ON Kilter: Searching for truth in the misinformation age

OPINION – I have long contended that if someone is making their decisions about matters of consequence and they are using information gleaned from ratings- and profit-driven news sources to influence those decisions, they are not only likely to be misled but they deserve the results they achieve. There is a filtering process that is needed to weigh the value of the vast amount of information offered us through our screens – whether computers, TV, Internet or social media – it’s not a process new to the technological or electronic age, necessarily, but the need for deliberate examination of information in our search for truths is greater than ever.

This is to say that taken at face value, the evening news has about as much reliabilty for the discernment of truth as a reality television show.

Think about it.

Have you ever seen behind-the-scenes footage of reality TV? While it may or may not be in fact a scripted enterprise, the discretion of the producers’ use of content to create value and entertainment goes well beyond anything that resembles actual real life. “Reality TV” is in fact an oxymoron.

But it’s entertaining for sure, right?

Ask yourself honestly if your favorite news channel is any different. Furthermore, does it matter?

I have often recounted the story of two high school history books and find it useful to repeat it: Two approved history text books bear similar but different names. One is titled “A History of the United States,” and the other is titled “The History of the United States.” In the titles alone there is an implication that one version of history versus the other is an authoritative account.

One can see that this may be problematic the minute a student asks if the accounts are in fact different. If so, which is right?

I have always favored the saying that there are two sides to every story … and then there is the truth.

Suppose I am now the high school history teacher who gave this little exercise in discernment to a wide-eyed group of students. In today’s information age, the challenge for them would be infinitely more difficult than it was before the Internet or any other modicum of instant information the technological revolution of the last century has brought us.

But the point of the exercise would remain the same. Students, you must do some work here. You must research. You must compare and contrast and, above all, you must set aside for at least the moment any predispositions you may have towards a given topic.

That, for all of us, is the most difficult thing of all. We all bring our own “lens” to a subject we observe, we all have preconceived notions that we project upon our search for truth and those preconceptions color what we see.

But engage we must.

If relying on TV news is problematic, how much more so the Internet?

We are told that ignorance of the law does not relieve us of its authority or penalty. How much more so when it comes to ignorance of truths? Our ignorance and even our personal bias on any given subject does not change what the real truth is, does it?

This last week has served up a frenzy of news reports as history quite literally unfolds before our eyes in Bunkerville, Nevada. I expect this will likely continue for awhile.

In the midst of polarizing views and ideological stands we are hit with an onslaught of stories that quite literally surface every few minutes. By the law of averages alone, they cannot all be correct.

But, think about this.

The most effective deception is not the most well-crafted deceit but rather the one that closest resembles the truth.

This is to say that all of the media articles on this, or any subject for that matter, contain, at some level or another, morsels of accuracy intertwined with outright falsehoods, conjecture, and propaganda.

What is one to do?

I propose we commit to a process and look for truths.

  • Scrutinize what you hear. Did your ever hear the saying about not believing everything you hear? It’s good advice.
  • Be malleable. This is to say, listen attentively even to those you at first are predisposed to disagree with. You will be amazed how far the semblance of willingness to learn will go with an adversary.
  • Be honest. If something which at first appears solid, shows itself to be questionable, accept that this is the way we discover the truth and move forward, assimilating new knowledge into the fabric of our conclusions in progress.
  • And last, be kind. It is after all a beautiful place we live in and in the end, we are all we have.

See you out there.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Jake April 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Dallas, I must admit that I have not been a huge fan of some of your articles. However, the information in this article is something that is much needed in our day and age. Confusion abounds and many media sources are at the foundation of this problem. I will openly admit that I am “closed minded” at times, but I am working on improving in that area. I hope that you too can admit to your shortcomings with this (some of your articles confirm you have a problem here also). Use the position of influence you hold to perpetuate this vital message, and be a leader in this cause.

  • CHJ April 19, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Well said! If only we each would recognize our personal responsibility to find the truth and not simply believe that which fits what we already believe. Thank you.

  • Peg April 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Ditto what Jake said ! Can not say it any better.

  • combat vet and true jedi warrior April 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Mormon babies need the fox news as they are being bottle fed. It conditions them to subject their will to the authority figure…

    • Jake April 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Wow combat vet……thank you for opening your mouth and reconfirming that we have a serious problem in this world.

    • Jacer April 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

      Bad ha ha ha ha, Jedi, you are truly a racist of everything outside your virtual computer world. Your comments on articles in general are so….. well….stupid.

  • DLR April 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Is all this in light of your most recent opinion article about Bundy Ranch? Are you saying you missed some facts and are apologizing or that everyone else missed facts and should apologize. Or more rationally, are you in the middle. both you and people who disagreed with you were more then likely partially wrong?

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