THE INTERNET IS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION, BUT IS IT FACTUAL?

internetThe Internet began in the 1960’s as a means to interconnect “super computers” for research purposes. In 1969, ARPANET went on-line linking four University Computer Systems (UCLA, Stanford, UCSB and University of Utah).  By the early 1970’s dozens of other Universities and NASA were also linked up with each other for the exchange of information and research for scientific purposes. The early Internet was used by computer experts, engineers, scientists, and librarians. There was nothing friendly about it. There were no home or office personal computers in those days, and anyone who used it, whether a computer professional or an engineer or scientist or librarian, had to learn to use a very complex system. So access was limited, timely and often expensive.

In the years that followed, email became part of the growing internet community of research facilities and libraries and new technology and programming came into existence that began to make what is known today as the internet accessible to the general public. In 1993 a graphical browser known as MOSAIC was created which later morphed into Netscape. Then came Microsoft and the internet moved into a world where everyone with a personal computer had access to gather information. What’s more, they had the ability to post their information for others to see. On-line “news” services came to being and of course, Blogs.

News organizations that have investigative reporters have links to their stories and research available to the public (often for a price). More and more, people have what they claim are news outlets posting stories and their research on the Internet as fact. These stories can be found using Google to search out certain key words to get information many are looking for. Wikipedia exists as the first on-line encyclopedia of information. People are able to post their information for others, often with proper citation, but always up for review and sometimes removed when found to be false. Subjects have been blocked to keep some from manipulating the truth. The most famous incident of this was when Stephen Colbert asked his viewers to go to Wikipedia to state that elephants were no longer an endangered species. It worked and for a time elephants were no longer endangered per Wikipedia. They of course corrected and locked down that post, as they do others.

Most Blogs are nothing more than opinion pieces whether they cite facts or not. Many do as much as they can or are willing to do to make sure that if they are posting what they believe to be fact, to verify that information. They post links to other sites of their sources of information. However, some do purport themselves to be actual news and actual research and imply to the public that what is on their site is factual and true and shouldn’t be questioned. True journalism really is a rarity on the internet and is now becoming a rarity in the press. Those who attend journalism school learn among many things, journalistic ethics and integrity. In the old days, you researched a story to be led to the truth. More and more people are coming up with their own truth first, then are going out (often using Internet sources) to find or create their own evidence to support their truth.

A good example of this was recently when in the Well of the Senate, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz made comments regarding the confirmation of Chuck Hagel that he was associated with a group known as “Friends of Hamas.” Problem is, no such organization ever existed. It was a snarky comment made by a reporter that was picked up and became part of the Internet. Aids who were looking for something dirty for Hagel found the story and it was reported as fact. This is more common than most people realize.

You can find almost anything you want on the internet to support any story or position you want to write about. You can make an argument that the moon landings were faked and cite research on the Internet, you can make an argument that taxes are at their highest rate in American History and the deficit has doubled since Obama took office and cite research on the Internet. Both of these examples are blatantly false and real research and facts gathered from reputable organizations, that place their information on-line will attest to the truth. We did land on the moon and our deficit is half of what it was when Obama took office and the average federal tax rate for the average citizen is at its lowest point in over 60 years. But those with an agenda will not cite those sources of information, it doesn’t fit their agenda. These people do not look for the truth; they try to create it and will find anything they can to support it from like minded individuals or people just posting parody on the net to back up their agenda. Many a time news stories from “The Onion” and “Borowitz Report” have been cited as fact.

This is a blog; I try to find information that is factual as best I can. However, I am not a trained journalist and I do not have the time to do the exhaustive research required to tell the entire story from information available. Further, I admit that I do have an agenda. However, I am also willing to admit when I am wrong and when that happens, I will post a correction because my personal ethics requires that of me. Many are like me, many are not. This is the danger in trusting blogs or On-Line “news” organizations that purport to be news but are nothing more than an elaborate blog, for your facts.

I will post links to stories that make sense to me to fit the agenda I’m trying to put forth as do most bloggers out there. I tend to use the “does it smell right?” test to determine if it’s legitimate. I believe that most of the major news organizations that still have journalists in their employ remain good sources for political news. I of course do not include Fox in that list.

I’m posting this because I think people are too quick to trust everything sent to them as fact and do little, if anything to question or verify that information. This is where we fail as a society. The blogs on the Internet, including this one, are nothing more than the Editorial Pages of Newspapers. Much of it may or may not be true, may or may not make sense, but it really isn’t news. It wouldn’t hold up in Court as fact unless you are able to show who you interviewed, what sources you researched and from where, and are able to vouch for its authenticity.

All I am saying is question everything you see on the Internet, on this or any Blog and especially Twitter before using it as grounds to attack another. If you want to do such a story, do complete research on every possible contingency of what you are looking at and let the truth reveal itself to you, don’t go looking for your truth and then tell others what it is.

I stand by my blog until someone else tells me I got it wrong and can show me how. Not everyone is willing to say that.

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