sources of information
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
The last week has been filled with a daily spattering of arguments between my dad and I, wherein the issue frequently boils down to a question of where each of us is getting our information/understanding, and subsequently what facts we are assuming or doubting.
In general, I think we can all be more diligent and active in questioning our assumptions and how we look at status quo (“this must be right because it’s the way things have always been”) and what we see as “normal”.
While reading Man and His Symbols, the paragraph below stuck out to me. As we progress and evolve, we actually have a better understanding of our selves and our histories, and sometimes that includes recognizing that the longevity of a belief or practice does not actually validate its legitimacy.
“The further we delve into the origins of a ‘collective image’ (or, to express it in ecclesiastical language, of a dogma), the more we uncover a seemingly unending web of archetypal patterns that, before modern times, were never the object of conscious reflection. Thus, paradoxically enough, we know more about mythological symbolism than did any generation before our own. The fact is that in former times men did not reflect upon their symbols; they lived them and were unconsciously animated by their meaning.” – Jung
As Jung suggests, the antidote to indoctrination, misunderstanding, and complacency is deliberate, conscious reflection – this is true of anything, whether it’s political, professional, or personal!
For now, I want to look briefly at the relevance of this approach in grounding ourselves and our values and how we position ourselves in relation to both the pandemic and the upcoming US elections (both of which should NOT be separate in your minds, by the way – if you have questions/qualms about this, reach out and let’s talk).
I think of my dad, who is animated by the news (typically mainstream media), and who often rejects information that does not come from a source he recognizes, and is unwilling to put in the work or listen to me explain the work that I have put into validating, as far as I can, the reliability of those sources. Is this whole post a massive angsty subtweet? Maybe.
“The news” as it stands here is synonymous with mainstream media, and seems to be most people’s main source of information. Even when info is asserted online, there is usually some sort of link to an article from a “reputable” source to back it up. I would argue that “reputability” of news sources as it stands in our collective consciousness has been more a result of incumbency and relentless branding rather than any true affirmation of quality or reliability, especially in our second-by-second news cycle (not to mention the myth of objectivity – it is impossible for anyone to be objective or neutral, and the rejection/denial of subjectivity is immensely problematic in its own way; a topic for a different day).
I keep coming back to Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow. Setting aside, for one moment, the #MeToo context, it is also an incredibly horrifying story of how subjective and controlled mainstream media, even “liberal” media, is controlled by singular, personal, and frequently self-serving or dangerous interests. Everything comes back to the protection of individual and corporate wealth. This feels like something crucial to recognize amid both the 2020 political races and reactions to COVID. What info is being allowed into our homes via these channels, and what info is being kept from us? What is the delay on certain information coming out via these channels and what is the cost of that delay?
Social media is tricky. We are constantly warned of the limitations of social media, and social media is largely responsible for the rise of fake news, bots, and the like. There’s a prevailing rhetoric that frames (or is framed by?) a dichotomy between social media and “real life”.
There is a bunch of media theory and psychology out there that breaks down the legitimacy of such a dichotomy – I won’t get into all of that here, but even history and common sense tell us that social media has been immensely important to freedom of expression and access to truth.
When comparing social media to mainstream media as a source of information, I would urge you to think of what a reporter is and how their job functions – someone who conducts research and interviews to identify reliable primary sources, and relays information on what is happening.
Social media asks us either to be our own reporters and to be constantly evaluating and assessing and determining the truth about multiple pieces and sources of information. That’s a lot of work! But in the absence of doing that work ourselves, we can at least decide to trust a select number of people to do that work for us – trust that they will find the info, deliberate, deliver fair and honest judgement, and finally relay that information to us.
At this particular time, not only are many people on social media better/fairer reporters than those employed by larger news organizations (among these “better reporters” I’m including reporters who work for smaller publications whose pieces we might not normally/otherwise see), we also have access to primary sources who are desperately trying to give us/spread info we need that mainstream media is not picking up.
Here are a few examples from this morning alone (from sources I trust):
Thread on the danger of Trump’s recent claims, and the importance of continuing to social distance for the next few weeks – from epidemiologist Tom Inglesby (also Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security)