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How to choose an echo chamber

July 9, 2012

This is a post from last year with various text amendments and an updated list of links.

The working of our brain is mainly based on pattern recognition and memory. It is further based on feedback loops resulting in a steady adaptation and reorganization of brain structures, and to a lesser degree also on rules of common sense, grammar, and logic (functions that are made possible by the special ability of the working memory areas to keep several patterns active at the same time).

Humans like to see themselves as intelligent and logical acting creatures but the influence of common sense and logical reasoning in our daily life is small, most decisions are made intuitively (gut decisions) and are only rationalized afterwards. Intuition, like creativity, imagination, and phantasy is a function of pattern recognition.

How does a child learn mathematics? First it counts its fingers (that is why we use a decimal system and not a binary or hexadecimal system which both would have advantages — unfortunately we have only ten fingers and not sixteen). After the child has memorized the numbers from one to ten it learns the sums and differences of single digit numbers and later the multiplication tables and some neat tricks how to write down numbers and conduct multiplications and divisions.

If the child knows, that 7 times 7 is 49, it doesn’t mean, that the brain is able to process multiplications, it means, that the child remembers the multiplication tables. And as the education goes on from arithmetics to algebra and from there to calculus and from there to more advanced mathematics like nonlinear dynamics/chaos theory and statistics/probability theory and various branches of applied mathematics and finally ends up with quantum mechanics, it doesn’t mean, that the brain has acquired some new functions.

The working of the brain is still mainly pattern recognition and memory. New connections — forming additional rules and categories — between clusters of patterns have been established and many new patterns have been created, but the principle working of the brain is still not different from the time when we were counting with the help of our fingers. 

E=mc2

Einstein acquired much of his education as an autodidact, but his findings nevertheless were based on the work of others (for instance Newton’s classical mechanics). One of Einstein’s famous quotes is: “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants”.

What I want to say with the preceding paragraphs is, that we are depending on the findings of other people in all our judgements and in every decision that we make. Our wisdom is based on the wisdom of many generations of our ancestors. We didn’t invent the wheel, we didn’t invent the combustion engine. If all car drivers would have to invent and construct their cars by themselves there would be not much traffic.

We are depending on local, regional, even global support systems. We are depending on support systems (i.e. on other people) in every aspect of our complicated modern life and we are also depending on other people to sort and evaluate the news.

If we had instant access to all the media streams in the world, we would not be better informed than we are now because we would not be able to process the terabytes of information by ourselves. We would not be able to sit day and night and sort out the important facts from the garbage, distinguish the important data from the constant background noise of useless or false data.

We need to find news organizations that do this for us. We need professionals, specialists, who do this for us. We need somebody who helps us to make sense of all the information and who helps us to get an idea of what is really going on.

There are quite a few news organizations, many news analysts, talk show hosts, pundits, and renowned experts who offer help. Can we trust them?

We get advice from distinguished and supposedly reasonable persons to avoid the echo chamber effect and to take opinions from all corners of the political spectrum into account. Don’t take that advice! The people who make such recommendations are nothing else than con men of the establishment, who are payed to spread confusion and to obscure facts.

Western societies are characterized by mass media (press, radio, internet portals, TV, Hollywood, YouTube) which are assigned to constantly persuade, instruct, indoctrinate, brainwash, condition the citizens. The mass media organizations are tightly controlled and coordinated and can easily drown out dissident voices and confine them to remote and cordoned off corners of the media landscape called “alternative media” and “the blogosphere.”

In former ages compliance and allegiance of the populace to the ruling classes was achieved by cult traditions, tribal traditions, and religious indoctrination, but modern societies became secularized when superstition, cult traditions, and religious myths were increasingly contradicted and invalidated by science.

The role of religion therefore has partly be assumed by mass media and in modern times the sermons are delivered not only from the pulpit but also via TV screens and computer screens. Religious indoctrination is still an important tool for the ruling elites but citizens with a certain level of education and intellectual capacity need the additional treatment of mass media brainwashing.

I don’t believe in “fair and balanced” news (and certainly I don’t believe Fox News). I also don’t believe in unbiased, even-handed opinion. Every news organization is filtering, every reporter interprets events according to her/his view of the world. Corporate media applies strict criteria to news reporting.

Informations that reveal inequality, corruption, injustice or threaten the stability of the political system are suppressed or twisted or accompanied and countered by contradicting informations. This is the real meaning of “fair and balanced”. If information cannot be suppressed the media outlets try at least to confuse the public with a barrage of lies, knowing that nobody is able to check every single fact in this age of information overflow.

One striking example of this method was presented when the New York Times took the effort to find a Jesuit priest who denounced and scolded the Syrian government in order to counter the various reports about the persecution of Christians and the ethnic cleansing by the FSA (Free Syrian Army).

