Thursday, January 08, 2004

How to Surf

Before the internet is completely controlled by corporations and/or shut down to be kept from disseminating just the kind of information that I'm often looking for, I thought it might make sense to give you my take on how to evaluate information that you find in your own virtual wanderings. Here, then, are some tips for the intrepid information miner:

  • Mainstream is best.

    Yes, that sentence did come from my keyboard. At first glance, this advice would seem to rule out this very website. But there are so many OTHER reasons to rule out this website, that I'll overlook that for now. What I mean to say here is that a posting on a bulletin board somewhere may be quite interesting but have no verifiable content. Ditto for that inflamatory email you received. In fact, as far as email goes, always immediately delete ANY email whose subject line begins: "FW: FW: FW:". If you are not the type that automatically deletes such emails, give me your email address; I have a GREAT investment opportunity for you.

    This does not mean that other sites do not have value, but the best sites in my opinion, have links to stories from mainstream news organizations. Yes, I DO know the mainstream media is controlled by LAS CORPORACIONES GRANDES, and yes, in fact, I have heard of Noam Chomsky. So the best bits will not be on the front page, but you'd be surprised what you find in the mainstream media. For example, there was a report on CNN not long ago that the earth will have reached peak oil production by 2008. That's in (let's see, carry your 3, take the square root...ah, yes) FOUR YEARS. That would seem to be a pretty major story, but it ran, without comment...probably just below more information about Laci Peterson. Here's the link to that story, by the way: LINK. I don't know how long they archive stories, but it's been there since October.

    So I like sites that find and compile such information. However, of course, we know that there are many misleading or even false stories in the major media. You still have to be critical. I find that stories that contradict the establishment view or otherwise make the big guys look bad are more than likely fairly accurate, as no vested interest benefits from such a story.

    We should also note that there are established news organizations that we can trust to a greater degree. I tend to look at the Guardian, in the UK Guardian and Scoop out of New Zealand Scoop as being reputable. Is it a coincidence that they aren't US-based periodicals? I'll let the reader work that out as an exercise.

  • Learn to evaluate news reports.

    I don't mean to sound condescending here. In fact, I'll TELL you when I want to sound condescending....If you've found your way here, you probably are used to thinking critically about news. Or, you may be nuts. So far, my emails have been running two to one informed to nuts. Here are some guidelines.

    1. Understand who owns the media. I won't go into all of the details here, but the big newsmedia are big businesses. They want to make money. Stories that make this difficult are not appreciated by their advertisers. We do not need to resort to much in the way of "conspiracy theories" to let this one fact guide our analysis. To keep up with this from a liberal perspective, you can head to FAIR.

    2. Understand that they want access. If you piss off the President, you don't get to come to those scripted events they have now instead of press conferences. (What should we call those now, anyway, "news theatre"?) So the press tends not to aggravate our illustrious rulers too much, for fear of losing access to these meaningless photo-ops.

    3. Understand that they need ratings/market share. This is how they sell advertising. Now, unfortunately, many sordid and unnewsworthy things entice the American public. Also, big wars tend to make big news. I'm not saying that all the media hope for war, but only that when the stories are big and breathless about Saddam coming to get us, people tune in.

    4. All that said, I'm afraid there ARE more conspiratorial elements. For example, it was just reported that conservative "commentator" George Will has been on the payroll off conservative media baron, Conrad Black, even while writing about Black. Will is also the guy who went on Nightline to praise Ronald Reagan's performance in the 1980 Presidential Debates even though he was a FREAKIN' COACH for Reagan before that debate. Sordid Link.

    That's just the beginning. Fox News has made a business out of providing propaganda for the neo-conservative, imperialist agenda. I don't have a link to prove that...oh wait, yes I do: Watch their broadcasts if you can see concentrate with all the animated flags waving all over the screen.

    The book, Blinded by the Right by David Brock details the way the far right has used the media to get its hateful and often deceitful messages across.

    It goes even deeper, I'm afraid. It is common knowledge that the CIA has "assets" (I love spy speak, don't you?) in the media.Link. Note, this is not a mainstream media link, but the author does quote fairly mainstream media. You can get all the details by doing your own research. Look for "Operation Mockingbird."

    As further evidence, in a frighteningly brazen example, the defense department was caught placing its "psy-ops agents" as "interns" at CNN. Link. This link is to Counterpunch. Alexander Cockburn is one of my favorite political writers. Although he usually never buys into any sort of conspiracy theories, Counterpunch, I believe, broke this story in the U.S.

