Who is to blame? Misunderstanding news

By Nathan Barton

According to an article in Raw Story, a Pew Research Center survey has found that many Americans grapple with recognizing facts in news stories.

My heart bleeds for them.  And for the Fifty States. Here is FND’s synopsis:

“Only a quarter of U.S. adults in a recent survey could fully identify factual statements (as opposed to opinion) in news stories, … [Pew stated] in a study released on Monday. The survey comes amid growing concerns about so-called fake news spread on the internet and social media. The term generally refers to fabricated news that has no basis in fact but is presented as being factually accurate. Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and other tech companies have recently come under scrutiny for failing to promptly tackle the problem of fake news as more Americans consume news on social media platforms. The main portion of Pew’s survey polled 5,035 adult Americans aged 18 and above in February and March. The study was intended to determine if respondents could differentiate between factual information and opinion statements in news stories.”

In reposting the story to Freedom Net Daily, Steve Trenward noted: Having watched “journalism” fall from reporting the news, to putting slanted opinions in the lead paragraph, to “mind reading” of the presumed intentions behind what someone says, I am not at all surprised at this.

Neither am I.  But there is a lot more to this story than just “fake news” and biased reporting and poor journalism.  All of those ARE a big problem.

But the major problem lies with the American people. Functional illiteracy is more than just the inability to read instructions, understand an operator’s manual, or make sense of a text book.  It is more than just being able to sound out words, or know how to use a dictionary (not that most people bother).

More and more Americans have never learned how to reason, how to think logically, or how to interpret what they read. When they are taught to read, they are also taught to accept what they read as unqualified truth (provided that it is from a “legitimate” source). In a similar way, they are taught to accept what they hear and see on television and radio (again, from a “legitimate” source) as the truth.  They are taught not to question those who write, speak, and act – provided that those doing so are on the correct side.

Thus, conservatives are to accept what is published or broadcast by the likes of Rush and Shaun and written by Bill Bennett or others of similar political persuasion.  Liberals are to accept material from Al Gore, the Clintons, and North Dakota’s Big Ed Schulz and the like.  Religious fundamentalists are to accept what the programs on the various evangelical radio stations, James Dobson, and so forth.  Catholics of course accept what Pope Francis and the various Cardinals and Archbishops put out. Atheists are to follow what Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Singer proclaim.

But in no case should there be any questioning of what these various people and groups publish in their area of “legitimate” expertise.

It applies as well to government.  We cannot, for example, challenge what NASA or the CDC, what the Chemical Safety Board or National Transportation Safety Board pronounce “ex cathedra” (from the throne). We may not understand what they say, but we can’t reject it.  Not without being condemned as bigots, deniers, Luddites, or worse.

And we can find all this in the public schools, the media (both broadcast and the supermarket media, which is often the limit of reading), and of course, politicians and government.

With a growing lack of ability to read and comprehend, ability to reason (to question and evaluate what they hear and read), is it any wonder that the media can get by with incompetent journalists, poor editing and biased reporting – and all too often, outright lies?  What we see may be blamed on the media, but that responsibility is shared by the public – their market – which consumes whatever slop is dished out by New York, Hollywood, and DC.

We must gain enough competent people in this nation – even if it is only 5% or so. Competent? Those who are able to read and comprehend, to reason, to think logically. Those who know how to act and react. And most important, people with the intestinal fortitude to DO something about it. About what they are told and what they sort out about the situation.  Until we find or become those people, we will continue to see the Fifty States slide into that long (and very unpleasant) dark night.



About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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3 Responses to Who is to blame? Misunderstanding news

  1. Sunni says:

    This is spot-on. My son (Snolf Mk. 1, as those who know me would recognize him) recently got his first job, after many applications without so much as an acknowledgement, probably because he had very little prior work experience. What he did have was 8+ years of training in a traditional karate dojo, where personal responsibility, diligence, attention to detail, etc. were developed.
    The posting said the job was part-time… he started working and wowed everyone because he could remember things after being told once, and because he actually worked. His hours were immediately increased to full-time, and he’s in charge of a small but important area in the store. (He has also impressed them with his knowledge of history, but no doubt this mom has done enough bragging.)


  2. Tricia says:

    So true. Critical thinking is a lost skill in America culture. and it doesn’t seem likely to return any time soon unfortunately.


    • tpolnathan says:

      I fear we have about 80% of two generations and 95% of two more that are missing that skill. Our best hope may be to try and teach it to those in the 8 yr to 16 yr old range. And perhaps give up on about 60-70% of the population (and about half the landmass). Salvage as many people from the East and West Coasts and concentrate on the Plains and Rockies.


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