Tag Archives: Social Media

The Age of Newspeak

Big Broghrt

One of the mistakes made by people who read George Orwell’s 1984 is that he was just righting about the threat of Soviet Communism. He wasn’t. 1984 was published in 1948 and this numeric relationship is not unintentional. George Orwell was a Socialist but a rabbit anti Communist. He also knew how people will use words to hide what they really mean. That is why NewSpeak is so important. That is why Oceania and EngSoc bear so little resemblance to any kind of Socialist state. When looked at closely Oceania looks more like a National Socialist sate (that is Nazi Germany) or a Stalinist Communist state. An just what does this have to do with NewSpeak? Just this.

Both states used what Orwell called Newspeak to the maximum extent possible. When I was studying Russian in the late 70’s my Russian teacher told the class a Russian saying. “There is no truth in News and no news in Truth”. The two major newspapers in the USSR were Pravda (the Truth) and Izvestia (News). It is quite telling when the two major sources of information are so characterize. The same could be said about all of the news sources coming out of the Nazi Germany although the Nazi’s were content with just seating up a ministry of Propaganda. In both cases it was up to the individual to understand just what the ‘leaders’ were actually saying and what should be done. That is the leaders were speaking using ‘code’ words.

This kind of speaking by leaders, or anyone for that mater is not new, it has been going on ever sense humans started to speak. It is quit often used by leaders to get someone to do something while giving the leader ‘plausible denial’ if it what is done comes to like. What’s new now is the general acceptance in the United States of the use of NewSpeak not just occasionally, but every day. Not just by some of our leaders, our mover & shakers, or anyone who want’s to influence the populous. It has gotten so bad it is both blatant and obvious to even the most casual observer.

For me, as an Amateur Historian, it reminds me more of the situation in the USA in the 1850’s. Every movement, religious, political, or what not, had it’s own newspaper. None of these newspapers even attempted to pretend any kind of objectivity but they often did speak in code words. Some of the code words were old, like “Peculiar Institution” for Slavery. Or “Manifest Destiny” for stealing Indian lands. But unlike today they were not hypocritical about their bias, they openly admitted it. Now we don’t.

I think this is a hold over from the dawn of electronic mss communication with the advent of Radio. (Interesting point it still has not been 100 years since the first commercial radio station went on the air.). At this same time a new ideal was taken hold in news reporting. The idea of objectivity. This was a very radical idea and was fought tough an nail for many years. It seems to have lost. Starting with the end of the ‘Fairness Doctrine” for Radio/TV in the Reagan administration the idea of objective reporting as been disappearing. The ideal still exists but it is in the ICU in the age of the internet. We need to do something NOW to resurrect it.

This is not impossible. What we need is one or more of our Techno-Genus’s to start working on a way to quickly, effortlessly, and reliably fact check what we see on the interned and in Social Media. I propose this effort start with some way to identify the “point of origin” of any and all posting. Next is a way to block on any social media postings from a source. Next we need a way of identifying just who is who. I mean do you really know just who is funding and/or running “the Good Guys Group”? Right now you may not even find out that they are a corporate entity based somewhere in the Federated States of Micronesia, on an island with a listed population of 0 (zero).

None of this is anymore impossible than what we take for granted today. Look around you, every person you see walking around you with a Cell Phone is walking around with a portable computer more powerful than ALL of the computers used to land men on the moon 50 years ago. Almost none of the software running on you cell phone was even dreamed of 50 years ago, some wasn’t even an idea 10 years ago. So what you and I need to do is start asking for, no demanding, technology that will take away the Antonymy of people who post on the internet and Social Media. It looked like a good idea, but it wasn’t.

Confirmation Bias and Politics

“Please, in the name of God, consider the possibility of you being wrong”

With apologies to Oliver Cromwell.

For those who do not know, Comfirmation Bias is a psychological phenomenon that everyone who is in science in some way is trained to be on the lookout for. We are tought that it came happen to the best of of us. Not only to the sloppy, but to the most detailed and self-honest. It is not something bad, it is just a part of being human. We just have to except that it happens, except it, correct for it, and move on.

So what exactly is Confirmation Bias (CB)? Simple put it is the tendency to except as correct information, data, that supports a currently held option or belief (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias for more details). Because CB is always with us as we work and is so insidious and subtle the scientific method has come up with several procedures to counter it, the most well know is the Peer Review. The next is insisting that other researchers confirm our data/observations etc. The funny thing is CB is not something discovered by science. We have know about it for many thousands of years.

Ever since philosophers have started thinking about how we think and reason we have known about CB. One of the things early philosophers pondered is how we know what we know and how we know if it is true or not. Over the Millinnias we have developed many ways of deciding what is true, what to believe. In the since that all of these methods work in that we can decide what to believe and what not to believe most fail in that they don’t tell us what is true or not. The most fundamental problem in selecting a method of deciding what to believe is we have to have a method to make decision. Most, if not all humans start out the same way, we believe what our parents tell us and work out from there. (Unless you are like me and were born logical) Or parents tell us to believe what our teachers tell us, be they secular or religious. An this is where the problems start, we are told to believe what those authority figures tell us. To accept on ‘faith’.

While this works for religion and life philosophy it doesn’t do so well in the realm of politics. (See I did get around to it finally). Selecting an authority figure(s) in politics can be very hard. Why, because people will look for someone who will tell them what they like/want to hear. We all do. Who likes hearing uncomfortable things? It is much easier to listen to comfortable things, even when they are not true. This is where having a method for testing the validity of a statement comes in. Most folks don’t do this correctly.

Wait! I can hear you now saying “But I always look for support of what my political leaders are telling me.” An if you are like most folks who follow politics you do a fair job of finding that data/information. But this is where CB rears it’s seductive head. If you believe, or want to believe, something the CB becomes an issue. We need to look at any data/information that supports our position with a jondus eye, with supision. We must ask the question “Is this true or do I just wan’t It to be true?”

In this age of Facebook/Tweet and all the other social media we must be even more careful. Gone are the days (a hundred years ago) when you had a good idea what news you’d be reading in the “Daily Democrat, or the Workers News. How do you know just what is being told to you by the a blog like “Don’t Drink The KoolAid” or “Five Thirty Eight” or “Info Wars”? Well, one way is by recommendations from people you know and trust. Weak, but a place to start. You can do google searches on reviews, if you can find any and how do you know if they are real reviews. Remember this is the time of Trolls. Reviews can be faked as easily as anything else, even videos can’t be trusted anymore.

My recommendation is look for citations in everything. Look for independent confirmation of the posting. Once you find a news site, blog, what ever, you trust keep checking them when they report. The truely honest ones won’t mind (the dishonest one will say that but really don’t care) and if you find something you disagree with challenge them on it. Most won’t mind and many will love it. Just remember, you could be wrong.