Don't be part of the problem with political media and Internet lies

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The latest Pew Research Center study has shown just how politically divided the country has become.

A highlight of the study is that the percentage of consistently conservative or consistently liberal voters has doubled since 1994. It is not just Washington politicians who are hyper-partisan, but rank-and-file members of both parties have moved further right or left.

A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR to these increasingly rigid positions has been the political media. Newspapers, talk radio, cable TV and the Internet have developed highly partisan outlets specifically to cater to a particular political view. Once you have zeroed in on your favorite TV channel, newspaper, website or radio talk show host, your views are constantly reinforced. No need to listen to other opinions – you are now comfortably living in your own political cocoon.

And it feels so good to have your views constantly validated! Well aware of that, the political media pander to our biases to keep us aboard. As more and more readers, watchers and listeners tune in, they sell more advertising and make more money.

Fox News, MSNBC and political talk shows exist to make a profit, pure and simple. An impassioned commentator angrily ranting about a politician from the opposing camp is playing a role to boost the bottom line for his owner, not to objectively inform the public.

Although some may think this is harmless, it is not. The nation pays for these talking heads’ tirades in more ways than advertising dollars. We currently have a dysfunctional government because Republican and Democratic members are pulled toward extreme positions by frequently misinformed supporters, making governance nearly impossible.

If the amount of misleading, emotional and outright false information in our political discourse were reduced, citizens would better understand the issues. They would recognize it is possible to pass difficult legislation without betraying their political principles.

THE AMERICAN system of government requires an informed electorate. Meeting that goal necessitates we all do our part by helping stem the flow of another misinformation phenomenon, Internet political lies.

Because the Internet provides anonymity, the spread of political hoaxes by unknown perpetrators has mushroomed. Outrageous lies are forwarded into our inboxes, and political partisans, fervently hoping the story is true, robotically forward it to their acquaintances without checking its truth. They become enablers of the hoax by giving it broader exposure.

The first hint that an email may be a lie is when the author is anonymous. People can use Google to easily determine if an anonymous email statement is true or false. Simply copy the subject heading, paste it into Google search, and hit “enter.” A variety of references will appear. Several of these –,, and – are proven, reliable sites dedicated to separating fact from fiction.

If the message turns out to be false, instead of forwarding the email you can return it to the sender with the link revealing the falsehood. Or you could send it to all the recipients on the original email to expose the lie.

BESIDES REDUCING the spread of political misinformation, another valuable reason you should not forward these lies is to preserve your own reputation. If your email is determined to be a hoax, your integrity and judgment come into question. You have been conned by the liar and become an agent of his mendacity.

We need more truth and comprehension in our political process. We all can help by getting information outside one of the media’s hyper-partisan political cocoons. We need to create and apply an information filter based on knowledge that will help us sort out the worthwhile from the garbage.

And only we can stifle Internet political lies.

(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)

Comments (11) Add comment
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owensjef3 06/22/14 - 07:38 am
Well said

Well said

d1zmljqg 06/22/14 - 08:30 am
Very good, Sir

"We need more truth and comprehension in our political process. We all can help by getting information outside one of the media’s hyper-partisan political cocoons. We need to create and apply an information filter based on knowledge that will help us sort out the worthwhile from the garbage."

I believe I have received 3-4 different times the following, purportedly by Lee Iacocca, "Where have all the leaders gone" or in a different wrapper "Lee Iacocca Speaks out on Obama."

You have to be totally ignorant and stupid to fall for these. Actually, these emails (e-rumors) were started before Obama became President and further investigation as Mr. Conant suggests with Google searches on email titles Mr. Iacocca was actually referring to George W. Bush and his administration in his book, "Where Have all the Leaders Gone," which came out in 2007 two years before Obama became President.

seenitB4 06/22/14 - 08:44 am
We are not goofus....we get it already!

Most can see through the hype on both sides...when Fox news gets too bias, I change the channel & look elsewhere...when Rush gets too mean, I do the same.

All news--tv--radio--papers have their own agenda...even the good ole AC...remember the race for Sheriff & Mayor.....esp the race for Mayor..That was a doozie on their part..
If MSNBC gets even more BIAS I will probably upchuck if I hit that station by accident..(I can't stomach them now).

Believe it or not but most of us can see the bullshot.....everyday & in every way.

freeradical 06/22/14 - 08:54 am

Very interesting to me that you never mentioned any one of the three

major news channels ?

I for one will continue to get my news from the BIG three news

sources, ABC , CBS , NBC .

these time tested news giants can be counted on to give the most

detailed coverage of today's most dire & important news stories ,

JZ's latest domestic squabble , George Clooney's newest climate

change warnings , 50 cent's embarrassing first pitch , The triumph of

the latest powerball winner , the puppy teaching the toddler how to

crawl , etc,etc,etc,etc, & etc .

