One Possible Way of Solving the Information Crisis

Those who are really interested in politics can have very different views about basic facts–and if those numbers are large enough, that can be a big threat to our democracy. I saw the tweet below and I thought of this topic, as well as one way we could solve this. It’s something I’ve talked about before, but I feel compelled to talk about it again, as I think it would be effective. At the same time, a part of me feels like my proposal is flawed in some significant way–or at least someone would have done it already. But I can’t see what the flaw(s) is. If anyone knows the reason my idea won’t work, I really would like to hear it. After the quote, I’ll explain my idea.

17 thoughts on “One Possible Way of Solving the Information Crisis

  1. Here’s my idea. In the tweet above, there are two basic competing claims–a) there was widespread fraud and the election will be overturned, and b) there was not widespread fraud and the election will not be overturned.

    The claims of fraud occurred far earlier, at least in the summer, and we could start the method I will describe. To explain the approach, I want to start with a hypothetical situation. Imagine a scenario where a group of people, comprised of supporters and opponents of Trump, as well as those that don’t feel strongly either way, would meet periodically to look at competing claims/narratives.

    On the first meeting we would create two charts–one for claim A and the other for claim B. These charts would be posted for all to see. Under each chart we could write all the facts that support or weaken the claims. We could also include arguments that strengthen or weaken the claims.

    Over subsequent meetings, you could adjust the charts–adding facts, evidence for or against each claim. Over time, we could see which claims had the most support, eventually getting to the point where one claim was true and the other not true–or one more likely than the other.

    If this were done with many claims, over time we would have a track record from both sides. How often was one side correct or not? We could see the arguments and evidence used to support claims. Does one side use evidence and sound reasoning or not?

    If one side used evidence and sound reasoning more often, they would gain more credibility, and if they did the opposite, they should lose credibility. (This principle could be something that we could discuss on the first meeting–and I would assume that most people would agree with this.)

    What I like about this approach is that it would hold two competing claims or narratives, side-by-side–making similarities or differences stand out. Also, it would show, clearly, which claims seems valid and which ones did not. If one side lied and made things up, that would be apparent as well.

    And the emphasis would be on building the best case for each claim–by using evidence, facts, and sound, reasonable arguments. The emphasis wouldn’t be on making arguments attacking the claims. Once the best cases could be made, at least at a given time, the charts would speak for themselves; people could make their own determination. I think this approach could be effective.

  2. My biggest question is what is your desired outcome? The issue-by-issue resolution of what to believe and what not to believe? Or a general sense of who’s a reliable source and why? At what point would an issue be retired from review? When it’s no longer in the news?

  3. The issue-by-issue resolution of what to believe and what not to believe? Or a general sense of who’s a reliable source and why?

    Answer: both.

    I want to examine competing claims, providing enough accurate information and analysis to reveal which claims are more credible. In some cases, both (or even several) claims may be equally credible. What I really want is to provide a format to clearly show when certain claims are entirely baseless and rely on unsound, unreasonable thinking.

    Over time, politicians, journalists and other public figures will develop a track record. My objective is to create a kind of scorecard which is posted on a kind of community bulletin board. The method, if it works as I imagine, should make it clear, over time, who is credible, reliable, and reasonable versus those who are not. I would like to feature “scorecards” of each public figure, side by side, so onlookers can see the contrast. Additionally, I think this can provide a powerful incentive for public figures to speak and act in responsible ways.

    At what point would an issue be retired from review? When it’s no longer in the news?

    I’m envisioning this to occur on a webside. Issues that fade from prominence would move to the background, stored in an archive.

    1. On an issue like the supposed ballot fraud in the national election, how would your method convince people who are still unconvinced that significant voter fraud simply didn’t happen?

    2. First, I would ideally have 3-5 well-respected journalists or public figures, with at least one conservative and one liberal.

      Second, they would create two separate charts or tables, one for each claim–election ballot fraud occurred on a massive level, adn ballot fraud did not occur, the elections were secure and trustworthy. For the sake of argument, picture two big sheets of paper posted on a wall, one sheet represent one claim.

      Third, the group would list the most cited evidence and arguments for each claim, as well as the most prominent individuals and institutions promoting these claims. (If the these individuals have a track record already–either strengthening or weakening their credibility–then there would be some indication of that. Maybe a kind of credibility score or grade by their name–e.g., Alex Jones(15) or Alex Jones (F).)

