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Worldview: The word which has empowered propaganda machines of the left and right

Worldview (n.) – a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Nothing truer than this.

Worldview is everything in political belief, whether or not we wish to admit it. What dictates beliefs from an ideological standpoint varies widely from person to person. The extremes of both sides of the ideological aisles often fail to see, or choose to be blind to, this fact. What is more bothersome is that many of the things which we hold as truths, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once observed with such eloquence, depends entirely on our point of view or, to use a more modern vernacular, our worldview.

This definitely affects how news and information is approached and received. The notion of “fake news” is not a new concept; President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of reporters who infiltrated sweatshops in America’s Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as “muckrakers.” To him, many of these reporters were simply attempting to sensationalize the conditions, such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, in an attempt to advance an agenda. Granted, this was largely the case and did achieve historic changes which led to modern health and safety rules in the workplace, but Roosevelt and, more to the point, industrialists directly affected by the changes caused by said articles, regarded these journalists as self-serving do-gooders whose publishers where more concerned about selling newspapers than actually looking out for the national interest. It is very familiar song.

While the journalists of that time were unjustly regarded as parasites, today’s media has created much of its own perception issues, but those problems have also been exacerbated by the proliferation of the sources which cater to one particular worldview. Websites such as RedState, Huffington Post, NewsMax, and Mother Jones were all established with one purpose – activist journalism, which takes legitimate information and manipulates it to advance an agenda, be it conservative or liberal. These websites have become popular, and even trusted, because traditional legacy sources such as network news and periodicals such as Time, Newsweek and USA Today lost sight of their primary mission – to inform the public. Instead, traditional information sources have focused more on the viewpoints of individual writers and “anchors” to “sell the story,” rather than letting the story sell itself.

A great example would be to compare the Trump Administration to the Nixon Administration in terms of media coverage. Today’s media is focused on “pouncing;” attacking what the President does with Twitter, or what his underlings say in press conferences, and picking it apart. The media of the Nixon era was more concerned with receiving information as it was disseminated, analyzing it, and finding inconsistencies. While it was not entirely investigative journalism, the reporters of Nixon’s day focused more on the facts and allowed that administration to create its own worst nightmare; impeachable offenses revealed through a combination of individual hubris and collective administration incompetence. For the Nixon White House, the gaffes of ego committed by the cabal led by both Nixon himself and advisors, such G. Gordon Liddy, did more damage to that President than any newspaper editorial ever could. For Trump’s Administration, the media now appears to be willing patsies in a war of misinformation and blatant ego inflation. Rather than reporting on inconsistencies and obvious conflicts of interests, the media’s obsession with the President’s twitter feed and what his children do in their off hours appears to be stuff of political and editorial vendettas, as opposed to the work of truth-seeking reporters.

During operation Desert Storm in 1992, the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf pulled one of the great distraction moves in modern warfare. He sent coalition forces to the Kuwait border in such numbers to keep the late Saddam Hussein’s forces occupied and obsessed with stopping a direct invasion and then, in a bold move, launched a massive offensive to west of Kuwait, destroying the Iraqi Army’s rear lines. Much of Trump’s campaign and administration’s public relations moves appear to be the same; focus media and public attention away from the more pressing issues of the day by using marketing buzzwords and research to distract the public and media, then working to do things his way without public scrutiny. This sort of distraction is a classic tactic in business – use distraction in negotiations to focus attention on one hot-button issue in order to gain larger concessions on broader matters, and his most vocal, rabid supporters are defending him at every single turn, no matter how questionable his statements on these matters. A good question is why are these voters buying into it, but a better question is how is Trump pulling it off?

The answer is simple; Trump is playing to the fears of his base’s worldview.

Former Fox host Glenn Beck, who became famous for his conspiracy chalkboards, started his conservative talk career at WFLA-AM in Tampa in 1998.

Many Trump voters share a similar, if not identical, worldview; a collective group of nations, largely Muslim, which seek to destroy the United States by any means necessary. While several of these nations exist, most lack the will or ability to strike even indirectly. In addition, they feel that corporate America is part of a globalist cabal which seeks to destroy the American-Western way of life. Some of these worldviews also put white Anglo-Saxon protestants (so called “WASPs”) at the top of the world pyramid of authority. Others espouse the worldview that Western culture is far superior to any others on Earth – former radio host and libertarian standard-bearer Neal Boortz once famously admitted he was not a racist but a “culturalist,” stating he did believe that Western civilization was superior to all others on Earth and must retain its eminence, and TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck was pulled from Fox News when even the heads of the largely conservative-oriented news network got the jitters over Beck’s increasingly conspiratorial claims on his own short-lived TV program.

