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Printing Press 2.0

Entry 1935, on 2018-09-14 at 19:09:37 (Rating 3, News)

It seems to me that it has become standard practice for many on the right to make frequent references to "fake news" on the "discredited mainstream media". It's easy just to dismiss this as a feeble effort to reject the material in MSM sources which is embarrassing to those on the right, especially Trump supporters, but is there an element of truth there too?

I think so. Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to say that everything in the MSM is wrong and that it really is fake news. I think most of it is true, but it is also very biased, both in its selection of material and it its style of presentation. So there is a real problem. What is the solution? Well, you can get alternative opinions in the few mainstream sources which are biased in the opposite direction, like Fox News, but maybe there's a better way.

For me, the best way to get less biased information, which is still thoroughly researched and detailed, is through alternative internet sources like blogs and podcasts. At this point you might think I'm crazy, because those two sources do have a reputation for being even more opinionated and biased than MSM, but listen to the rest of my argument before judging!

I totally admit that there are a lot of alternative news sources which cannot be trusted at all, but it would be wrong to put them all in this category. At least a significant number of of blogs and podcasts don't have the same commercial constraints as traditional news, because they have either no advertising or the advertising they do have is a lesser part of their raison d'etre. And there are very few alternative news sources which have the profit motive as their primary compulsion.

Many alternative sources don't have an editorial structure or a board which might act as a gatekeeper on allowable content. Obviously this can work both ways, because it allows totally crazy material as well as unfiltered reality to exist, but at least there is a chance to achieve less bias.

Also, I have noticed a lot of podcasts seem to be attracting genuinely important commentators on modern society, science, philosophy, and politics. It is now an accepted way to get a message to a mass market and, although publicising a new book or event is a somewhat devious ulterior motive, it still makes that person accessible.

Finally, podcasts have fewer restrictions on length, language standards, and general format. The three plus hour marathons I sometimes hear provide far more detail and context than even the relatively unusual 30 minute interviews on the best conventional sources. Swearing and other controversial language (including political incorrectness) often leads to a truer expression of ideas than the artificial restrictions imposed by MSM. And casual interview formats and extended monologues are uncommon on TV and radio but popular on blogs and podcasts.

So now for some examples. What are my favourite podcasts, and which do I think deliver the most thoughtful and original content?

Well, maybe the oddest, but the one which also presented some interesting thoughts was a recent podcast by Joe Rogan where he interviewed Elon Musk. Joe is a well-known TV personality, comedian, and martial arts expert, but he also runs a fairly legendary podcast which tackles subjects as diverse as politics, cosmology, mixed martial arts, outdoors skills and hunting, political ideologies of every type, UFOs and other paranormal topics, and current social issues.

Now I do have to admit that both Rogan and Musk were drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana during the 3 hour discussion, but that just made the material more interesting, although a bit confusing in places.

There was one other podcast in this series which made this one look tame though, that was one with well-known conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. That one also involved the liberal use of drugs and it was just totally crazy.

But do you know what the craziest thing really was? It was that a lot of what Jones said was true. Now, I know how this sounds: you are probably wondering whether, at his point I've really lost my grasp on reality. But I fact checked a lot of what was being said, and a lot of it was real.

Jones also supports a lot of conspiracies which aren't true - or at least seem fake based on the best evidence I can find - so I concede this, but thanks to this podcast I now know that questions regarding his credibility are not as simple as they first seem.

Those podcasts each lasted about 3 hours and I found them genuinely fascinating, despite not agreeing with, or believing, everything I heard.

And if those are a bit too wild for you, Joe has also interviewed some more "respectable" public figures, such as famous scientists Sean Carroll and Neil deGrasse Tyson, infamous clinical psychologist and commentator, Jordan Peterson, and other public intellectuals like Lawrence Krauss, Eric Weinstein, Michael Shermer, Steven Pinker, Bret Weinstein, and Sam Harris.

Which brings me to the second podcast which is similar in some ways, but very different in others: Sam Harris' "Waking Up". This is presented in a far more intellectual style, but it can be just as controversial as Rogan's. It also can run over three hours and has had many very well-known guests, including: Bart Ehrman, Max Tegmark, Douglas Murray, David Deutsch, Glenn Loury, Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, Bret Weinstein, and Lawrence Krauss (and yes, I did notice the overlap with Joe's podcast, but both are worth listening to because of the very different styles).

How familiar are you with the ideas and opinions of these people? If you say something like "not very" then you are listening to the wrong sources!

I don't completely reject using more conventional sources. I listen to podcasts from Radio New Zealand, the BBC, the Guardian, and the scientific journal Nature, amongst many others. But even when these feature the same people as the less conventional ones, the result is never the same. The constraints of what is allowable on even podcasts and blogs originating in MSM is obvious. If you want to hear what these people really believe, listen to them on Joe's or Sam's podcasts instead.

These new sources provide a revolution in information dissemination which is like the invention of the printing press. Sam Harris says that within a day every one of his podcasts reaches more people than his books did in a year - and his books did sell quite well.

Everyone has the chance to educate themselves more and to get a different and more detailed perspective on the topics they are being mislead about by the MSM. All they need to do is look at these alternatives. You should never believe everything you hear or see there, but shouldn't do that with the MSM either!

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Comment 1 (4943) by Anonymous on 2018-09-17 at 12:36:34:

If you say we should read blogs how do we know which ones are real and which are fake. It's just like the main news you don't like, isn't it?

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Comment 2 (4945) by OJB on 2018-09-19 at 15:44:09:

Yes, from that perspective blogs are also a likely source of fake news. Obviously we need to use discretion in what we read. The advantage though is that many of them are free from the constraints of commercialism, company policies, and length.

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