      If one claim has a lot more evidence and sound arguments supporting it, the two charts, standing side by side, should reveal this. Onlookers could then decide for themselves. It’s not going to convince everyone, but I feel like this is would be an effective way for convincing those who are capable of being convinced.

      By the way, I’m not a great judge of what will attract a large TV audience, but I think this would make a great TV news show. One way I envision this is the participants would sit in a Hollywood squares type of booths. When the camera goes on them, we’ll see their credibility score. Also, when they make claims or arguments–other participants could rate or respond to these claims. There could be a separate tabulation of the audience feedback as well.

      The key here is that the participants have to be reasonable, intelligent and knowledgeable. And they have to represent different parts of the political spectrum. They must have a high commitment to accuracy, reasonable claims, fact-based arguments–and they will make a good faith effort to put these above their political preferences, party, and even colleagues.

      If you have these elements, then this group can hold each individual accountable. Their consensus could meaningful and persuasive, effectively addressing the way political bias can make news suspect.

      The one problem I immediately see with this is that this become more about entertainment than serious analysis (particularly if they’re sitting in those Hollywood square booths). It would be tempting to make jokes and one-liners.

      Another idea: They can feature guest pundits to be involved in the process. When these people contribute their opinions, the regulars will scrutinize and evaluate their claims. If behave in reasonable, logical ways, providing good analysis and insights, then their credibility scores will be strong, and they will be invited back. If they do the opposite, then the credibility scores should reflect that and should affect whether they are invited back.

      I would watch this, but maybe I’m in the minority.

      1. (edit: this sounds a lot more discouraging than I intended. I’m genuinely interested in how you think something like this will convince people of what seem like obvious truths. Sorry if it sounds exceedingly negative; it wasn’t what I meant)

        I have to say this statement

        It’s not going to convince everyone, but I feel like this is would be an effective way for convincing those who are capable of being convinced.

        is the sticking point for me. A ridiculous number of American believe (or say they believe) a lot of stupid stuff which the public evidence clearly refutes. Yet for whatever reason, people cling to their mistaken beliefs, not because of evidence or perceived credibility, but for some other reason I can’t begin to imagine.

        Reid, people believe in QAnon and they’re electing people to public office who believe in QAnon. You don’t even need credibility or evidence to know it’s ridiculous, and yet.

        I don’t want to be a damper on your idea, but I don’t think it solves the problem at all. Also, you really think people would watch this program? I didn’t even know you were talking about a TV program when I thought people wouldn’t pay attention to it. Put it on TV and I really don’t think people will pay attention to it, at least not people who you’re really aiming this at. I follow two of the Sunday morning news discussion programs (on podcast) and I’m the only person I know who does. I can’t imagine all those people not watching Meet the Press following a show about credibility.

        I think I get at the heart of your idea, which is gamefying the topic, and there’s something there, but I don’t know if a TV program is it.

    3. A ridiculous number of American believe (or say they believe) a lot of stupid stuff which the public evidence clearly refutes.

      I agree that too many Americans believe “stupid stuff which the public evidence clearly refutes.” But my sense is that these people do not believe they’re positions are dumb; they do not think that the public refutes their beliefs. Indeed, they believe evidence supports their beliefs.

      I think the main difference between these people and us is the sources of information that we trust. You and I discussed this a bit when we talked about the discussion between Chris Hayes and David Roberts of Vox.

      What I’m trying to do is provide a way to show which sources of information are credible and trustworthy. One of the biggest reasons preventing this is political bias of journalist. This format addresses that. It’s harder to dismiss the information if it’s presented from a consensus of people from different political backgrounds. Why do you think this would not work? And I’m talking about people who are open to change, not fanatics and people who are hyper-partisan.

      Speaking of which, this program would be good for those who don’t follow the news closely and are confused about what to believe. Do you disagree with that?

      Finally, I also think that this could create pressure and accountability on public figures–specifically the claims they make. Put people like Hugh Hewitt, Byron York, Mollie Hemingway, Britt Hume on the show, and I think the views they espouse would change. Trump doesn’t have shame or self-awareness, but most of these people do. Let them see some of the opinions posted for all to see, and I think they would change their behavior, for the good.

      Also, you really think people would watch this program?