    I could go on, but do your own research. The bottom line is that these guys are pretty good about getting their point of view out there.

  • Be wary of the website's owner.

    Happily, this is not so important if you are on a site that is of the type described above. Simply click on the links and see the ORIGINAL source for the information. But ANYONE can put up a website (again, see for a perfect example.) You want to beware of 1. Blatant propaganda and 2. People who have an agenda that may not coincide with your own. However, this does not rule out the site...merely helps you interpret. For example, I often go to Rense. I always knew that they had a variety of viewpoints. First off, many stories are about UFO's and other such stuff (I actually LIKE this kind of stuff, I just don't base my political or worldviews around it.) They also have some stuff that seems to me pretty racist, or anti-semitic. For some reason, they are very worried about white farmers in Zimbabwe. I'm not even gonna start in on that one. And, I used to console myself that they simply hosted a variety of viewpoints, including that of many leftists. I was, therefore, really upset when a graphic THEY generated showed an "ID card" of a very stereotypical Mexican. It went WAY beyond humor (if you were the type to find that humorous) into racism. I'd hope and expect even those adamently opposed to illegal immigration would have been offended. Nevertheless, I find stories there that I don't see mentioned anywhere else.

    Another site,, is run by someone who is clearly a conservative (the big-government-is-bad type, not the Homeland-security-huge-deficit-kick-the-world's-ass type). He often has comments about taxes and guns (against and for) that identify him as such. ("The only free people are armed people"? Okay, whatever.) I, on the other hand, am a tad to the left of him, say, like Oregon is to the left of New York. However, in the first place, many of us on the left are going to have to learn to recognize these guys as allies as it was many of those genuine conservatives who picked up on the big-picture first. Also, we don't have to agree with EVERYTHING someone thinks to sort through the information they provide. Just know if you are looking for insightful proposals for universal healthcare, you won't find them on this site.

  • Revelations come in stages.

    You will naturally want to share information you find with friends and loved-ones. Keep in mind that people are at different stages of denial. Many people still trust their government to a certain extent. For example, Alexander Cockburn, mentioned above, is quite aware that the U.S. government has engaged in assassinations of foreign leaders and overthrown foreign governments using every trick in the book. For some reason, Mr. Cockburn does not believe such things happen here, so articles about the JFK assassination, or more recent "suicides" and "plane crashes" are of no interest to him. Articles that show any level of complicity between Bush and the "terrorists" do not appear on his site (He does publish Wayne Madsen from time to time, who does sometimes delve into these matters). And Cockburn is a pretty sharp guy. So your friends might be more open to the idea that 911 was a huge security failure and that Bush and company are simply "incompetent." I can settle for that right now. Hey, just because the Bushes are business partners of the bin-Laden's doesn't PROVE they were in on it.

  • Just who are THEY, anyway?

    Most of us can agree that there is some very shadowy stuff going on these days. You'll find many sites with different opinions as to exactly who (or what!!) is in those shadows. I think it is important to be open-minded, but not to get too caught up with sites that claim to explain exactly who THEY are. First off, there are many such sites with many conflicting views (some of them offensive to me and others.) The illuminati, the reptilian aliens, the Jews, the U.N., the British Royal Family, satanists, the tri-lateral commision and various combinations of the above are just some of the candidates. I'm up for anything not blatantly racist, but I have to say that when I read about, say, the Illuminati, I never see documentation from verifiable sources...or they all just quote each other, or go through very long and elaborate chains of association. (Prove me wrong, me a persuasive Illuminati site, if you're inclined to believe in such theories.) I'm worried about emerging fascism in this country. It is, in fact, often the fascists who try to pin the world's ills on secret groups...then they go about trying to wipe out said groups. Some German guy did that once. So be careful with these sites. There are many patterns in world events that point to people acting secretly and in concert, but that is a far cry from proving that any particular group is involved. My own belief is that the rich and powerful work together to remain rich and powerful. This may involve secret organizations, though much of it is done out in the open. I also believe, however, that these folks will do just about anything to preserve their power, from starting wars to assassinating domestic opponents. One bit of good news, I think powerful interests often fight EACH OTHER as well. I think I just described the Mafia...yeah..that's a great analogy.

Well, these are all my thoughts for now. Keep your eyes open and send me the good links. I think that this round of the game is pretty much over and the fascists have won in this country. We are in for a pretty dark period in our history. However, there have been other dark periods. Humanity has always found a way to overcome the darkness in the past. Sometimes Rome just has to fall.


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