Only from them can I get a threefold assurance that all is right

with the world .

At least until the next election .

hoptoad 06/22/14 - 10:14 am
I occasionally get frustrated

I occasionally get frustrated with Rush, but find that whatever he talks about is thoroughly researched before he reports it. He just goes overboard sometimes but at least I'm 99% confident that he is telling me something more truthful than Alan Combs. As for FOX, they also seem to do much research before reporting and have official facts and figures from government sources, reliable and verifiable sources. Several of their reporters and pundits are liberal or independents, but at least they don't skew the facts and FOX routinely has plenty of participants of all parties. The mainstream media report many things for which they have no back-up and cannot be verified. Ed Connant should not be so harsh about the tallk show hosts as it is about time sensible and sane Americans got angry and started protesting the socialist/communist way our country is headed.

carcraft 06/22/14 - 11:02 am
Well I just looked up an

Well I just looked up an article on Forbes about errors in during the last presidential campaign. So no even the "fact checkers" slant "facts". Now if you exclusively follow. ABC, NBC, and CBS you got little coverage of climate gate, the fact that the head of the UN IPCC admits satellite temperature measuring indicate no change in earth's average temperature in over 17 years, the IRS scandal, and little coverage of the problem on our southern boarder. Not to mention "made up " stories such as the Bush national guard documents, exploding gas tanks and the smear job on Food Lion. Yes Fox can be slanted but at least you have an awareness of events and issues.

Riverman1 06/22/14 - 11:32 am
MSNBC Does NOT Exist To Make A Profit

“Fox News, MSNBC and political talk shows exist to make a profit, pure and simple.”

It is absolutely UNTRUE that MSNBC exists to make a profit. They have a tiny fraction of the viewers of Fox, but continue to spout the pro Democrat-Obama line. They are not making money with Al Sharpton and Co. Their parent company execs are entwined with the administration and their goal is to be the American version of the old Soviet Union news agency that slanted everything in a pro Soviet leaders’ way.

AutumnLeaves 06/22/14 - 01:26 pm
How about more LOCAL news?

How about more LOCAL news? There is a war of morality and poverty going on right here. If more people would strike a better balance in taking care of their own marriages, families, homes, property and communities, it would be a lot better for the whole world in general.

deestafford 06/22/14 - 02:26 pm
The thing is the people are no longer captive..

The thing is the people are no longer captive to the establishment news sources such as NBC, CBS, and ABC. Broadcasters who have spent no time talking or reporting about Lois Lerner's hard drive "crashing" or the big problems on the southern border.

The big three plus CNN are in the sleeping bag with the Obama administration. Anyone who cannot see and admit that needs a good dose of Castrol Oil to clear what clogs them.

People are more polarized since 1994 because that was about the time the quasi-socialist Bill Clinton and his socialist wife were ramping up big government. Concurrently, we had the far left lurching of the Democratic party that is now in full swing of being Marxist/communist, anti-American in there endeavors. Anyone who is pro-Obama at this time has no concept of personal liberty and the meaning and intent of our Founding.

Darby 06/22/14 - 08:22 pm
Well, at least the Chronicle

was honest in calling this one an "opinion" column.

What it was not, was informative.

itsanotherday1 06/22/14 - 09:35 pm
The writer makes a lot of

The writer makes a lot of valid points. I receive my share of forwarded emails purporting to be factual, but prove not to be when I vet them. (I almost never forward material without verification, and YOU shouldn't either) I also agree that the sides are taking harder stances; being more inflexible and resistant to negotiation.

News outlets are definitely biased, but I find Fox to be more balanced with regard to their opinion segments, usually carrying lib/conservative guests for point/counterpoint. Even though the hosts are all right of center, they are not even close to being as acerbic and hateful as most of those on the left. I find the morning shows of the big three to be pretty tame politically, more entertainment than news or politics.

jimmymac 06/23/14 - 04:39 pm

Pravda would be proud of the way MSNBC carries the party line. There's absolutely no pretense of being unbiased. Their open contempt for all who won't blindly follow their absurdly biased coverage is simply breathtaking. CNN at one time was decent source of news but they've started carrying Obama's water ever since he's been in office and all through both elections. I sometimes turn off FOX when I think things are too biased but that's not very often. Fox's biggest problem is they beat a story to death and that's boring. Can't the so-called forth estate just give the people the facts and let them sort it out?

lovingthesouth72 07/02/14 - 10:28 pm
Just watch FOX. They have the

Just watch FOX. They have the highest ratings!!

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