      As I mentioned, I don’t trust my ability to gauge what people would want to watch. But I think something like this could be dramatic or at least fascinating–particularly for those who are both genuinely uncertain and curious about an issue.

      For drama, think about going back to the early par of the year when the pandemic started. If you started the program then, you could see claims on both sides. Wouldn’t there be a bit of drama and suspense as new information came in? Part of interest would be in seeing public figures who made outrageous claims have to face accountability. Imagine people who claimed it was a hoax or touted hydrochlorouquine as an effective treatment or cure. Maybe over time, participants wouldn’t make crazy claims, but that would be a good thing! I admit that would make the show less interesting to watch. Still, it would be a place to turn to for people who wanted reliable information and answers.

    4. Shoot, I forgot to expand on the point that Hayes and Roberts brought up–namely, that for most people knowledge and understanding are based heavily on sources they trust–versus vetting and scrutinizing each claim individually and drawing a conclusion. Let’s look at the people who believe crazy claims. If we say that the evidence doesn’t support these claims, and they ask the source of this information. When we cite a reputable (to us) mainstream source, and they claim those sources aren’t reliable, because of political bias and animus towards Trump, I feel like we’re at a kind of impasse. And the way to get by that impasse is to find a process, that the right and left would find trustworthy, to evaluate the sources of information. The way I’ve come up with is to present the claims of sources in a way that makes it clear and easy to compare. Additionally, I want to post their track record–the claims made and the frequency and degree to which those claims have proven true or not.

      This last point is important because I think when public figures make a claim, it’s easy to forget the previous claims they’ve made and whether those claims were vindicated or not. I’m trying to create a process to change that–to make it easier to remember previous claims, etc. If we had a method of doing that, I think there would be greater accountability–there would reputational consequences, rewarding reliable sources and punishing unreliable ones.


      Addendum (Note: I don’t want to add another comment, which will fill the comments column in the margin of the front page, so I’m going to add this additional thought, here.)

      At the start of the process, I’d like the moderators to articulate certain assumptions that I would expect most reasonable people to embrace. For example, if a person or institution lies or makes an outrageous claim, there should be consequences for that. This is especially true if, over time, their claims have been proven to be untrue or clearly wrong. The person or institution should not be allowed to keep lying or making up crazy claims, over and over again, without any consequence at all. Additionally, this should apply to people/institutions on the left or right–whether they are part of your “team” or “tribe” or not. All this should be made explicit. If I were doing this with a live audience, I would ask them if they all agreed, so that I could know I have buy in on this.

      This is just one of the assumptions or principles that I think should be articulated at the start.

  4. Byron York, a journalist who I would describe as pro-Trump or anti-anti-Trump, posted a series of tweets that I want to comment on, because I think it’s relevant to this post.

    The implication here is equivalence between the Trump and the GOP reaction to Biden’s win and the Hillary and the Democrats’ reaction to Trump’s win in 2016. I feel like York is also implying that the mainstream media supported impeachment at the soon after Election Day.

    When you see tweets like this, without seeing a list of all the evidence, relevant details, and arguments of both sides–held side by side, so that one can compare the two easily. And because of that, it can seem like both sides are equally bad–that Republicans are only behaving like Democrats.
    I don’t think that’s the case, but I would be–and reasonable people who agree with York–more certain if we could see the post-election reactions from Democrats in ’16 and Republicans in ’20.

  5. Reid: One of your defining traits — one of the things that makes you you — is you truly believe that if everyone could see things the way you see them, they would agree with you.

    It’s one of your charming and maddening traits. I mean this sincerely.

    But you can lead horses to water, you know?

    First, you have to imagine an audience of people who are either curious about how such a game could play out or undecided about who’s credible and who’s not.

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s a lot of people. If the audience is small, even if it all plays out the way you think, the information “crisis” hasn’t really been solved, right?

    Then, if you get a sizable enough audience, I think most of them may even agree on the outcomes, but it won’t change their minds about whom to believe. They’re going to walk with you right up to the very end, acknowledge the legitimacy of the results, and then say they’re still going to get their info from the same sources. No, I don’t understand it either, but I’m almost sure this is where most people will land.

