Friday, October 12, 2018

Question for the Community: Should a blog print a comment known to be untrue?


In the news recently, former New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal said, "Our standard at the Times was that we do not print things that we knew not to be true, whether it was a letter, an editorial, a column or an op-ed. If a letter writer said something that was false, we would require them to correct or we wouldn't run it."

One wonders if this should apply to the blogs or other sites worth frequenting as well.

It is easy to think of blogs that deliberately print lies.  And a truism of our social media age is, "the bigger the lie, the more acolytes feel the need to hijack conversations to repeat it." Some of these lies are more corrosive to society  For example, calling The New York Times "biased" or "imperfect" is fair game, but calling it "fake news" is deliberately dishonest and part of a larger agenda.

The question in its theoretically purest form is, would you return to a blog or news site that posts comments that are known without question by the host to be untrue?


56 comments:

  1. No, I would not return to that blog, nor would I read a newspaper, website, etc. that prints items known to be untrue. But then again, I have half a brain and can think for myself, so I do know how to take things with a grain of salt, so to speak. But I would like to believe that the host is of similar mind. But, pertaining to blogs, how would the host know if a comment is true or untrue unless researched. I would like to believe the content of the blog printed by host is true to the best of their knowledge, but comments are another story. I particularly like this blog for it's authenticity, civility, and I live in New England, so I'm partial to it's content.

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  2. Respectfully, the question posed left the station a long time ago. "Post comments that are known without question by the host to be untrue"? Really?
    All blogs, and all comments, in 2018, exist in a post-truth world. The Chinese have a name for it: hòu zhēnxiāng. The Germans use postfaktish. The post-truth world resulted from two conditions unknown to mankind until this century. The first is that thanks to built-in cheap microprocessors, algorithmic devices and other information systems which can integrate texts, sounds and images in compact, easily storable, reproducible and portable digital form, written, seen and spoken "truth" no longer exists. The second is that, despite the fall of the Soviet Empire (did it fall?) "truth" exists only as a political feeling, not an objective fact. We have endured about 100 years of corporate advertising and market-driven entertainment, as well as the alchemy of political advertisement and televised campaign "debates". "Truth" is the subjective message of this media to us. There is no such thing as objective truth in 2018. Thus, dear moderator, while you may abstain from publishing what you think is untrue, you are undoubtedly publishing truths which are not truths to hundreds of millions of other humans. Finally, it is widely known that there is no word in Hindu for truth as there is no word in Chinese for crisis. Makes you think, don't it?

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    1. The Chinese written character for crisis has components that loosely translate as “danger” and “opportunity”.

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  3. At one time, I believed the Washington Post without question. When Walter Cronkite said that's the way it was at the end of his broadcast, I believed it. Both the Post and the Times have had stories that were untrue or tainted. The most recent Times had a headline that accused Nicky Haley of buying expensive drapes for her New York apartment at the taxpayer's expense while in the article itself said that they were bought during the Obama administration. Of course the Times apologized as they and the Post have apologized about other stories that were brazenly false. Thus, I no longer take TV news, newspapers, or any internet source without question. I do trust this blog much more than other sources, but...

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    1. My father, who worked for Walter Cronkite, said never to believe what you see on TV. We, of course, responded, "except on the news" and he said "even then."

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    2. He is a wise man.

      MaryAnne

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    3. and then, there was Danny who replace Walter...

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  4. In the past when I watched the news or read the news it did not seem so obvious that that source had an agenda. Now it is very obvious that almost every news source has an agenda. It is up to us to be educated enough to differentiate fact from agenda. However when news sites lie then I would personally not read them ever again. I love this site. I love the pictures and the articles. Its a great respite from the political world. Thanks.

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  5. The problem is that mainstream media outfits, like the New York Times and Washington Post "chose" what is true and what is false, instead of just reporting the facts and letting the reader decide. They have abandoned all pretense of objective journalism, and instead engage in overt political activism. As a result, the routinely miss relevant and material facts which are inconvenient to the political narrative they want to advance. I don't want, nor need either the New York Times or the Washington Post to tell me what the "truth" is; I can decide that for myself.

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    1. Actually, neither the NYT or WAPO do that. On the other hand, you've just answered the question posed by this post—your comment is untrue, and it was posted anyway. Which, I suppose, moves the dialogue forward, even with contrafactual comments like yours.

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    2. Perhaps a more subtle distinction: The other day the second headline of the Wall St. Journal was "Unemployment Hits Lowest Rate in 49 Years." The Philadelphia Inquirer also had that as its second header, right next to the Kavanaugh story. I searched the NYT and it was not on the front page (I thought maybe the news had gotten in too late to mention it) so I checked the "good news of the day" or whatever it's called (negative), but then found it nestled in the bottom right hand corner of the front page of the Business section.

