Kimball Corson: How to Tell What Is True and What Isn’t

Kimball Corson

This is a post truth era. We are awash in agendas that color everything. The mainstream media has an agenda presently, with CNN at the vanguard, to disparage Trump to the max because that sells. Trump of course doesn’t help himself. Then we have the true idea of fake news: it is not so much that facts are misstated — although they sometimes and too frequently are — but it is instead to — by news stories that are presented very selectively — leave the moderately continuous viewer with a false impression of the situation, event or person. That is the real problem, I argue. Network programming does something like it. To watch the three networks, you would guess our black population was from 30 to 40 percent, not the actual 14 percent or so. False impressions of events, situations and people.

The issue becomes for all who are interested — how to determine the truth in the news, especially on what is occurring, in this zoo of agendas and goals

First, the task is ever and always an individual one, but no one test, as it were controls. Matters must be weighed. Second, several things need to be considered. a) What is the political bias of the source on the topic? That bias can be discerned by reading all or most all of what that source publishes on that topic and to a lesser extent, related topics, especially including editorial positions. Political direction can be easily determined in that manner. Themes and contentions, implicit or not, can also be discerned this way. It is not difficult to discern the direction of bias. It is super simple in some instances. Degree of bias can also be gauged, but that is harder and requires referants from much more broad reading.

b) what is truly newsworthy and what is only nominal and perhaps implicitly disparagement needs to be considered. What topics, in the scheme of things should be being addressed seriously and in detail that are or aren’t at the present time. What is thoughtfully and consideredly presented and what more just serves a political agenda or patronize a part of the public or is just thrown together.

c) what is the source and what is the current reputation of that source for neutral objective reporting, especially by keeping facts separate from opinions. Are the two merged and blurred or carefully delineated, as the New York Times used to be, into factual articles and stories and separate editorials of opinion, How bad is the lack of separation? This test is increasingly a problem. Source reliability is slipping. All must be read for topical bias. Good news appears in bad sources and bad news in supposedly good sources.

Read over time and in the aggregate does a bias or nominal agenda emerge? Sometimes matters are so blatantly screwed up a quick read or viewing of only a few articles or stories is needed to determine an acute bias or an agenda. Hugely discount such sources. An example here is the NY Times on EU Muslim immigrants. Loaded dice. Much excluded.

d) does the source present information neutrally or is something more requested, impliedly or otherwise, to or from the reader? Is a reaction from the reader sought — of affirmation. What kind of affirmation? If it is “Yeah, that’s right,” also hugely discount the the article.

e) does the information stand up to considered analysis and is it logically compatible or consistent with itself and other known information? What other information is known? By whom?

The last screen or test e) somewhat begs the question by presuming the reader hearer or viewer is capable of analysis and knows how to parse quantum information for verifiability, logical consistency and comparison to what is already known. That brings me to f) the individual’s strong need 1) for a quality and usually higher education, or otherwise a well developed thinking skills and 2) to be widely and well read across a broad range of topics and issues from earlier and nominally broader sources, so as to have a considered and careful view on matters generally, as the background needed for critical thinking. It can’t occur well in a vacuum.

These acquisitions are hard, time consuming and often expensive to get but they lead to and comprise the skill of critical thinking and having a knowledge base on which to apply it. Like cross examination, such critical thinking and the background for it is a powerful tool for getting at the truth They are the best test for veracity and where the American public increasingly misses the boat most badly, especially with declining reading and thinking skills. That is why political lying can now be so successful and is used so much more aggressively now.

Very little misinformation and disinformation can slip by all of these screens, especially f). But two key points remains noteworthy. First, look at how much work and effort these skills and the background needed to apply them, require. And, secondly, consider the ability of average Americans to have and apply these skills. Pretty scant among most I am afraid, which makes the practices of faux news and bad media increasingly worthwhile. With declining IQ’s, declining reading skills and falling educational standards and opportunities and with the cost of a good education rising out of reach of most, the prognosis is not good even for those who try to apply these screens, especially f).

Deceit, which was learned from the American business community, has made huge inroads into the provision of news and into its media. America is largely unable to deal with it. Much news media is so bad and so politicized it is fair to ask, what sources should be turned to for accuracy and truth? The answer, I am afraid, is none although The Hill now seems to come closer than most. But these matters change with the breeze.

Only by a massive readying of all can truthful news be well gleaned. The MSM is not sufficiently choreographed to hide it. Critically read, the Huffington Post, the NY Times, The Hill and several other more outlier sources in aggregate create a leak of the truth or the essentials of it, enough to critically think about it against the background of all you know, if you are adequately well read and informed.

The MSM is so bad, blatant and political these days, like much of the CIA, it should be summarily fired or dismissed. What we have is atrocious, with CNN and HuffPo at the vanguard, contending for the title of the worst. Regrettably that is the way it is going too be for a while, because Trump and the mainstream media are at war and each will say whatever it thinks will gain it stead and hammer the other. Americans should demand better of both and not be so gullibly taken in by either. But alas, we don’t and are. We are witlessly divided and select the MSM segment which most closely comports with our preconceived and political views and then follow it like a puppy, uncritically. Fox has its viewers. The NY Times, it readership. CNN, its own viewers.

A note should be added here about Russian news plants and trolls. They must be watched for. Note for whom they cut. Do they fit with what is known? All might well not be false. The above guide can help here as well, but the waters are muddied to be sure.

The outlook is poor for the American public because it is as lacking as its media and President are in these regards. In a way, we all deserve each other. But so glad I am gone.

Kimball Corson

Pago Pago, American Samoa U Chicago, 3 year MA in PhD Program, 68 (all but dissertation finished), JD 71 Retired. Sailing the world I am sailing around the world solo in my own sailboat. I have postgraduate degrees from the University of Chicago. I had the good fortune to study under seven Nobel Laureates and was a protege of Milton Friedman. I was a lawyer, too, and tried larger jury cases and handled appeals. I do not believe much in law or politics, but I do believe in economic forces. I like both physical and mental activity. I don't suffer foolishness meant in earnest very gladly, but I love foolishness for its own sake. I value my freedom and independence highly. I am both outgoing and withdrawn. I am also lazy and a hard worker. I like my cat and the way she thinks. I don't drink much or smoke at all. I view the world as my home and wish I could be a citizen only of the world. Much about the rest of what interests me can be gleaned from my website at I am sometimes busy, too, writing articles on economics sometimes for SeekingAlpha, the world's largest economics and investment website. I have had over 100 articles in a row published by them. I have also authored a minor technical book or two that have been published. In the past, I have been elected into Marquis' Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in Finance and Industry, The Cambridge Who's Who of Intellectuals, etc. Oh, I have become fluent in Spanish. which doesn't help in French Polynesia or too much of the rest of the world. I want to learn French more fluently, too, before I die, but need a good, prolonged full- emersion opportunity for that, which I might have to create for myself. 

Leave a Reply

Notify of