While these worldviews are often based in personal experience, they can also be based in a facade of nationalism designed to profit from the fears and emotions of those who seek validation of their beliefs and views. It is these individuals, such as conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones and Breitbart head/Trump advisor Scott Bannon, who are the greatest purveyors of convincing misinformation. In Bannon’s case, a reasonable individual can deduce one reason for his practices – packaging propaganda in a veneer of factual data to present in such a way that it’s accepted because it matches the accepted views of those who voted for Trump in the first place and, therefore, emboldens the President to behave in a manner which is to the advantage of both Bannon and those of his ilk.

To many, the media is not reliable because it was the media itself who bought into the notion of not only informing the public, but influencing it to act in accordance with a narrative. Individuals such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, and even Fox News’ newest crop of hosts are not journalists in the true sense of the world, but commentators using the facts given by genuine reporters to advance an agenda. This is reminiscent of another individual who has used legitimate reporting as a means to advance an agenda – The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson. The controversial conservative minister’s Christian Broadcasting Network, though a reasonably ethical operation on its own, allows its facts to be manipulated for Robertson’s own purposes, mainly fundraising. For this reason, CBN suffers from a heavy dose of “guilt by association,” and is regarded as a less-than-credible outlet for information.

Another example of worldview issues could be found on the other end of the spectrum, BBC News. For years, Britain’s government-owned network was regarded as a go-to source for information from around the world, with strong ethics and a high standard of quality and accuracy. As time went on, BBC’s own anchors became more and more focused on news which portrayed the United States in a less-than-flattering way and, for that reason, aided far-right media types in a campaign to paint the mainstream media as liberal elitists. Unfortunately, this image was only entrenched further when a scandal broke within the BBC’s ranks exposing editorial bias being encouraged and dissent being quashed by network bosses. Those with a worldview of journalists being nosy crusaders only concerned with their career found their views confirmed, and this only served to undermine the media and enhance the position of ideologically-oriented websites which take legitimate information and spin it to suit their needs.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, known for her fiery ultra-left views, is considered part of why the network’s ratings continue to languish far behind CNN and Fox News.

So how can we separate the good from the bad, the reliable from the speculative. Critical thinking comes into play here. If something doesn’t an instinctual “smell test,” chances are it is either false or manipulated. Stories about Trump which seem too crazy to be truth tend to be so, just as stories about former President Obama also lean that way. Both sides have websites which focus on fomenting resistance though inflammatory news articles, and both are extremely adept at pointing fingers at the other side while denying stories which they themselves plant. One way to determine the veracity of story is to know the backgrounds of the writers. When one sees the words “activists,” or “political expert” or “left” or “right” in their bio, it is a fairly safe bet that writer has the interests of their cause, not the reader, at heart.

While some ideologically oriented websites have quality informational articles, double checking the information though other mainstream sources is always advised. If even a sliver of the information is accurate, it could point to a much greater situation. Nevertheless, worldview contributes to how we view news, whether we want to admit it or not.

Some Easy Ways to Discern Real History from the Junk on the Internet

Thucidydes is considered the father of modern western history.
Thucidydes is considered the father of modern western history.

“It is the habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire.” – Thucydides

Had the man known as the “Father of History” seen today’s internet, he would be astonished by the accuracy of that quote. The internet has created a wealth of information for everyone to share and research, but it’s too easy for well-meaning individuals to fall prey to individuals.  Recent controversies in the United States have underscored like never before the need to discern accurate, factual information from those alleged “truths” which are merely based in distortion, opinion and junk science.  History, more than most other subjects, is an area which is vulnerable to such agendas.  Unlike other arts and sciences, history is a truly subjective area of study, so much there is an old saying which, fair or not, holds true.

“The victors write the history books.”

One of the greatest examples of how perspective and perception can affect the way one views history is the current debate over the validity of flying the Confederate Battle Flag.  There is an immense amount of misinformation and propaganda on both sides of this issue, and it has brought to light concerns about how individuals twist facts, pull ideas out of thin air, or purport to be experts when, in reality, they are little more than agenda-driven activists with an axe to grind and an audience.  That being said, here are some very easy ways to help discern historical fact from fiction and propaganda.

Never rely solely on Wikipedia:  Yes, it’s easy to use the world’s first open-source information database as a primary source, but that’s not so much lazy as it is dangerous.  Wikipedia is best described as a really tricked-out card catalog, providing detailed abstracts which offer a great synopsis and survey of the subject matter.  When one digs into the “Reference” section of wiki page, that’s when you tap into to the meat, and it’s also when one finds out quickly what is fact, what is fiction, and what is misinformation.

Be careful with Google and Bing:  Search engines such as these are excellent for the casual information check, like finding out how to do a home repair or when did the first ice cream shop open, but hardcore history requires the ability to something Google and Bing simply can’t – discern what is real from what is propaganda.  Here’s a good example:   of the first ten Google listings under the search term “Confederate Currency,” half were actually collectible buyers instead of historical information.  My goal was to learn about the origins of the currency, if the Confederate States of America had a central bank, and the sort of problems they had with counterfeiting.  Only ONE website of the first ten offered this information – and since studies have shown most people don’t go beyond the first page of search results, it’s remarkably easy for someone to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to plant misinformation to suit their purposes.  The more specific the search terms, the better.

