Dec 16

Mixed Messages

Let's talk about hate. Let's talk about you and me and all the horrible things we can be.

We see lots about hate in the media these days; or at least we see a lot of hate. This hate is a bi-product of fear. Fear of what is different, fear of a loss of identity, fear of a loss of control, and fear of change.

To quote a wise puppet: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to Suffering.
To quote a wiser man who I also happen to believe was God: Perfect Love drives away Fear.

So let's look at two different responses to the growing climate of hate and fear, not just in America but in the Western world.

First we have a man who was so afraid of people who held a different set of political beliefs that he was willing to swallow the most outrageous stories. In this case 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C. went into Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC with a gun to "self investigate" (his words) if the claims that the establishment was a front for a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton were true. These claims were the creation of 4chan users and led to a 20,000 member Reddit group. These claims were then spread all over the internet in groups that already had reasons to dislike Sec. Clinton. Fortunately no one was injured and the police were able to resolve the matter. Unfortunately Pizzagate still has idiots and people of ill will sharing it. See my post about Fake News from last week.

Next let's go the opposite direction. Religious fears have lead to violence all over the world. The Muslim community in the US has been the subject of growing fears. Unfortunately many people seem to not understand that the more persecuted a group is, the more marginalized, the more likely it is to develop radical elements. Fortunately there are people like 53-year-old Justin Normand of Texas. Normand has taken to standing outside Islamic Centers with signs saying "You Belong" and pictures of him doing so have gone viral. This is what he said about what he had done:

It wasn’t about demonstrating my outrage to right-wing drivers driving down Esters Road in front of the mosque. I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here. This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us. Or, in some Christian traditions, this was about washing my brother’s feet. This was about my religion, not theirs. And, it was about what I think I must do as an American when our way of life is threatened. Targeting people for their religion not only threatens our way of life, it is the polar opposite of our way of life.

So what was the difference?

Two men faced with the potential other. The scary thing we do not understand. One chose to read social media and react with potential violence. One chose to read the Bible and act with a simple message of compassion. One chose to buy into his peer group's ideology and one chose to reject the culture's prevailing message. One is in jail, the other is lauded.

There is a lesson here. A message that I continue to preach. Reason. Dialogue. Compassion. These are what change the world. We all know it. We have just let our fears tell us something different.

Dec 16

Fake it until you make it, or brake it

Fighting fake news is now a big deal.

Horses and Barndoors.

But let's talk about that for a second. Since I deal with religious news here it seems appropriate. I have given up on fighting back against all the fake news I see people post on Facebook. The reality is people will believe what ever already fits their world view. But you, my readers, are more intelligent than that. You aren't going to just share some news article because it is sensational, are you?

Of course not.

Because you are going to follow these Commandments for Vetting Internet News:
1. Thou shall read dispassionately. The hard one and important one first. You must be able to separate your agenda from the sources you consider. Accepting bad sources harms your credibility and your cause.
2. Thou shall ask the intent of the article. Is it news or is it editorial? Does it have an obvious bias?
3. Thou shall find the original source. Copy a line from the site you are viewing and paste it into a search engine. You should be able to find the original author and date.
4. Thou shall investigate the nature of the original source. Is it a blog? Is it *.com, *.org, *.net? Or *.edu or *.mil (these two have higher authority as one is for universities and the other military.) If you don’t recognize the extension, research it. If it were .cl that would be Chile, and .cm would be Cameroon.
5. Thou shall research the author and the organization. Is it even a real person? Is there a "contact me" feature? What other things is this person associated with? Can you confirm the existence of this "news" site from anyone else?
6. Thou shall investigate the sources of the article. No I am not repeating myself. If the article says "according to the National Association for Fake News" find out what that is. Lots of very openly biased groups have very innocuous sounding names.
7. Thou shall verify. Does the information appear from multiple sources, and if so do they have different sources or are they sharing one?
8. Thou shall accept the existence of facts. If it can be verified from multiple unrelated sources then it is likely a fact, whether you want it to be or not.
9. Thou shall not confuse Satire with News. BabylonBee and the Onion are humor sites, not news sites. Know the difference.
10. Thou shall use logic and reason. Fake news is sometimes a mix of real facts and false conclusions, see if logic follows. Even if the information is verified, you shall not jump to conclusions of your own.

This has been brought to you in and effort to not talk about and maybe lessen the Culture War.

Don't be a Mo-mo.