    Then there’s the panel. If four years have taught me anything, it’s that for certain audiences, it doesn’t matter what the personalities say on Monday; they can say the opposite Tuesday and their audience is fine with it. Imagine your dream team of panelists. I’m going to just put Sean Hannity on it whether he’s on it or not. Hannity could be proven on this program to be a total fraud and utterly unreliable, but his audience isn’t going to care. It will go through all kinds of rationalizing gymnastics to demonize the system, the structure of the game itself, or whatever, no matter what Hannity says or does.

    And honestly, although I don’t have the same tendencies (Brian Williams had to go, ‘though he was my favorite TV news personality at the time), I do already know who I believe, and a show like this might add some credible voices to my list of trustworthy sources, but at this stage, do I need more? Or is the list of people already on my list diverse enough and broad enough? The people on my list, if they were on this show, would only confirm my hard-earned trust. Do you not feel similarly?

    Are you the intended audience of this show? Be honest. Or is your concept prescriptive because others need to know?

    I acknowledge that you’re open about feeling there’s too much info out there so you can’t be sure of it all. But by now, have certain people (or sources) earned credibility with you so that a program like this is really unnecessary? In other words, is there enough credibility for your needs?

    1. I forgot to say that it comes down to values and decision-making. I think our positions on current events should be driven by certain things, and you think they should be driven by other things. We can’t change these things about each other.

      There are people who believe the sitting president was put there by God. Once someone believes that, there’s simply no convincing them, by any means, that he’s not. These people, if they watched a program such as you propose, are coming at “credibility” from a different place. I don’t know what the place is, but I know it’s somewhere any evidence I could provide to the contrary simply wouldn’t work.

      There are others who think the single most important issue is abortion, and everything else comes after. Credibility to them, then, is simply the evidence in front of their faces: who’s on the Supreme Court? And I can’t dispute that, although I wish they’d have nominated someone else to represent them in the general four years ago. Ugh. I mean geez.

      I say all this to say that evidence and reasoning simply don’t work for the issue of credibility. Because even when you can establish it, people will believe what they want.

  6. In your response, the group you seem to have in mind are those who will never change their minds, even with overwhelming evidence or logical rigor. I believe such people exist, but they are not my target group–so let’s exclude them from this discussion. My target group are those who can be persuaded by enough evidence and sound arguments. But here’s something I wonder: Do you think this group is large enough to make a difference? That is, if all of them changed their minds that could have a significant impact on our politics? Here’s another way to say this: I think the group that will literally never change their minds is relatively small; if everyone else opposed Trump and Trumpism, I’d be confident about the state of our country. Where are you on these questions?

    Now, regarding this target group, ’m going to list some assumptions, and the way I think they logically follow each other, and I’m really curious to know which ones you agree with.

    1. A large percentage of their understanding and knowledge of politics depends on the sources of people they trust—versus their individual efforts to gather and evaluate the information for themselves. (Actually, I think this applies to almost everyone.)
    2. The trust is heavily dependent on social factors—i.e., the extent to which the source is similar, including the political beliefs.
    3. However, there are limits to this. The trustworthiness and authority of a source is also linked to whether their information proves to be reliable and their claims are reasonable and logically sound. Trust can erode or even disappear if a source provides unreliable information, repeatedly and/or egregiously, over time.
    4. The track record of sources can be obscure and in the back of one’s mind, particularly for those who aren’t regular and avid news consumers. Because of this, people could be trusting sources that they would not—if the track record was clear and at the forefront of their minds.
    5. We lack a means to vividly and efficiently show the track record of sources.

    To be very clear, I’m not suggesting that the TV show would definitively establish which sources are trustworthy from those that are not. I’m also not suggesting that even if the TV show did this, this would resolve the information crisis. Instead, I believe that a sound process that demonstrates the reliability of information sources is important, and that such a process, if done right, can, at the very least, make believing baseless and/or wild claims and unreliable sources much more difficult—at least for the people who are reasonable and have the capacity to change their minds.

    Here’s some of your questions that I didn’t answer in the paragraphs above:

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s a lot of people. If the audience is small, even if it all plays out the way you think, the information “crisis” hasn’t really been solved, right?

    Yes, that’s correct. I also don’t really have a great deal of faith in my sense of what will attract a big TV audience. My sense is that the audience would be large enough that it could be somewhat successful on cable TV news. Whether this is large enough have an impact is another question, though. A key to answering this depends on the number of people who are uncertain about who and what to believe, and the number of these people who really want some certainty with regard to information and issues pertaining to politics. Do you have a sense of how big these groups are? If they’re big, I think the show could attract a sizable audience.