I was aware since long time, that renowned news organizations like Washington Post, New York Times and New Yorker were only a shadow of themselves and adhering to no other moral standards than the morality of money and wealth. Something similar to a Watergate investigation would be impossible today, investigative journalism is dead (at least in the corporate media domain) and has been replaced by “embedded journalism.”

In the last years Western media outlets have become increasingly “gleichgeschaltet” (brought into line, synchronized) and in addition to that have refined the process of suppressing, distorting, fabricating news and creating a virtual reality that keeps the masses sedated and the money elites pleased. The motto is not anymore: “All the News That’s Fit to Print” as stated in the upper left hand corner of the front page of the New York Times, it rather is: “All the News We Fit to Print.”

The agenda of corporate media is not my agenda. I’m not a billionaire, not even a millionaire, I don’t own any corporate shares. I’m not a banker, I’m not in the business of weapons production, I don’t have to advertise crap, I don’t need to make a quick buck with selling crap. I don’t have to compete in a tight market, I don’t have to cheat and bluff and mislead.

I have revealed my view of the world quite explicit in the blog entries that I published until now, therefore I don’t discuss it here again, but I want to present a list of the news sources that I use. The news outlets in this list are not even-handed, not neutral, not impartial or dispassionate. These news outlets have an agenda, it is roughly the same agenda that I have, the same agenda that drives me to write this blog entries.

The list of news sources has changed dramatically in the last two years, as I found out that many sources that I perceived as trustworthy and following high journalistic standards were in fact co-opted and corrupted by the establishment and were used to hide, obfuscate, and obscure the truth instead of providing reliable information. So called “progressive” or “liberal” media organization were in addition to that in the business of weakening, irritating, splitting emerging grassroots movements.

The tragic end of the Libyan green revolution and the destruction of Libya by NATO warplanes became the ultimate benchmark test for evaluating media sources. The Western media propaganda blitz to promote this war, disgusting as it was, enabled me to sort out the bad apples and discover the hidden gems in the information garbage dump.

What I did not comprehend fully until then — though I had noticed the signs — was the corruption of the liberal and progressive media enterprises. Many of them are not more than news aggregators who are just parroting Reuters and Associated Press. I never believed in the Huffington Post or AlterNet, but I used The Guardian, The Independent, Mother Jones, Salon, The Nation, Democracy Now, Common Dreams, among others as news sources.

I’m finished with that now. I still hold Amy Goodman in high regard, she deserved the Right Livelihood Award in 2008 and her achievements are indisputable but it appears that she has lost her sharp analytical mind and judgement. I’m sad about Common Dreams, Lina Newhouser would have deserved a better legacy. Mother Jones was always boring but Salon, though somehow clownish and geekish was worth a visit because of Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota.

I will not waste my time anymore with these sites. They are just regurgitating the same complains, worries, memes, slogans again and again without presenting any useful visions and without showing alternatives. This is the art of collective hand wringing at its best, celebrated with texts that are often skillful and powerful worded but nevertheless nothing else than totally inconsequential cassandra calls. 

There are countless articles where the authors implicitly acknowledge, that the system is flawed and screwed up beyond reform or repair, yet they never call for the abolishment or the replacement with something radically different. This is a line that obviously must not be crossed. Is it self censorship or fear of a new and radical different life style?

US liberals are gleeful over the fact that president Obama is personally in favor of same-sex marriage (although it doesn’t actually change a thing, except he received one million campaign dollars within an hour) while not protesting either in word or deed Obama’s “kill list”, the drone program, and the wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen.

It appears that many US-American intellectuals, who consider themselves as liberal or progressive — whatever that means — until now have not realized or did not come to terms with the realization, that they are still a part of the problem and not a part of the solution. They will remain a part of the problem as long as they don’t change their elitist, supremacist, exceptionalist attitude and their consumer-oriented lifestyle. But that is another issue for another blog post.

The bloggers and independent journalists who are worth reading are biased just as the media workers of the establishment. They are often enthusiastic, occasionally overly optimistic or pessimistic, and often exaggerating. Even the most experienced and bright people like Sharmine Narwani, Pepe Escobar, Michel Chossudovsky, Veronika Krasheninnikova, James Petras, Tony Cartalucci will view news worthy developments from a personal angle and will occasionally be carried away by their sentiments, thus presenting a picture which is distorted by their special way of thinking.

Yet, as I know (and mostly concur with) the world view of these journalists it is easy to reconstruct from their reports the situation as I personally would see it.

Reconstructing the original picture from corporate and “alternative” media reports is not that easy, because there are too many players and intermediaries involved, but checking established media organizations like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is sometimes useful to give information about the officially sanctioned narrative.

Most news organizations follow the official line so slavishly that one wonders if there are “political commissars” sitting in the news rooms. Of course, the “political commissars” exist, they are called editors and they are scrutinizing carefully every text to cut out information that their underlings may have placed and written between the lines.

