Where do you get your news

What IS news?

My intention was to write a blog post answering another Ask Roger Anything question. But it got VERY long, and slightly off point. So I’m going to address “Where do you get your news?”

I remember going to a panel discussion in 2017, part of a symposium called Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World.” The segment I attended was “Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon, and More.” I wrote about it here. Looking back, when the threat of disinformation already seemed problematic, it now seems like a Peter Zenger moment compared with what we’re now experiencing less than five years later.

One issue for me: I don’t know what “the media” means anymore. Twenty years ago, it would have been pretty easy: CBS the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Fox News, NPR, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the usual suspects.

Now, EVERYTHING is “the media”. Facebook and Twitter feeds and YouTube influencers, pretty much anyone with a megaphone, a microphone, and, preferably, video. This is NOT all bad, mind you. Stories from George Floyd’s murder to war atrocities have been revealed.

Still. About a dozen years ago, I was trying to engage someone in a conversation about information consumption. They said that they had gotten some tidbit from Facebook. I asked where they found it on Facebook. What was the source? “FACEBOOK,” they retorted, exasperated that I seem to be hard of hearing.

North, east, south, west

The other thing I don’t know anymore is “What is ‘news’?” Because many people take in their info via feeds, all the news is of the same significance. So a Kardashian marries, war crimes, the opening of the new Marvel movie, the next mass casualty shooting comes at you. What’s important?

If you happen to read a newspaper – you dinosaur! – you can tell what’s considered most significant the placement of the stories and the size of the headlines. Watching a news broadcast, the story that tends to lead might give you a clue. Online, so many items are vying for our attention.

A friend of mine recently complained that Ginni Thomas’ call to the White House on January 6 disappeared quickly. Of COURSE, it did; that was old news, which may pop up again if she’s called before a House committee or refuses to. But we have to move on to the next topic.

As noted, WHERE one gets the news matters a lot. Sure NBC and Fox are different. But I’ve been receiving newsfeeds that are even less mainstream, let’s say. It’s a bunch of articles such as Fauci, Vaccines, and Big Pharma’s Power by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Anti-vax, pro-Canadian truckers who were blocking Ottawa’s downtown earlier this year.

Don’t believe your eyes

But a lot of it pro-Putin. This utterly fascinates me. Here’s a quote from the sender. “Putin is spot on and I wish we had a leader like him…..remember again the msm is just full of lies and U.S.A./Israeli foreign policy and their puppets like Zelensky who can’t even control his fanatic military project what they are and what they are actually doing in Ukraine onto Putin and Russia…God help us with the jerks we have to deal with …”

The atrocities we think we’re seeing on our TV screens are either “some staged dead” or “killed by Ukrainian fanatical ultra-nationalist battalions.”

The original source of some of this is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the
former Vatican envoy and outspoken papal critic. He released a letter in March blaming “deep state” forces in the United States, the European Union, and NATO for triggering the current war and demonizing Russia.”

It is reasonable to ask, as Noam Chomsky does, whether the US policy will bring about de-escalation in Ukraine. It’s quite another to make Putin the victim in this narrative.

I had wondered where folks such Tucker Carlson had gotten his pro-Russia position, which he has now conveniently abandoned. It’s OK to believe that sort of thinking is unsettling. But know that a lot of people in this country are getting the same messages, probably from sources which we’ve never heard of.

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