Some thoughts on information access

Our American politics goes into the crazy zone on both sides so often in recent years, that I often shake my head in disgust at the hyperbole and wonder if America will ever regain a large center, where calmer leaders emerge and foster a sense of good citizenship rather than this constant right-wing saber-rattling and paranoia of evil radical leftists destroying America and left-wing “transformation” politics and paranoia of dangerous right-wingers lurking everywhere. I’m very much politically homeless at present – thoroughly sick of plenty of politicians on both sides. I’m not into being outraged everyday and frankly living like that seems totally counterproductive and exhausting. And it sure won’t unite America.

This is a very unsettling time we’re in and although most partisans prefer to reduce all problems as being caused by the other side, things are rarely that simple. Even if you don’t care about politics at all or if you have strong partisan political views, I expect the spin information war is impacting everyone, and when it comes to efforts to impose rules and measures to infringe on fundamental rights American have, well, that effort is coming from the left, where this corrupt spin information war began. There are now more people taking notice and speaking out on the politicized efforts by large (liberal-owned) social media platforms to control and silence more and more people for what is deemed “spreading misinformation.”

This current trend I expected for over 20 years with the crap Dem spin information war, that began with the Clinton crowd, spread to the entire Dem and liberal political sphere and then finally spread to the Republican side with Trump embracing the same corrupt spin information war model as Dems in 2016. Trumps supporters cheered that Trump was “owning the libs” and “breaking all the rules,” while still being outraged at that very same behavior by Democrats and liberals… Trump acting as corruptly as them became the new Republican standard.

The American political spin information war has advanced to a critical point. Every trusted information entity has lost a lot of credibility in recent years, especially the news media. Finding ways to access accurate, reliable information is going to become the biggest lifesaving tool aside from the most basic, food, water, and shelter needs. Having sources of information you can trust when the political class is engaged in spinning everything and the news media is thoroughly corrupted by spin and collapsing journalistic standards makes finding reliable information challenging. The online information ecosystem is filled to the brim with inaccurate, false, and unreliable information and it’s beginning to create what I dubbed an “information void.” We’re surrounded by mountains of information, but we don’t have the the time or resources to even sift through a fraction of it and determine which information is reliable. Where we used to trust in professional news organizations to provide reliable information, that trust has eroded a great deal and polls continue to indicate Americans no longer have much trust in the news media – across the board.

The continuing Covid political drama has reached the point where I believe the harms to children, the school disruptions, the devastating impact on small businesses due to government-imposed mitigation rules/shutdowns, the continuing politicization of public health and the mental health fall-out from millions of people living their lives in a political/media-induced state of fear for almost two years now has left trust in many of our most vital institutions in a downward spiral. Added to all of this, the world economic system shows major signs of instability. There isn’t much good news on the political or economic fronts in America, but the most at risk and crucial front that doesn’t get much attention is how vulnerable we all are in America when it comes to access to reliable information.

I started reading a 2020 book, A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream, by Yuval Levin, which delves into the role of institutions in our society and the need to bolster them. For decades I’ve been concerned about the growing partisan divides and lack of trust in American institutions, so I keep reading articles and books, which deal with these topics, both trying to understand what’s happening, gain some historical background and most of all looking for potential paths that might lead to less political and cultural chaos in America.

I recently finished two Sebastian Junger books, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging and Freedom. Junger delves into the idea of community in Tribe and explores what he thinks many people express when they talk about their feelings of isolation and lack of belonging in modern society. In Freedom, he takes the reader along on a personal adventure, while exploring what freedom means. Both books were quick reads. They left me with a lot to think about, but no closer to how all of that helps us with personal ways to weather the worsening economic, cultural and political storms we’re inexorably entering.

Reading about big picture theories and ideas about what’s happening interests me, but truthfully in my everyday life, I’m looking for uncomplicated ways to keep my life less stressful and functioning as normally as possible in these crazy times and probably that’s what most people are doing. However, along with the normal activities, I spend time trying to plan and prepare for bad things too, many of which feel like they’re not on the far horizon, but much closer.

Being able to access accurate and timely information is critical when it comes to not only preparedness, but truly it informs our decision-making from daily life decisions to critical decisions in an emergency.

The movement to silence views under the guise of “stopping dangerous misinformation” on social media platforms began a few years ago and it’s accelerating. I doubt most people realize how unreliable the American news media ecosystem really is and this applies across the political spectrum, not just to the news that doesn’t fit your partisan leanings. As institutions all around us have begun to fray, become corrupted, fail to adhere to their own ethical standards, well, journalism isn’t immune from that decay too. There’s a pervasive reliance on “reporting” what some other news agency or reporter working somewhere else “reported” and very little independent verification going on before running with “breaking news.” It’s typical now for news agencies and journalists to keep issuing updates and corrections, because they ran with information they hadn’t verified and then find out it was inaccurate or not true. Even worse is too often photos or videos are attached to news stories, which are not even from the event in the news story or the narrative attached to the photo or video is inaccurate or untrue.

On social media in the past few years political left messaging efforts have centered on protecting Americans from “misinformation.” I noticed it when Twitter banned Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy guy, whom most people considered nutty. I thought Jones was a whacko, so it wasn’t hard to rationalize that Twitter decision, but now across social media platforms the movement has been to censor and remove content and ban people from platforms – always claiming they were spreading “dangerous misinformation.” Through 4 years of Trump, it was “dangerous Russian misinformation” and in 2020 the political left in America switched to censoring and banning “dangerous Covid misinformation.”

