The Echo Chamber...ber...ber...

So a few days ago an article came out saying that 70% of California’s doctors were boycotting insurance purchased on the Obamacare exchange. This was supposedly because of tying the exchange to lower reimbursement rates.

The article in question is here: Doctors boycotting California's Obamacare exchange | Washington Examiner

I tried to check in the veracity of this, and couldn’t find any reputable cites. What I did find was around three pages of Google results like this:

And so on.

So if you were a reasonable person, and you heard about this, you might very well look it up and see such an overwhelming flood of people reporting on it, it would lead you to think it has credibility.

Of course, it’s not a real thing. The original story, which all the others quote, had some dude ask a half dozen insurance brokers. Who, as it happens, have no information one way or the other on how many doctors might be boycotting anything.

The LA Times just did a debunking, and it is pretty definitive. Of course, none of those websites I listed before will offer a retraction or pull their story down. So a year from now, someone who hears about this issue can still be mislead.

The worst thing, is it isn’t even a conspiracy. It’s just a feedback loop that has people who are angry trying to get the word out about something they think is outrageous.

I guess what I’m asking, is what can be done to combat this kind of misleading stuff? I know it happens all the time, but it really seems shitty for democracy. Obviously a free press is a good thing, so I don’t advocate censorship, even of lies. But is there a way this isn’t going to be a problem forever?

Repeal the 1st amendment or shut down the internet.

Take your pick.

Well, I said that I don’t support censorship, so other than shutting down the internet, got anything useful to say?

Everyone will have ideas. Those ideas will be based on A) All of the Facts, B) Some of the Facts, or C) None of the Facts. Worse, having All of the Facts doesn’t mean that you’ll find the same way to deal with those facts between multiple individuals.

If the enlightened among us aren’t in agreement, why would the peripherally interested or downright topical idiots be in agreement? Additionally, if a topical idiot wants to learn more about something, is he capable of doing so? Who should he trust? A lot of evaluation needs to go into each topic to be fully informed. Did Jim Jones spend the time? Did Jennie Jones spend the time?

In my opinion, the only way to combat this is through reason-oriented discourse and impassionate statements of fact with those around you and hope that they do the same with those around them. If you are wrong, correct both your fact and your belief, whether or not you want to. Don’t forget: We are all wrong. Both the experts and the idiots.

I heard a long time ago that human understanding is like a forest. Each time you chop down a tree, there are two more to chop behind it. I have found this to be true with not only knowledge in general, but in understanding how to use that knowledge (which is another kind of knowledge.)

The solution to me is to educate all about the problematic nature of looking just at the sources from just one side of the political spectrum.

That problem is combined with a second one: my observations after several years show to me that even very clever people never take their sources to task when an item they reported shows to be misleading or a real lie.

The answer to me is simple, I remove links to even sources that I do agree with in general when they attempt for a few times to pass “information” that is misleading at best, it is what the best analysts like Nate Silver is with his method of **constantly **evaluating his sources of information (other pollsters). That IMHO is what it should be thought as a basic social skill integrated to social studies.

I would like to see classes in critical thinking taught in high school, and with the internet as ubiquitous as it is, that could be considered a critical life skill. Not sure that would make a huge dent, but it would be a start.

I agree with you about the classes. Are there any examples of such out there that could be used as a template?

This is true. The media do not respond to reason and dispassion because it does not encourage hype and does not apply glue to eyeballs.

Lies can get halfway around the world before the truth can lace its boots. When was the last time you heard, saw or read a rumor that wasn’t scary, scandalous, or malevolent?

Luckily, the internet has not yet been shut down (10 second Google search):

possible good place to start

Could such a course be opposed by right-wing elements as “propaganda” because of the people associated with it?

I hear non-scandalous rumors all the time. XX celebrity is pregnant. XX celebrity was not in makeup and buying things at a store.

Most of the “rumors” are trying to get you with information you don’t know (in some cases, you can’t know because it isn’t true) so that you go “I’d like to know more!” and buy the tabloid/click the link/etc.

