept news items as truth, is that because you want it to be true or because it is supported by the evidence? Is it based in reality or on your personal ideology? The fact is that none of us think logically 100% of the time. Our organic computer in our head is subject to all sorts of errors and biases that make us who we are. My point is that it’s important to realize we aren’t perfect and to be a bit humble with our viewpoints (yeah I’m looking at you, mirror). We're gonna need to focus on the truth and ignore crazy aunt Linda.
Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com