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    3. The Washington Post formerly kept editorials (mostly) confined to their Editorial / Opinion page(s). Sadly, this is not their current practice. Readers must read articles quite carefully to sort items of factual reporting from various opinions. This might not be an issue, if readers do read their newspaper(s) carefully.

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  6. Of course all media (including blogs) should NOT print lies. If you tolerate lies, you become part of the problem and your reputation for truth and facts is ruined. If you are willing to print corrections or retractions, that's fair. No one is perfect. But to willingly print or repeat lies makes you part of the problem. And lying is NOT covered under the First Amendment.

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  7. Discouraging question.
    I typed a lot more, but it didn't add anything.
    Discouraging times.

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  8. The question today, regrettably, is not whether something is "true," the question is whether it furthers "the Narrative." Whichever Narrative the publisher is partial to. Always follow the money.

    I find that most "news" today is impossible to trust due to the singular, and often intentional, lack of context.

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    1. How true. This is playing out before our very eyes, as usual. Hurricane Michael hit Florida Wednesday October 10. On October 12 NYTimes (trying to “Katrina-ize” the situation?) reports “long lines formed for gas and food DAYS ( my caps) after” the storm.

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  9. Even though a blog is usually a personal journey they should strive for the truth otherwise we find ourselves not trusting each other what's true is very important it make our lives less uneasy

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  10. That is a really good question, but I think this site is the wrong forum. I come here daily to look at preppy clothes or to see cool old pictures, or to learn about new products. I look at Politico for politics, or even Facebook. I really would rather not see this type of post here.

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    1. I agree with you and come here for the same reasons. There is a fashion blogger who NEVER posts anything political, and I really do appreciate her for that.

      Jacqueline

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    2. Bless your little hearts!
      You don't understand whose blog this is nor what it is about, nor free will either I guess.

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    3. Wow...never been to a family reunion, huh?

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  11. I do on occasion go to such sites, to try and get a sense of who believes what, and what conclusions are being drawn from it. Sort of like reading Pravda in the '70s

    NCJack

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  12. If it's a news blog, then no, it should not print a comment known to be untrue. But if it's a lifestyle blog that exists primarily for entertainment and commentary, then I would suggest that the standards should be somewhat lower. The blog's publisher is, of course, free to note any factual inaccuracies in the comments posted by readers. Freedom of speech includes the right to say things that are wrong.

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  13. Your reality depends on your individual acceptability and makes your life; family taught ethics/morals, the back ground of how you got to be you, “everyone lies” in some shape/form, the media machine, every day changes of life, your job, how you can cull or use BS, the Big picture (does it really matter?), what do YOU personally get from it, where you actually involved to know what is reported… the list goes on….to choose the decision of yours to come/go. Your free will.

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  14. I write a blog and when I receive a comment untrue I either call them down or delete it.

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  15. Just no,regardless of a post-truth culture or whatever. As has been said, you are entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts....

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    1. Fascinating, Mike. Two men are seated at a table facing one another. A third person places a piece of paper in the middle of the table. Drawn on the piece of paper is a number. To one man, it looks a lot like a '6'. In fact, he would swear on his mother's grave that the number was a '6'. The other man, however, would fight to the death in support of his fact that the number in front of him is a '9'. He tells all his friends that he sees a '9' and that the jerk across the table is telling his friends that it is a six.

      See, Mike, both have facts and both have opinions. Your facts are not mine, and mine are not yours. In fact, excuse the pun, any fact you assert is contradicted by my fact. Facts exist solely because of subjective evaluation. It's been that way for about 20,000 years. Ain't changing tonight.

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    2. Ferd, October 12, 2018 at 6:23 PM...thank you- this reminds me of when I got caught arguing with myself...outloud.

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    3. Ferd, I’ve read about the example of the number: is it a 6 or a 9? Have you read the follow up, which says that the number was written by someone intentionally, as a six or a nine? The idea being that we should ask questions, follow up and try to learn about the author’s intention rather than turning around or looking at facts only in a way that suits our own view of the world. It’s something to consider, anyway.

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    4. No, Ferd, "subjective evaluations" have only a tenuous grip on facts, and are a mixture of opinions, self-delusions, wishful thinking, hopes, and often, lies and half-truths. Subjectivity, by its very nature, doesn't create facts -- despite your clever example of the two "6 or 9 men" with the dual facts. I think it a mistake to extrapolate their situation into a broader epistemology.

      And yes, for 20,000 years mankind has made a fool out of itself by blindly believing that which they (usually wrongfully) interpreted as facts actually had some connection to truth (I am using the terms "facts' and "truths" interchangeably here in this context.) I would also postulate here that in almost all scenarios there is only one true fact, and that everything else is mere opinion or conjecture. Your fact and my fact may or may not have any connection with the truth -- as much as we would like it to be so.

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    5. Dear Dr.

