Critical Consumption

Brett brings this to light:
Mark Tomasky: Did an Obama judicial nominee really express a preference for Allah over Jesus?
Naturally, it's all a lie, but as I said, even I was shocked at how rancidly despicable a lie it was.

Read the post; it's worth at least skimming or keeping in mind if someone comes to you with such a story. My general rules of thumb for judging any story that sounds absolutely infuriating:

1) If it sounds absolutely ridiculous that such a thing could happen, a relatively (and often absolutely) small amount of research will usually debunk the claim or weaken it significantly.

2) Rule 1 applies 100 times over if it comes from fringe groups and people who need attention in order to maintain their lifestyle. This includes for practical purposes all explicitly political Christian groups (unfortunately), Fox News, leftist groups (Democracy Now, CODEPINK, and the like), and professional non-elected political personalities (Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Ralph Nader, etc.).

3) If it is in a chain-email, it is a lie 95% of the time.

4) These rules (especially the first two) don't hold a tragic proportion of the time to claims about the Bush administration. You should still be skeptical though.

I would expand on rule number 3 to say that if it's in a chain-email, it should be disregarded, even if there is any truth to it. Chain e-mail should never be trusted, unless you know everybody who it was sent to for at least three generations.


  1. Good post... people need to be critical consumers instead of drones of the media!

  2. This stuff just makes me mad. Such deceit and mud-slinging. I did love the comment from one of the readers, after explaining that he was all for a poly-cultural society...
    "It's not because I'm particularly liberal. I just lack the fear that is required to be conservative."


  3. You have very good points, my only question to you, not taking a side, is would you defend a republican if something un-true was said about them? Or would you try and support what was said?

  4. Anonymous: I say that I would defend someone against untruths, but would you believe me? I personally hate any communication of untruths, but the topic at hand specifically talks about believing what you read without thinking or researching about it. It's a very general topic, and goes for both sides; but I personally have seen that it's much easier to find untruths about the left than the right.

  5. This post made me pretty mad actually. The purpose, i assume, is to suggest you shouldnt believe everything you hear or read without researching it. But isnt that exactly what this post is asking us to do? It is suggesting that if the information is coming from "fringe groups" that we should assume it is lies and not listen to it. Some of these "fringe groups" are actually very main stream sources of reliable information, many of whom we have no reason to assume they are lying. Just because something is on a different end of the political spectrum than we are doesnt mean that we should assume they are liars waiting to deceive us unless we ignore them. To suggest that is to spread ignorance and encourage apathy. Why not instead simply say that if something sounds too far fetched to be accurate, that you go look it up for yourself, examine both sides of the story (no matter what sides those are) and determine your own opinion?

  6. Brad, did you just skim over Rule number one? After your entire rant, you basically repeated it. I don't think the purpose is to say that everyone else is a liar, and trust me, I don't ever assume readers of this blog trust everything I write.
    As far as "fringe groups," as you call them, I would stand by Brett's suggestion that you should be doubly cautious from those. Again, in MY opinion, their content often relies on emotional reaction rather than factual reporting. That is NOT to say that they only report lies.
    Summary of these rules? Research before you conclude and propagate.

  7. Well, firstly you claim that you want to encourage dialogue on your blog, but if you are going to skim over my post as "a rant" that basically repeats the original post, then its not going to really encourage me to continue to participate here. Secondly, don't misquote me as claiming these groups are "fringe groups". Did you skip over rule two where Brett referred to these groups as "fringe groups and people who need attention in order to maintain their lifestyle"? I thought it ignorant to label all groups who hold strong political convictions as fringe groups who just want to perpetuate their lifestyles, not label them myself. If you had understood my post you would have figured that.
    As means of rebuttal, I did not skip over the first rule, the first rule illustrates part of my problem with the post. The post is claiming to say that you need to do your research, which rule one briefly mentions in passing, though not as the main subject, but rules two and three suggest that if it comes from certain sources you can magnify the chance that it is a lie by 100x, suggesting that you may not have to research it because it's most likely not trustworthy info. Never anywhere does it encourage you to research these groups specifically to see if (heaven forbid) what they say might actually be true. You say Tyler that we should be "doubly cautious" of info coming from these groups because they tend to rely on emotion rather than facts. But I feel that this attitude stems from a misunderstanding of others beliefs perpetuated by an unwillingness to investigate these groups first hand. If you did, you would find them to be quite benign. Even Fox News, no matter how annoying it may be, does not often spread lies nor do any of the personalities mentioned. Democracy now is not even a leftist group as is referred, but a daily listener-supported news program whos purpose is to report what corporate media doesn't, codepink is made up mostly of old ladies who want to end war and spread woman's rights, Ralph Nadar has spend the majority of his life as a consumer advocate encouraging such radical liberal ideals as mandatory seat belts in cars... Naomi Klein is an activist who tries to bring to light issues of torture, corporate controlled consumption, and world hunger. My point is that we shouldnt be labeling these people/groups as anything. we should listen to all info no matter where it comes from, and search out the truth from ALL sources. The last thing we need is a list of rules that is designed to perpetuate fear of things we dont know about or understand and encourage apathy to those things which we disagree with. If this post was really encouraging people to research what they hear, rules 2-4 would have been left off.

  8. It's critical that you know where the writer of news is coming from. If you can't be honest with yourself as to where in the spectrum they fall (being left of right is obviously relative to your own position), you've got bigger problems than believing everything you read, and you shouldn't be spreading it around anyway.
    I am not saying you shouldn't continually be looking for new sources of news or that you should stick to major news outlets, but each and every news source has an agenda. Be aware of it, and take it into account when you make judgments.