    The people on my list, if they were on this show, would only confirm my hard-earned trust. Do you not feel similarly?

    My guess is that the show would affirm my trust of the sources I rely. But let me make two important points. First, I’m not entirely sure about this result, and that’s because I’m not supremely confident in my ability to judge the credibility of sources—even after a long time period. Relatedly, people and institutions can change over time. I’ve heard some say Newsweek is not as reliable a news source now, whereas I believe they were well-respected in the past. In the past, I never doubted the patriotism or commitment to the military and national security for many congressional Republicans. Now, I do. Second, just because a source is generally trustworthy doesn’t mean they will make bad claims, use bad reasoning, or arrive at bad conclusions for a specific topic.

    Are you the intended audience of this show? Be honest. Or is your concept prescriptive because others need to know?

    I acknowledge that you’re open about feeling there’s too much info out there so you can’t be sure of it all. But by now, have certain people (or sources) earned credibility with you so that a program like this is really unnecessary? In other words, is there enough credibility for your needs?

    I do have sources of information that I trust, and I’m confident enough in them—as well as my critical thinking (plus the available time and energy)—that I feel comfortable about my understanding of current events and politics. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be 100% confident or comfortable about these sources—or my understanding. I suspect the nagging sense that I could be wrong or a trusted source could be wrong will always be present (and I actually hope that’s the case). People can easily be blinded by their biases, overestimate their intelligence and knowledge, use bad reasoning, get too emotional, etc. When the sources are similar to myself, I’m the most uncertain. For this reason, I’m constantly looking for sources of information from the other side, so to speak. Confirmation from these sources can be really reassuring. At that point, there is a consensus—and that’s something I feel like I could trust the most. It is my assumption that many other people would agree with this. Do you really think this would not be the case for many people who are open to evidence and sound arguments? So I definitely think I’m part of the audience for this show. I think the number of people who are uncertain—and who want more certainty, at least for specific issues—are not insignificant.

    1. I wanted to expand on these sentences:

      I suspect the nagging sense that I could be wrong or a trusted source could be wrong will always be present (and I actually hope that’s the case). People can easily be blinded by their biases, overestimate their intelligence and knowledge, use bad reasoning, get too emotional, etc.

      By “people,” I include myself. And I wanted to mention some issues that I feel somewhat confident about–but not totally. For example, I think Republicans are mainly about power, not principle or patriotism–in a far more egregious way than the Democrats. Is that really true, though, or is my bias getting in the way? Is something wrong with Trump mentally and emotionally–or am I biased or not seeing clearly? I could go on.

      I want a TV show that uses the process I describe to attempt to answer these questions. I think I know the answers, but I have enough doubts that I’d want to watch the program.

  7. This thread from Jay Rosen, an NYU journalism professor, touches on a big reason for the information crisis I believe we face.

    As part of my own look back at 2020, I want to share these thoughts about an essay I wrote twelve years ago, in which I got some things right and one thing — a big thing — disastrously wrong. If authors getting big stuff wrong interests you, then this thread might too. 1/
    In January of 2009, I published at my site: “Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press.”… It was one of my most successful posts. But it had a flaw that I now consider fatal. This thread is the story of that flaw. 2/
    Most of that 2009 post was my attempt to introduce a different way of thinking about the political influence of journalists, beyond critiques of bias and constructs like “working the refs.” I found it in a simple diagram from media scholar @danielchallin. Here’s a screenshot. 3/
    Hallin proposed that we think about the political influence of journalists by imagining three spheres: the sphere of consensus (core beliefs that make us one society), of legitimate controversy (things we disagree on and argue about), and of deviance (what is beyond the pale.) 4/