In these days of high unemployment and social insecurity not many journalists will take the risk to lose their job and if they want to have any kind of career they know what they have to write. There may be a few individuals like for instance Daniel Simpson or Chris Hedge, who cannot stand the hypocrisy and the Orwellian situation anymore, but most media workers leave their conscience in the wardrobe and obey. The rare examples of dissent (Natasha Lennard) are dealt with swiftly and surely.

Reading or viewing mainstream news or commentary is revealing and sometimes even amusing but bears the danger of being exposed to a certain kind of psychological manipulation which works like this:

In most mass media offerings the lies are so obvious and the comments so dumb that educated and intelligent readers inevitably will feel insulted and become angry, even infuriated. This is intentional, the critical readers, the dissidents are targeted by this technique to show them how powerless they are, how disrespected they are, how futile and hopeless their struggle is.

This psychological technique will either cause a dissenter to give up, resign, surrender, or it will radicalize her/him up to a point, where she/he makes some careless, unwary move that could be interpreted as aggression or a precursor to violence or a preparation of a violent act, giving the authorities the chance to label the dissenter as terrorist or as supporting terrorism.

The Israelis are the unchallenged masters of this technique, they have it exhaustively and successfully applied to the Palestinians from 1948 till today.

What follows from that?

Mainstream media has to be consummated with extreme moderation, it is not only distraction, propaganda, mind control, reeducation, it is also provocation, mockery, contempt, insult.

Following is an excerpt of my browser bookmarks. This list is momentary and changes nearly every day. In a dynamically evolving media landscape it can easily happen that important sources and places are overlooked — I gladly accept any suggestion of other links and I’m open to objections against list entries.

I have also updated the link list on the right side of my blog, the links in the “Politics” category are the news sources who passed the test. Please have a look!

News, comments, analysis, opinions

http://www.counterpunch.org/ USA
http://blackagendareport.com/ USA
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/ USA
http://www.moonofalabama.org/ Germany
http://www.globalresearch.ca/ Canada
http://rabble.ca/ Canada
http://www.voltairenet.org/en France
http://www.4thmedia.org/ China
http://en.cubadebate.cu/ Cuba
http://rt.com/politics/ Russia
http://english.al-akhbar.com/ Lebanon
http://www.presstv.ir/ Iran

Websites about peace, social and economic equality

http://warisacrime.org/
http://truth-out.org/
http://www.wsws.org/
http://www.bdsmovement.net/
http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/
http://www.greenleft.org.au/
http://www.axisoflogic.com/
 
Websites about sustainability, protection of animals and habitats
 
http://news.mongabay.com/
http://www.wrm.org.uy/
http://www.rainforests.net/
http://enenews.com/
http://nuclear-news.net/
http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/
http://www.bornfree.org.uk/
http://thedailymaul.com/
http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/
http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/
http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php
http://www.paulchefurka.ca/
http://www.earth-policy.org/
http://earthjustice.org/
http://www.worldwatch.org/
http://agriculturedefensecoalition.org/
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/
http://www.greenfacts.org/en/
http://www.energybulletin.net/
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/
http://www.cornucopia.org/
http://www.greenlivingonline.com/
http://sustainableppn.asla.org/
http://foodfreedomgroup.com/
http://www.genewatch.org/
http://www.naturalnews.com/
http://www.organicconsumers.org/
http://farmwars.info/
http://www.permaculture.org.uk/
http://www.transitionnetwork.org/
http://www.transitionus.org/
http://www.treehugger.com/
http://www.organicgardening.com/
http://www.weekendgardener.net/
http://www.pioneerthinking.com/
 
Blogs about peace, social and economic equality
 
http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/
http://petras.lahaine.org/
http://bethechange2012.wordpress.com/
http://crimsonsatellite.wordpress.com/
http://lizzie-phelan.blogspot.com/
http://syria360.wordpress.com/
http://resistance-episteme.tumblr.com/
http://raniakhalek.com/
http://vivalibya.wordpress.com/
http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/
http://en.cubadebate.cu/category/reflections-fidel/
http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/
http://www.tomdispatch.com/
 
Blogs about sustainability, protection of animals and habitats
 
http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/
http://drstevebest.wordpress.com/
http://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/
http://sustainablealternatives.wordpress.com/
http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/
http://animalconnectionac.wordpress.com/
http://liberationbc.org/blog/
http://www.banbloodsports.com/
http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php
 
Websites and blogs about women rights
 
http://feminism.alltop.com/
http://womensenews.org/
http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/
http://www.feminist.com/
http://www.womankind.org.uk/
http://www.womensearthalliance.org/
http://feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswire.asp
 
Uncategorized
 
http://mediamatters.org/
http://www.medialens.org/
http://whatreallyhappened.com/
http://morallowground.com/
http://microwavenews.com/

2 comments

  1. May I also suggest Medialens.org to you…?

    Like


  2. I have subscribed to Media Lens and always read their emails carefully. I will include them in the list.

    Like



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