Dangerous “Information” Sources

Are you getting your information from any of these sites?  You might be shocked to find out who is writing/sponsoring some of the articles showing up on your social media pages. I try to keep my Facebook page non-political – but I do have a few news sources that show up daily.  They are liberal sources, so the fact that articles from the following extreme right-leaning sources even showed up, indicates how ubiquitous they must be.  I suspect they might show up even more fequently on the pages of political conservatives.

The Epoch Times 

From Wikipedia: “The Epoch Times is a multi-language newspaper and media extension of the Falun Gong new religious movement.[4][5] The newspaper is part of the Epoch Media Group, which also operates New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD).[6] For its articles, the publication draws from a network within China, as well as staff living in the West.[7][8][9]

RT (TV Network)

From Wikipedia: RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian government-funded international television network.[5][6] It operates pay television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Russian.

The Washington Times

From Wikipedia: The Washington Times was founded on May 17, 1982, by Unification movement leader Sun Myung Moon and owned until 2010 by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate founded by Moon. It is currently owned by Operations Holdings, which is owned by the Unification movement.[4][5]

OANN – One America News Network

From Wikipedia: The OAN channel originally debuted in partnership with The Washington Times.[15] (see above. The Washington Times was founded by Sun Myung Moon – founder of The Unifaction Church) ….. OAN is known for downplaying threats posed to the United States by Russia. According to a former OAN producer, on his first day at OAN he was told, “Yeah, we like Russia here.”[8][59] One of OAN’s reporters, Kristian Brunovich Rouz, simultaneously works for the Russian propaganda outlet and news agency Sputnik, which is state-owned; when Rouz runs segments on OAN that relate to Russia, OAN does not disclose that he also works for Sputnik.[11]

The hypertensive guide to fake news

Much has appeared in the media recently about fake news.  Librarians have been concentrating our efforts with out students for years on evaluating sources.  This election has certainly proved the need for this education.  We all look for one quick and definitive test for vetting a site.  I think I have that for you.


Is  it real or is it memorex? (this slogan sure shows my age)  Is it fake or is it slanted?

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is through the roof.  OMG! This is OUTRAGEOUS.  I must post this to FB immediately.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It might be a hoax from a fake news site. Calm down and do your research before posting.

Have a glass of wine!

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is normal or below.   WOW!  I knew I was right.  I must post this to FB immediately.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It is probably a story from a news source that is slanted towards your side of the political spectrum. Don’t believe everything you read on this site.  Go outside your comfort zone a little to read a site with another point of views.

Have a glass of wine!

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is normal or slightly elevated.  Oh my! Some of this is challenging my long-held convictions.  Some of it matches my opinions. Whatever should I do?!

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It is probably a story from a news source that is a little more balanced. You still should not believe everything you read on this site.  Research and read some more.

Have a glass of wine!

Who Ya Gonna Call??


I agonize sometimes when I see blatant falsehoods on Facebook Memes.  I have seen them on both the conservative and liberal memes.  But let’s face it…trying to distill complex issues and opinions into a phrase or two is impossible…and ultimately hurtful.  Throwing half truths and insults at each other is what the internet has created.  It is why I have blocked many sites and try to share only humorous and inspirational memes .  I DID say that I would post more in-depth articles of interest from time to time.  This article covers an issue dear to my heart….ferreting out internet hoaxes.  In it Silverman says. “When we spot hoaxes, we should play a role in calling it out.”. He was talking about the organization he works for….but I think we need to all play a part in keeping truth and respectful discussion alive.  It is a tough job…but we ALL have to do it.

Declaring war on internet hoaxes

Some of my favorite lines from the article are:

“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote. BuzzFeed wants to tighten up the race.

Ask any political fact-checker how hard it is for the truth to overtake the bogus campaign trail claim. The shelf life of poppycock is depressingly long.

“There have always been hoaxes and rumors, but they are much more common in today’s world,” Silverman says. “The false stuff gets traction. It contributes to stereotypes and influences what we think. If we’re not knocking it down, it contributes to a more fractious society.”

He says the mission is complicated by the fact that people just don’t seem to share the corrective article nearly as much as the splashy but incorrect original story. “Hoaxes are better crafted to share,” he says. “Debunkers are seen as spoilsports.”

[Silverman] noticed that fake news was starting to emerge, “and social media was throwing gasoline on it.”

Has Social Media Eaten Our Brains?

I read Esther Cepeda’s column today in my morning newspaper...A deliciously revolting takedown of our Internet-obsessed way of life”. 

In her column, Cepeda reviews the book I hate the Internet: A Useful Novel Against Man, Money and the Filth of Instagram.

