Check your fucking sources

Dear People of the World,

I’m sure you are all very busy and don’t have enough time to actually pay attention to the things you re-post and retweet and email-blast in forwards to friends, family and random strangers, but I have a very important memo that I would like to send to each and every one of you. It reads as follows:

CHECK YOUR FUCKING SOURCES!

I know you are probably already offended by the F-bomb, but sometimes dramatic explosions are necessary in order to catch your attention. Hear me out.

You see, I have been getting a lot of nonsense from people lately that has been forwarded on to me as FACT via media outlets that I typically classify as FICTION. Fox News, for instance, is not what I would call a “reliable source.” They are, at best, trying to show how much they really, really care about Whitney Houston’s untimely death, but in reality they’re a giant propaganda machine that is churning out un-checked stories in the hopes that you and I are not going to call them on it.

I’m calling them on it. And I’m calling YOU on it, for passing it along like a bad game of “Telephone.”

For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, check your sources before you come to me with your rants and raves about the latest “Obamacare” story or the news that “so-and-so is being fired for plagiarism!” Fox News does not qualify as a reasonable source. Indeed, even if this same news were printed in the New York Times, I would still want to see a second, third and fifteenth opinion before making up my mind on the matter.

Important questions to consider when receiving news should always include:

  1. Who wrote this story, and what is their angle?
  2. Which way does this media source typically slant? (And yes, they ALL have a slant.)
  3. Why should I believe anything written here? (i.e. Where are the verifiable facts, or the sources who have supplied them?)
  4. If this is later shown to be 100% false, where do I find the retraction and explanation of which items were false and which, if any, were true?
  5. Who stands to benefit from this story’s being written? (For instance, if a story is telling you that chocolate is good for your health, is there perhaps some connection to the chocolate industry? Has the writer been employed by a chocolatier, or paid to say what he or she is saying?)
  6. Is this coming from a reputable media outlet? (Hint: Fox and CNN are not “reputable” sources. Neither is the Huffington Post. Neither is a pharmaceutical company’s website, an anti-abortion website, or a Holocaust denial website.)
  7. Is this a primary source (i.e. breaking news straight from the horse’s mouth), or is this item being reposted from another source, who has gotten the information second-, third-, or fifteenth-hand and may be missing something in the rewriting?

I’m not a trained journalist, but I am certainly a skeptic. I have taken many, many courses on the lies the media sell us, the propaganda nations feed us, and the selective history victors choose to print, and I question everything. You MUST question your information. Every bit of it. Don’t believe anything you read on Twitter. Don’t listen to anything sent via email forward. And don’t allow people to keep sending you this garbage with the excuse, “Well, it MIGHT have been true.”

Yes, and the world MIGHT be flat, with dragons at the end of it, but it’s NOT. So what’s your point?

You know what it’s called when you pass along false information? FRAUD. And you know what happens to people who knowingly defraud others? THEY GO TO JAIL.

Assume that whatever you’ve just learned is a secret about a close friend of yours. Assume that this information is gossip until proven. You want to defend your friend, right? So you will try to seek out information that can prove or disprove this secret’s veracity. Do what you can to uncover the truth.

The truth is out there. Go find it. Please, I’m begging you.

XO,
Laura

2 Responses
  1. Erik Anderson says:

    It’s scary to think millions of people watch Fox News and actually believe it’s a valid source of information. I keep waiting for somebody to reveal that it has been an extended comedy skit. The same is true for other “news” sources. I have been trying to find a good daily source, (print, TV, or Radio), for news and information lately. It’s difficult to find news that isn’t slanted to the left or right. Do you have any recommendations?

  2. Interesting thought, Erik. I seem to recall Jon Stewart saying on The Daily Show, “I can’t make this stuff up, people,” on more than one occasion, which shows just how little work it takes to make something true into something comedic. A lot of the time he is just reading the “straight” news headlines. I know their tag line has also been “Where more Americans get their news than probably should,” but I think that’s also interesting. The people who are getting their news from The Daily Show aren’t the same people who are getting their news from Fox, that’s for sure. If you have a sense of humor about the items that appear on TDS (or The Colbert Report), you probably already have some knowledge concerning the events they’re mocking. That’s what makes the show such a strangely excellent news source; you wouldn’t find it funny if you weren’t already up on these topics, or searching out the info to get the jokes. So although it sounds like a weird recommendation, I really think those two shows are some of the best sources for U.S. news right now.

    If you want to go international, I do find other countries’ take on the U.S. extremely interesting. The BBC (UK) and CBC (Canada) both have different views on U.S. policies that can be pretty insightful, though of course with their own unique slant. Russia Times (RT.com) is also fascinating, though a bit more on the inflammatory side (they currently have a top story about how the U.S. is “slipping into fascism,” for instance). I have a school friend who works for the Wall Street Journal in the middle east, and while you might normally think of stories from the WSJ as being strictly about finance, they’ve got some really good coverage happening as well–maybe because, as the saying goes, you can’t lie to the people with money?