The Seeds of Misinformation

“She blinded me with science.” — Thomas Dolby

We’ve been dancing around this topic for the last several weeks now, but if we like anything these days it’s one stop shopping. We see lots of information on the internet and social media these days. So, what would be fun is the classify these sources of misinformation so we can prepare ourselves for battle.

What made me think of this is when I gave up the ghost on the discussion I was referencing the other day. My ex student the doctor has continued the fight to the point where I feel sorry for her. She is battling misinformation on so many levels. I’m exhausted just looking at it.

Bullshit Mountain

I have to give Jon Stewart the credit for this moniker. So basically, this is for the people that get their information from Fox News, OAN, or Newsmax. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that all of them have been sued and sued successfully for broadcasting misinformation.

Fox defended themselves in court by calling themselves an entertainment company. Sure, there were more specific legal qualifications involved, but that is essentially how they defended themselves. So, the second word in their name is merely a prop. “Fair and balanced” is nothing but a joke.

The others were recently sued as well for peddling misinformation to the public about the election. They ostensibly rolled over and admitted they were spewing nonsense. This is usually where someone would utter “buyer beware,” but I’m just not sure that even applies anymore. I don’t know how anyone watches those networks without turning into a fountain of rage. Either you rage at them or because of them.

The Quasi Experts

This one might be my personal favorite. So, I’ll walk this through the discussion I had in the social media platform. I even posted a reply that disappeared into cyberspace. Gee, I wonder why. So, you get this guy who attacked my former student who is a medical doctor. He asked her what research she had done. When I called him on it he quickly defended himself by announcing that he is an administrator of a number of medical care facilities.

What exactly does this mean? What kind of facilities are we talking about? Are they mental health facilities? Are they senior living facilities? We don’t know and quite frankly it doesn’t matter. He is an administrator. If I wanted advice on how to run a business or if I had a payroll question he’d be the go to guy. Certainly, he’d be a go to person on logistics or dealing with insurance. He is not a care expert.

He said he was well read on this issue. Maybe. Anything is possible. Yet, the description of working in medical facilities is designed to throw you off the scent. It’s similar to listening to Rand Paul lambast Dr. Fauci. Rand Paul is a doctor. He knows stuff. Except Rand Paul is an eye doctor. Dr. Fauci is an expert on infectious diseases. One of those is immensely more qualified in the current situation. If there were a national outbreak of pink eye then maybe I’d talk to Senator Paul.

There are any number of people that will pass themselves off as experts because they work in the profession. I’m a teacher. I can throw out all kinds of buzzwords that make it look like I’m a subject matter expert. If you are looking for someone to tell you how to teach Algebra or Biology I am no more qualified than the guy working the counter at the local gas station. I’m sure I can sound like one though.

Dubious Sources

This is the last battle. It is clearly connected to the first two categories. After all, quasi experts and fake news networks are themselves dubious sources. However, this is where experts are so very valuable. Not only do they know how to do research, but they know the best sources of information in their field. That’s why it makes so much sense to listen to them when issues like this come up.

One lady had a source that said that the vaccine caused the delta variant of the virus. This is what we call confirmation bias. Essentially, you believe something and search for information to confirm your beliefs. Obviously, she couldn’t find a reputable source that would say that because most reasonable people know that’s completely bonkers.

This all goes back to experts. If you don’t want to trust an expert you can at least ask them what sources they use to get their information. The usual caveats hold. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Then again, if you don’t want to get the vaccine and you don’t want to wear a mask you’ll search for any source that will tell you that’s okay.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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