I am an information junkie. Like the robot Johnnie-5 from the movie “Short Circuit” I need data input regularly. In years past, I could be seen in local eateries poring through two or three newspapers while working on my meal.
In these modern times, I am more likely to be reading my phone. This habit gets me in trouble… Especially when I’m around other people. Or driving. Or at church. Or in a movie theater. Or… The problem is, I am very easily distracted. Gone are the days of the thousand-word in-depth newspaper articles. Now everything is click bait, designed to get you to read a paragraph and then look elsewhere for something else. That’s how Internet sites make money.
Thus I am constantly going down one rabbit hole or another, following a trail of information. Old-fashioned printed encyclopedias and dictionaries had suggested readings too, but there was no urgency to get to them since you knew the book would be on your shelf the next day. Now, you never know if the headline you’re reading will even be there the next hour.
All this reading gives me a wide background knowledge base. That’s what I call it… others close to me call it useless trivia. However it’s perceived, all this “input” gives me a broad base to understand the news of the day…and how it gets spun.
In quantum physics there’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Effect, which says we can never be sure of both the position and motion of a particle: the very act of observing it impacts that information. I think the same can be said of facts…the act of reporting them automatically skews them through the reporter’s biases.
Even the most careful correspondent or author will subconsciously insert a slant into whatever event or fact he or she is talking about. Thus the “truth” of any matter becomes relative, not absolute. By the time you add the filter of the reader’s bias, it becomes ever more difficult to judge the accuracy of the original topic.
Unfortunately very few people are willing to accept that they’re being fed interpretations, not facts. And so multitudes of lazy thinkers believe whatever source they get their news from. At times, I’m as guilty as any. But I trust my own background knowledge, and whatever moral compass (or lack thereof) I’ve developed through my family and life experience.
Fortunately that’s enough to understand that at least 90% of anything I hear from any source is crap. Fox is as guilty as MSNBC or HuffPost. My goal, rarely successful, has been to sift through the polemics of both sides to find a happy medium. More on that next week.