Question everything. Especially if you think it's true.

Submitted by emma in lobby

A recent thread here prompted me to think about source criticism. I don't want to make this a call-out thread, so I won't link it, but the short version is that someone here posted an infographic that didn't cite its sources, which lead to heated discussion when someone asked for them.

We, as leftists, and humans in general, tend to get complacent when faced with facts that fit neatly within with our preconceived view of the world. Back on the old Raddle, someone posted a news story about a nazi soldier who was eaten alive by a giant catfish, and those of us who were there at the time didn't really question it. Of course, it turned out to be a hoax. In the thread I mentioned before, the infographic made the point that while wages have decreased, the costs of services we rely on have increased many times over. Standard leftist talking points, but there were no sources to back up the numbers, not even any mention of where these numbers apply (presumably the US, but who knows). Despite these failings, the thread got a significant amount of upvotes.

In both of these cases, there's (presumably) little harm in believing the misinformation provided. But misinformation can be used for nefarious purposes: the numbers in the infographic may simply have been lessened to downplay the level of inequality in the world (or vice versa). Imagine what an adversary might accomplish with a series of well-crated 'woke' infographics posted to leftist communities over time. Numbers also don't tell the entire story: if you've seen fascists' graphs about 'black crime' in the United States, you'll know they love their sources, but conveniently they never mention the history of the slave trade.

I also want to mention something I've touched upon before (in posts that are now deleted): there are no 'trustworthy' or 'untrustworthy' news sources. All news sources are untrustworthy, especially the left-wing ones. You, the reader, must investigate every piece you read, and take into account all the facts you have on hand to determine if you can rely on a story, or parts of one.

Hope this all makes sense, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

P.S. Just because corporate/state-sanctioned figures lie occasionally, sometimes, or all the time, does not mean that people on the internet don't.



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Tequila_Wolf wrote (edited )

I try to establish reliable sources and I do tend to give credence to other sources that work within those frameworks, just because I don't have the capacity to investigate everything and because within those frameworks there is often a certain assumed level of critical thought required. I'd like to think that I would withhold my belief in the assertions made by a meme, and am often curating what I post here by refraining from posting stuff here that seems iffy. It's quite pleasant to post about something and be corrected, though.

I'd hope it's the practice of everyone here to take all internet assertions with a grain of salt at least.

In the case of the infographic mentioned, it seems like one factor in the response there was that people got their backs up when being asked to give sources and responded in a kind of 'dig their heels in' way. While it's unrealistic to expect someone reposting a meme from elsewhere to come up with a set of sources for the information on that meme, it was probably counterproductive for them to repost the meme in the first place.


TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

Wrong information will also backlash while in arguments. If you get your numbers wrong, people wont listen to the argument, you're now a liar/wrong in their eyes.


closed wrote

Not many people have time to question/research things properly. For the rest, I think reading opposing viewpoints and, as you say, not trusting much helps.


this_one wrote

It's worth pointing out to make sure they are actual opposing viewpoints, and not strawmen. This CGP Grey video explains pretty well why strawmen of opposing viewpoints can spread wider and be more tempting to believe than the actual viewpoints they debase.


sudo wrote

Hear, hear. I live by the belief that you should always try to be your own worst critic. Attack every belief you hold, and try to poke holes in it. If you can't find any flaws in your beliefs, then you know they're (probably) good ones. (And if you do find a fault, adjust your beliefs accordingly.)


ziq wrote

Really every piece of information can be spinned to mean anything the presenter of the information wants it to mean. Edward Bernays quickly realized he could make millions of people believe anything he wanted them to believe if he presented the information in the right way.

There really is no truth in media, no unbiased perspective; it's all propaganda on top of propaganda. So many layers of fiction that's been so ingrained into us that we can no longer recognize it as anything other than 'fact' or 'history' when it's anything but.

Scientific studies can be and are interpreted dozens of ways to suit opposing agendas. Everything we say when we put our spin on information we consume and disseminate is a desperate attempt to placate our egos. To convince ourselves and everyone around us that our intensely biased worldviews are valid and important and special.

It's all fabricated theatre. Distraction to keep us engaged with something, anything... Just so long as we're not left alone with our thoughts.


selver wrote

There are facts, and some theories & histories model the world better than others. It's better to do to the work to figure that out, sort out the bullshit.