    The sphere of legitimate debate is familiar terrain for journalists. It is where most their work takes place. In the sphere of deviance, says Hallin, are “political actors and views which journalists and the political mainstream of society reject as unworthy of being heard.” 5/
    In the sphere of consensus we find propositions so widely-held they’re almost universal. Here, Hallin writes, “journalists do not feel compelled either to present opposing views or to remain disinterested observers.” Respect for the Constitution would be a simple example. 6/
    As I wrote in 2009: “The three spheres are not really separate; they create one another, like the public and private do. The boundaries between regions are semi-porous and impermanent. Things can move out of one sphere and into another.”… 7/
    Hallin’s model opened space for critique. Journalists are not only gate-keepers, but sphere-sorters. Part of their power is to police the boundaries between the spheres of deviance and legitimate debate. By what principles are they guided in use of this power? Good question! 8/
    Simple example: booking guests on the Sunday shows. As I put it in 2009, “One day David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network shows up on Meet the Press, but Amy Goodman of Democracy Now never does.” His vision of the country is admitted to the sphere of debate. Hers is not. 9/
    “These decisions are often invisible to the people making them, and so we cannot argue with those people. It’s like trying to complain to your kid’s teacher about the values the child is learning in school when the teacher insists that the school does not teach values.” 10/

    So far, so good. “Hallin’s spheres” took off as a tool of criticism. They have a Wikipedia entry now:… It covers some of the same ground as the better-known Overton Window, but the circular model with “consensus” as the donut hole is its own imaginary. 11/
    Now recall the title of my 2009 post that has a fatal flaw: “Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press.” I was trying for more than an introduction to Hallin’s ideas. I wanted to isolate something the internet was doing to journalism. 12/
    “Audience atomization” was my two-word term for a fact about mass media that was easy to overlook until the internet changed it: In the broadcasting era, people were connected “up” to the media — to the White House, to the Oscars, to the NFL — but not “across” to each other. 13/
    A “mass” audience was made from atomized listeners, viewers, readers. They were connected vertically to power centers and media spectacles but disconnected horizontally. And not only that. Before the internet the tools of media production were in the hands of… the media. 14/
    Thus: “In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized.” And, equally important, they were without the tools needed to self-publish and share. 15/
    But now we had the internet. Especially with social media, audience atomization had been overcome. People were connected to each other AND to the media. They could pool their frustrations, criticize the calls journalists made, and make their own: what’s in bounds, what’s out. 16/

    Now comes the part I regret.

    “Today one of the biggest factors changing our world is the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize their number.”

    At the time, I did not realize the significance of these words. 17/
    I was thinking of all the ways the internet empowered people to inform themselves. We have a phrase for it now, which has in recent years taken a dark turn: “do your own research.” I had in mind patients with a rare ailment who find others, share treatments, pool knowledge… 18/
    Thus, the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, and realize their number. “Among the first things they may do is establish that the ‘sphere of legitimate debate’ as defined by journalists doesn’t match up with their own definition.” 19/
    I saw this as a good thing— challenging for the press, but the press needed to be challenged… right?

    Well, yes. But — and this is obvious — the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other permits not only the criticism, but the utter rejection of journalism.20/

    The falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other makes possible the mass delusion known as QAnon.

    It enables the Trump cult to detach itself from anything verifiable and spin off into resentment space.

    It’s sustaining the “stop the steal” movement right now.

    The falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other and share their truth is an integral part of a bewildering fact: today realism counsels us not to assign too much power to reality.

    In 2009 I didn’t see that coming. But I could have. It’s a big thing I got wrong. 22/

    I know what some of you are thinking at this point: “Jay, you’re just realizing this NOW?”

    No. That moment came years ago. I am writing it down and sharing it now because at the end of a brutal year I don’t feel like celebrating.

    In my favorite scene from the movie “Spotlight,” Liev Schreiber says:

    “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. Suddenly a light gets turned on, and there’s a fair share of blame to go around.”

    *Raises hand*

    24/ END

    (emphasis added)

    By “rejecting journalism” I take Rosen to mean the rejection of news deriving from professional journalists, including from the most prestigious news outlets–or at least the greater frequency and comfort for an individual to reject or dismiss such information, while believing the information they acquire, outside of professional journalists, is just as valid, if not more valid and true.

    To address this, I’m trying to do several things:

    1. Build a source(s) of information that a politically diverse group of citizens view as trustworthy and legitimate.

    2. To raise awareness over the principles and methods that are the basis for good journalism–that is, journalism that is trustworthy–not only in terms of providing accurate and reliable information, but information that is most critical for citizens to govern themselves.

    If we have great success at both, I would expect large numbers of citizens to accept better information, more reasonable arguments, while rejecting the opposite. And I believe this because I believe the largest sub-group in our society are reasonable and politically moderate–that is, the hyper-partisans and the irrational people make up a smaller minority.