Today on Twitter I saw another disturbing effort to try to silence Joe Rogan, a famous podcaster, whom I had never listened to. He got Covid and received treatment from his doctor, which included ivermectin. He spoke about his experience. Then he interviewed Dr. Robert Malone and YouTube, Twitter, and facebook removed the video of this interview. Joe Rogan has the full interview on Spotify. Dr. Malone is a virologist, who has worked with Dr. Fauci and he’s been critical of the vaccines. Any prominent people who speak out or question the government Covid policies and rules, end up being attacked and then efforts are made to censor them on social media. Now there’s a group letter by some activist doctors and science educators, calling on Spotify to stop Rogan from spreading “misinformation.”

Watching this online trend by big tech liberal elites to use their social media platforms to silence political viewpoints, I expect an escalation of this behavior, especially if the economic chaos deepens and shortages become more widespread. In recent weeks the shortage situation is worsening in my local stores and although I had planned to attempt a low-spend January, as some online homesteaders and frugal living people do as a challenge, instead I’ve been looking over my pantry and around my house and doing more stocking up. After seeing the increasing out-of-stock situation and trying to glean information from various news, I decided to stock up more on some items.

As the shortage situation escalates and economic conditions continue to worsen, I expect more groups of people and even more ordinary people in America to be targeted online for censorship and banishment. Thinking about ways to continue to communicate outside of relying on big tech social media platforms or apps on our cell phones will become critical as this crazy spin war rages further out of control. The spin war battles will expand to targeting more and more social media “influencers.”

Relying on liberal owned and controlled platforms, who are actively participating in a partisan political spin information war is a huge vulnerability. The information piece of preparedness, of being able to openly communicate and share information online, I expect will become harder if censorship efforts expand. I’ve been thinking about how people will communicate not only in worst case situations, like the grid goes down, but how to talk and share information outside of the social media controlled space and it’s challenging. Most of us are so used to relying on the convenience and accessibility of apps on our cell phones and the large social media platforms that we haven’t thought about freely being able to talk to each other and to find reliable information as a vital part of our preparedness, except in a worst-case scenario type situation.

I believe knowing people around you can create a vital network close at hand in any emergency, but we also need to be able to network with other people we trust across America and know what’s going on across the country and in the world. If you want any sign that the mainstream news media is unreliable, just look at the assiduous way they avoid giving a lot of coverage to the anti-lockdown, anti-Covid rules protests that have been happening in Australia and several European countries. Their doubling down on not talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop technique has now become perfected and is used by liberal news media to not talk about Covid-related news that doesn’t advance the partisan Democrat spin narrative.

Finding solutions to come up with alternative ways to communicate quickly and find accurate information isn’t as easy as prepping for items we can still purchase, but it’s vital and something that’s been on my mind a long time (years actually, as I wondered how this corrupt spin war would advance).

Former President Trump has tried to cultivate loyal news media entities by hounding and haranguing FOX News owners. He’s sucked up to One America News and cheered on Newsmax too. However, the liberal-owned news and social media organizations dominate (and control) most of the information world we operate in.

To see just how difficult it is to find alternatives, with the same ease and convenience of the popular social media platforms most Americans use, all you have to do is watch Trump-connected efforts to create a Trump-friendly news space and a social media platform to compete with the liberal-owned ones, who banned him. Direct TV is expected to drop One America News (OAN) from its satellite service. Amazon kicked Parler, a right-wing owned social media upstart, off of its web-hosting service. There’s now efforts to censor Joe Rogan, the largest podcaster in the country and a pressure campaign against Spotify to censor Rogan. Then there’s GETTR, a social media upstart by former Trump aide, Jason Miller, which I am not joining, because I want more details on Miller’s financial dealings with international business people, especially Guo Wengui, a dissident Chinese billionaire, who allegedly has close ties to the CCP.

Interestingly, Joe Rogan joined GETTR after being angered by efforts to censor him and within days Rogan was slamming GETTR for faking follower counts and harvesting his Twitter tweets to GETTR.

For ordinary Americans, who have an online presence or say a following on a YouTube channel, those can be demonetized, censored or even banned, leaving those people little recourse or alternatives. Even in a much more basic sense, trying to find alternative ways to communicate for most of us would likely have to rely on much less ambitious efforts than trying to create our own start-up social media platform, but still it’s important to think about things like having some basic information on people who matter to us saved somewhere other than online or in our cell phone. Having a good, old-fashioned address book, where you write down addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. of close family, friends and people we want to keep in touch with, especially in an emergency, might be a simple first step.

I’m totally tech-challenged, so I don’t have any big ideas on how to prepare for the worsening access to reliable information situation, but in my gut I feel it’s going to become a huge challenge for all of us.

Update 1/17/2022, 9:21pm: If you think my concerns over maintaining ways to communicate are ridiculous, consider for a moment that all it takes to get on the wrong side of Covid information rules is to disagree or question anything the Biden administration, CDC, Dr. Fauci, Dem-run state Covid rules, or to point out their lies on some social media platforms or even podcasts and other online forums. Countering the Covid narratives can get you labelled a right-wing extremist in America, but in several other Western countries, the crackdown on publicly disagreeing with government policy and/or protesting can lead to even more stringent government actions.

Germany is considering shutting down telegram service:

“Germany raised the prospect of closing down the Telegram messaging service over concerns about its use as a platform for extremist groups. “

“The country could seek to block the service if the government reaches the conclusion that it breeches national and European Union law.”

The so-called “extremist groups” are people planning protests against the Covid lockdowns and rules. In America, between the Covid government overreach and the continuing liberal political effort to broadly label Trump supporters and other conservative white people as racists and “white supremacists” or “white nationalists,” this type of effort to silence Americans doesn’t seem that far-fetched at this point. Before Covid, I would have said none of this stuff could ever happen in America and now it’s beginning to happen.

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Filed under Emergency Preparedness, General Interest, Information War

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