I must read this book. Her review reminds me of a much-panned book I read a few years ago … Killing Time by Caleb Carr.  I wrote a blog post quoting passages from the book. Is it real..or is it Spark Notes? expressed my concern about the negative potential of a media where anyone..even me….can be a published author, and where information is being summarized and deep reading is discouraged.

To our students, information all pretty much looks the same.  As a matter of fact, garbage posted in a pretty package actually looks better than the most profound literature posted in plain, old-fashioned html.  I see so much mis-information being thrown around on FB et al.  If that is what you depend on for your news…you will never understand what is real and what is fake.  Recently I have blocked all political posts from my FB feed.  I have made a conscious decision that I will NOT get my information from a platform that is perfect for having a social conversation, and terrible for finding accurate “just the facts” news, let alone measured, informed opinions.

I confess. I HAVE made an exception for Donald Trump.  I search for the most balanced and accurate reports that I can find and post links.  Why the exception? Because people did not do enough to stop Hitler and look what happened there!!  I feel it is my moral obligation to reveal the danger of Trump.  But part of his amazing rise to prominence has to do with the fact that he talks in the outrageous sound bytes that passes for intelligent discourse these days.  In the words of Caleb Carr:

The human brain adores it [Information] – it plays with the bits of information it receives, arranging them and storing them like a delighted child. But it loathes examining them deeply, doing the hard work of assembling them into integrated systems of understanding. Yet that work is what produces knowledge… The rest is simply – recreation. (Killing Time, p. 235)

And in the words of Esther Cepeda:

As a result, social media and participatory journalism sites became “a place where complex systems gave the mentally ill the same platforms of expression as sane members of society, with no regard to the damage they caused to themselves or others.” And this had the effect of making Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Gawker, BuzzFeed and so many other sites where people have so-called conversations an environment that “preyed on the gullible, asking them to create content based on inflamed emotion for the sake of serving advertisements.”

 Sound like anyone we know?

What exactly does “closely held” really mean?

And will these “closely held” organizations be completely transparent about all the implications of their particular religious beliefs?  There is much to think about with regard to the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby Decision.

As much of a liberal feminist as I am, I have always supported the right of faith-based organizations to decline covering medical prescriptions/procedures that their church doctrine views as immoral. Part of my opinion is based on the fact that most people are aware of these policies when they are hired by a Catholic hospital or other obviously faith-based employers.  
I DO hope that the law will require that  “closely held” corporations be completely upfront about their religious doctrine when they interview prospective employees, along with the implications those beliefs might have to employees who are not of that faith – even beyond the issue of birth control. For instance, could women employed by a “closely held” Muslim corporation be required to wear a head scarf at work? 
Currently I am trying to find an unbiased source to answer one question. Does the Hobby Lobby plan cover vasectomies? Many sites indicate that they do cover Viagra and other similar drugs. I do not see that as a viable criticism in this context. Viagra is a drug aimed at restoring a natural ability that has been lost. But what about vasectomies? How is that different from birth control? Is Hobby Lobby still covering vasectomies? Are they still covering female sterilization?  I cannot determine that for sure. It is so hard to find an unbiased site with a definitive answer.
Now – before the conservatives start yelling that Hobby Lobby is still covering other forms of female birth control (just not those they see as being equivalent to abortion)…..trust me …. I FULLY understand that a vasectomy is a way to prevent the fertilization of eggs – not to destroy the ability of a fertilized egg to grow or abort an embryo.  And I know that Hobby Lobby is still paying for the pill and other forms of birth control.
BUT, I am looking at the larger implications of this Supreme Court ruling.
I believe this ruling opens the door for Catholic “closely held” corporations to ban ALL birth control, since Church doctrine forbids all forms of artificial birth control. Again – I have no problem with that if the organization is totally upfront about their policies and it is obvious that this is a CATHOLIC organization. But suppose a small Catholic family opens an ice cream store called…say… “Ice Cream Lobby”? How will future employees know of a religious connection? There needs to be very clear government requirements that both small and large employers be totally upfront about what is and is not being covered by their health plans. People need to know what they might be giving up in the way of employee benefits when they sign on to ANY kind of faith-based organization, whether it be a closely held corporation or the Vatican. 
Clearly stating the religious background of all organizations will be absolutely imperative of course. Most of us know the stance on birth control of the Catholic Church. But some may not. How many of us know the full religious doctrine of every faith – Jewish, Mormon, Presbyterian, Hari-Krishnas, Unitarians, Muslims etc. etc. etc.?
Do I agree with the Hobby Lobby decision?  I am not entirely sure. Nothing is ever simple. I need to research some more. The problem is that the noisiest opinions rise to the top of Google. What I have read so far is either rabidly conservative or rabidly liberal. Yes, my conservative friends….BOTH extreme positions are easily found on the internet and other media outlets. Really. The “lame stream media” cuts both ways.
It is moderation and thoughtfulness that are in short supply these days.