There are great history websites which are extremely easy to navigate:  The History Channel, despite its recent forays into reality-style programming, remains an excellent commercial source for history information that is of a survey variety.  For those more academically inclined, the National Archives, Smithsonian Institution, and university libraries remain outstanding resources for locating primary source information.  For some added research spice, check out the National Park Service and park services in your respective state – the NPS offers great resources, and some park services even offer links to primary sources of their respective areas of service.

Question the backgrounds of so-called “experts”:  If you find a website with a testimonial or essay from an person claiming to be an expert, check their background.  A bona fide expert will either have extensive field experience, or will be of an academic variety who is happy to provide their credentials to you.  The easiest way in the world to spot a fraudulent “expert” is how they react to a credential request.  If they are outraged or seem insulted, chances are they are not a real expert, but a paid spokesperson or, worse still, a person with an agenda.  The exception to this rule is a world-renowned expert who readily provides their credentials on a regular basis.  Regardless, the old Russian proverb of “trust, but verify” holds especially true here.

Check, recheck, and re-recheck:  It sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to post a meme on Facebook or Twitter which shows a “historical fact” that is, in actuality, false or misquoted.  Some of the greatest misrepresentations of history have actually come from the current Confederate Battle Flag debate – too many to list.  But there are two assertions where are based entirely in rumor and propaganda:  the slaves openly fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy from the start of the way (Pres. Jefferson Davis was flatly against it and didn’t authorize it until 1865, just months before Lee’s surrender) and Civil War surgeries occurred without anesthetic (also false – chloroform was widely available).  On the flip side, surgery was a risky affair because camp hygiene was abhorrent (modern concepts of hygiene weren’t widely employed until the early 20th century), and slavery was not the reason the Civil War began (but it was a contributing factor to why the South was so hellbent on independence).

Watch the so-called “myth” websites:  Many of these websites are steeped in propaganda and sources which are not even credible enough to be considered anecdotal, and they are also where so many memes and misinformation originates.  Also, some of these sites are actually owned, operated, or sponsored by groups who either are, or are associated with, known hate groups.  A great example of this “rabbit hole” is an article on the website VeteransToday, which actually contains some useful information for our fighting men and women.  Unfortunately, this particular article, which claims to “bust” myths about the Civil War, is written by an individual who is active contributor to the Georgia Heritage Council’s website, a site which offers links to sites such as the League of the South, a known hate group.  This isn’t liberal or conservative – this is fact, and many agenda-driven individuals do their best to obfuscate.

If you can’t trust your gut, don’t send or post:  It’s easy to feel a sense of “electronic courage” when posting something like “If you don’t like it, move” or “Get out” or profanity-laden comments.  This exercise of “freedom speech” does not absolve one from the consequences of said speech.  Employers, advertisers and others who have a say in your fate, one way or another, can see this information and often it ends up in the hands of a decision maker.  Remember, the Supreme Court did rule that businesses can terminate someone’s employment based on what they post online, that the freedom of speech does not absolve one from the consequences of said speech, that it only protects someone from government reprisal.   There is great truth in the question “Do you talk to your momma’ with that mouth?”  Apply that sensibility to the internet as well.

Last but not least…

Know at how to locate at least one primary source:  A primary source is personal papers, first-hand accounts, interviews with the individuals involved, photographic records, or official records such as a journal, log entry, or ledger of some sort.  Second-hand accounts, rumors, newspaper features such as anniversary editions, and papers from those who reference those sources are not primary.   The personal correspondence between Common Sense author Thomas Paine and publisher Ben Franklin would be consider primary – the opinions of a South Carolina legislator who cites Thomas Paine, despite its historical significance in its own right, is not primary.  A website which cites Common Sense and that legislator isn’t even secondary in the true sense.  Read the primary source, make your own judgment, and discern accordingly.

It’s easy to make mistakes which haunt someone online because they want to state an opinion.  If you don’t know that much about a subject but have a passionate opinion, that’s fine but please, be civil and show some semblance of knowledge on what you are talking about.  It’s easy to get caught in the backwash of someone’s agenda, and history rarely judges such individuals kindly.

My latest podcast features my take on the Duggar Scandal, Lindenhurst racial stupidity, and a few smoochies at the end!

If I look half as good as this guy does, everyone needs to get their eyes checked!
If I look half as good as this guy does, everyone needs to get their eyes checked!

If you want to think, listen to some non-right/left wing opinions, and laugh at the expense of Rob Schneider, Frozen, and Mike Huckabee, check out my latest podcast available at this link in MP3 format – if you have issues downloaded, please let me know, don’t let it go (ba-dum-bump!)  It’s only 15 minutes for your listening pleasure and convenience.

Click here to open my podcast – MP3 format, 15 minutes.