Will Rogers, with tongue firmly in cheek, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” In the 21st Century, we need to include television and the internet. For all the multi-faults of the multimedia, where else can we get current misinformation? Given those limitations, it is wise, if you ask me (you didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway), to take it all with a grain of salt (euphemism for skepticism). Cousin Will also said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”
My point: it is dangerous to base our conclusions on questionable data from questionable sources. On the other hand, if the source has been consistently right, we can place a quantum of faith in what he, she or it reports. So, how do we decide which sources to place our faith in? Here are some thoughts:
1. What is the background of the source? For example, is the source is a solid member of some strange religious group founded on balderdash? Then his or her conclusions may have the same foundation.
2. Has the source been shown to frequently report “facts” that later prove to be fiction? Then we would be wise to withhold final judgment.
3. Has the source has proven to be consistently accurate in facts that can be confirmed? If so, we can most likely assume accuracy in un-confirmable areas (I think I have just defined “faith.”)
4. Is the source speaking from a biased point of view and more interested in party-lines and platforms than logical, open-minded consideration of the facts? Then we can also expect the reporting to be positional rather than factual.
5. Is the source a known conspiracy theorist? I think you know where I’m going here.
Swagger, slide presentations and blackboards are not enough to produce confidence. Take a cup of media, crack the sources, carefully separating the yokels from the trustworthy reporters, add a tablespoon of skeptical salt, stir well, pour into an unbiased pan, put in the oven and cook until it is not half-baked. I believe this is a good recipe for a measured response. I could be wrong but I don’t think so.