There is, especially in politics, a lot of the scary kind of rumor because it works on certain aspects of the populace, both liberal and conservative. (At the last persidential election, for example, I heard liberals going “MITT ROMNEY IS GOING TO REPEAL LEGAL ABORTIONS!” I heard conservatives going “OBAMA IS GOING TO SETUP DEATH PANELS!”)

In the end, all of the different kinds of rumors/lies just serve to generate revenue for someone or some company.

Indeed, both sides do it. And the Geico gecko and Godzilla are both lizards, hence, very much the same. Except, perhaps, as regards size and destructive power. Details.

People say they want children to be taught critical thinking. And maybe a good number of them are sincere.

But I think the religiosity of most Americans stands in conflict with critical-thinking. Not just the typical God/Jesus stuff, but the veneration of the military, patriotism, and authority in general. If you teach tenth graders to be critical of everything they are exposed to, they will be critical of everything. Including whatever their parents tell them is right and wrong. This is scary to a lot of people.

It’s also easier to teach someone to be automatically skeptical of every claim than it is to teach them how to separate a specious argument from a reasonable one. Good teachers will know how to do this. Bad teachers will turn your child into a conspiracy theorist who reflexively doubts everything “they” say. I don’t know if someone like this is any better than a gullible fool. Since most Americans seem to be impaired in critical thinking (including myself, quite possibly), I don’t know if I’d trust a typical classroom teacher with this task.

A coworker once spammed all of us at work with “Obama is a Muslim!” emails. When I told her that Snopes had debunked this a long time ago, she replied, “How do you know Snopes is telling the truth, huh?!!” I had no response for her.

How is shutting down the internet not censorship?

Sorry you didn’t understand the message-- what you are asking for cannot be done without censorship. If you don’t find that useful, then why don’t you make a proposal of how to accomplish your goal without censorship.

What about your own suggestion in post #6?

As a practical matter, there are a few things that could be done. At the federal level, reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine might do some good. And putting teeth into some of the laws pertaining to libel and slander would help as well. The free dissemination of information & ideas is essential, of course, but I see no reason why some common-sense limitations could not be applied to prevent the deliberate and malicious spreading of misinformation and outright lies.

When we see the likes of Limbaugh spouting vicious lies and calling it entertainment, when televangelists and preachers rake in millions in donations by publicly advocating for a military takeover of government or calling for the assassination of the president - as some have - then freedom of speech and the institution of a free press have already been raped and cheapened anyway.

Freedom of speech is self-cheapening. If only things were permitted to be said that ennobled and elevated speech…that would require censorship.

Freedom of speech must include freedom of really stupid speech. There isn’t any “cure.” The only thing to do is respond. More speech!

Morris Dees said this, marvelously, in a case of a college newspaper that had published material questioning the Nazi Holocaust. The school wanted to censor the article, but Dees said, no, let it be published…and then everyone can respond to it, pointing out how it is wrong.

That is how speech is ennobled.

Admit they’re wrong? In their moment of triumph? Surely you overestimate Obamacare’s chances!

My own tactics with this crap have changed a bit. I don’t have to fight today’s lies directly. I just ask them about last year’s lies, and those before. And how many of those actually came true. Then ask how they can keep believing people who sell them doom and gloom and are consistently wrong.

Thank you. Reinstating laws to limit media over-concentration and campaign finance might also help.

It’s instructive to read what “Libertarians” write on this topic, especially their hypocritical hyperbole about the First Amendment. They’re for the Power of Liberty™ all right: but Power of Wealth, not People.

Limiting the power of money on TV and Internet would certainly not be a panacea: the power of blogging has given a megaphone to every ignoramus. However one could hope that truly ignorant thought would resemble Brownian motion and tend to self-cancel. :wink: Instead we have people who are ignorant and gulled, e.g. by Murdoch or the Koch Brothers, and rowing as a team against rationality.