    I guess a lot of this hinges on what constitutes “great success.” Briefly, I would say two things:

    1. Have a way to efficiently and vividly show which sources of information are reliable and reasonable (which I think the TV show idea could do);

    2. Increase awareness of #2–to the degree that even the casual news consumer is aware of this.

  8. Here’s a simple example. “In a few days/weeks, you’ll be revealing information that will be tremendous.” When Trump says something like this, it’s almost always a con. He said it again today:

    If you’re following the news closely for the last four years, and you’re open-minded, you would have heard this enough times to know that it’s bogus–Trump has nothing. But many people don’t follow the news closely or can’t remember details.

    Part of my idea is to provide a quick way to record or history–in this case, how often Trump said something like this, and what happened afterward–i.e., was he vindicated? And if so, how often? If he said things like this 10-20 times in the past, and he was never vindicated, the chances he will be vindicated the next time he says something like this would be low enough to dismiss claims like this.

    Maybe I’m wrong–maybe this wouldn’t impact open-minded, casual news consumers–but I tend to think it would.

  9. Moving this from the “Interregnum” thread, because I think it’s more relevant here. Specifically, the TV show thing could help address the questions I have here.

    Have Republicans behaved worse than Democrats? Or have the two parties been largely equivalent, in terms of bad behavior (e.g., corruption, dishonestly, hypocrisy, putting power over the country, etc.)

    I’m not just referring to the last four years, but the last twenty. My sense is that the Republicans have behaved more badly, especially over time. If this is wrong, I’d love to know and see some examples.

    Here are some to make the case for my position:

    We need a mechanism to make clear when there is equivalence between the political parties and when there isn’t. Without this mechanism, we end up believing the parties are equally corrupt, dishonest, hypocritical. A good mechanism or method would show varying degrees of wrongdoing.

    I recall that the Democrats returned donations from Harvey Weinstein (and the GOP badgered them to do so) when Weinstein was accused of sexual crimes. But did the GOP ever return donations from Steve Wynn when similar accusations were made against him? (I’m actually not sure if I’m getting the details right, here.)

    What Newsom did is still bad, though. I’ve heard of other Democratic Mayors or Govenors doing something similar, and what they’re doing is not good. At the same time, going to be with family is not equivalent to holding rallies, spurning the mask use, talking about slowing down testing, downplaying the pandemic.

    What I think would be helpful is to have a 1-10 scale where we could place each bad behavior. Newsom would be somewhere between 6-7 and Trump’s would be between 9-10–with 10 being the most egregious. ‘


    Hillary Clinton seeing people who donated to the Clinton Foundation versus Trump failing to divest his business and then using his office to promote his business and make profits off foreign countries, the GOP and taxpayers that visit his properties.

    Clinton’s use of a private server–Trump giving highly classified Israeli intel to the Russians; using an insecure cell phone; viewing classified information at Mar-a-Lago, in an insecure setting; having 300 million in outstanding debts, without knowing the debtors, etc.

  10. Mitchell said, “A ridiculous number of American believe (or say they believe) a lot of stupid stuff which the public evidence clearly refutes.”

    I responded: “I think the main difference between these people and us is the sources of information that we trust.”

    I bring this up because a conversation I had today made me think about this–and brought up different details about this topic. The conversation involved relatives who did not take the COVID-19 vaccine because they believe it’s not safe. Not only do they believe this, but they believe those who think it’s safe and effective are not really getting good information, and maybe haven’t put in the effort (like they have) to do so.

    My reaction to this was to assume several things:

    1. They’re not getting their information from mainstream news outlets–the sources of information you and I are likely to trust. Instead, they’re getting their information from individuals and groups on social media, who are outside of professional journalists, and well-respected scientists.

    2. These folks never viewed mainstream outlets like the NYT, WaPo, theAtlantic, et al., with respect and a high regard–as sources of information. They may not even know that many intelligent, well-respected individuals view those outlets in that way. To them, they’re just another source of information. Or worse, they’re sources of information that are so biased, they’re not to be trusted.

    Again, these are assumptions. I’m not sure if they’re true at all.

    But if they’re true, how do you even have a dialogue about whether one should take vaccines or not? It seems impossible without really discussing the sources of information, analyzing them for their accuracy and reliability, and then agreeing on sources of information that are trustworthy. But doing this is really difficult and seems unfeasible.

    What would be an effective approach I could use with these individuals?

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