      My dear epitemolgist, my postulation is that our very existence is subjective. Why is it that many folks who read this blog wear 'Preppy' clothing? Is it because there is some self-evident force compelling them to wear cotton and wool not rayon and polyester? As you recall, Tom Jefferson told us in the Declaration of Independence that certain "self-evident" truths existed. One of these was that slavery was perfectly acceptable and in fact good for the well-being of society. No, they wear Barbour and Quoddy because they feel that these garments are superior, or rather make them appear superior, or God knows what.

      All facts are the products of our self-delusions as you say. Those who know this have power. A very successful politician named Stalin understood this when he wrote: "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?" You see ideas are facts. Your idea that you have "facts" that don't contradict mine is, regretably, the height of self-delusion, which in turn proves my point.

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    6. Dear Ferd,

      "Ideas are facts." Really?

      What about someone who has an idea that the moon is really made of cheap cardboard? I guess then it's a fact, right?

      And who was this Tom Jefferson, and when did he start wearing Barbour and Quoddy to feel superior to his slaves?

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    7. Even in particle physics, a particle's position in space is influenced by the point of view of the observer, whenever an observer exists.
      In this "post-modern" world of confusion, I ground myself in Nature; or what some would call Natural Law, because no amount of argument, ranting, whining, tweeting, or turning over cars and lighting dumpster fires will change the Earth's common parameters: Gravity, day/night, aging, male/female, finite lifespans, the need for food, water, sleep, and air.
      Or the fact that we are at the mercy of all of the above, plus the weather! Not much different from all the other animal species who've ever "occupied" this space.

      Perhaps we should pay more attention to those things, the ones that are literally the framework of our lives. Most of the rest, frankly, is noise committed by those with nothing real to do. I'm convinced about 90% of the supposed "intersectional strife" in this country exists only online! Walk away from the computer, and everyone's mostly pleasant.

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  16. To be blunt, I take nothing I read on line as factual until it passes a couple of filters. In no particular order, these are:

    • How important is the claim?
    • Does it matter if it's false?
    • Where's the comment coming from?
    • What's the hidden premise, and how likely is it to be true?

    A lot of online commentary — except for mine, of course! — is off the cuff, and not often researched deeply. Also, lies are lies, but even they can be useful in indicating a writer's intent, even if malign.

    That's my response as a reader/commenter.

    If I ran a blog, I'd probably state that a claim is false and cite why, but let it stand, as it labels the lying commenter as a liar.

    But it's your blog, your rules!

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  17. It used to be said, don't believe anything you read and only half of what you see. But I suppose we have higher expectations these days.

    Or as Groucho Marx said, "Who you gonna believe? Me or you own eyes?"

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    1. Nowadays, Groucho’s quip could easily be the motto of The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and all the rest of the agenda-driven, we’ll–tell-you-what-to-think, facts-be-damned mob.

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    2. Funny you left Fox out.

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    3. Add Fox and BBC News.

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  18. I tend to not believe anything in print or TV convinced that everyone has a "dog in the hunt"
    Hard to take any of it seriously.

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  19. I agree with Anonymous of 6:31 above. I am pretty sure that no single, inflexible rule could be made to work. The great virtue of blogs on the open internet is that we can all choose to visit places that are moderated in ways we find agreeable.

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    1. Agreed. I take most things with a grain of salt. (But I have to say that I've thought about this post more than any other I've seen on this site. My mind was all over the place.)

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  20. Short answer: sure. I return to sites all the time that post comments I consider absolute crackpot nonsense. Then again, continental drift was once a crackpot theory everyone laughed at. Now we accept plate tectonics and the once unified continent of Pangaea as scientific fact. In the end, it is up to each of us to use the grey matter God gave us to read and evaluate for ourselves and to dismiss the chaff. We should not expect, nor for that matter should we permit, anyone else to do that for us.

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  21. No ! That's what annoys the heck out of me about re-posted garbage by people on Facebook and Twitter . Hardly anyone checks facts before proceeding . Social media is like gossip-in-print .

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  22. What would Leon Leonwood say?

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    1. What would Hunter S. Thompson say?

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  23. In reading blogs and forums, even including this one, it is inevitable that you will occasionally see something that you do not agree with. Differences in facts might also be seen as differences in opinion, on subjects as diverse as global warming and whether or not brown shoes should be worn with a blue suit. In other words, authorities can and do differ on various subjects, assuming here that authority is to be given to anyone in particular. So, when you read such things, you can be conflicted. In a face to face conversation, with people you have to (or should) get along with, it's one thing and you will be mindful of your manners and exercise some discretion in your response. But in an anonymous on-line discussion, it's something else. I suppose it's best to still remember your manners and keep your temper when you think that someone's idea, say, of not getting their children vaccinated is nonsense. After all, it is easy enough to be politically incorrect no matter what the temper of the forum or blog happens to be. In my case, I have ceased visiting certain forums because I disagreed with too many of the comments. Other times, I have merely scaled back my comments to avoid the controversy and sometimes just because the content is above my head.

    There is also the minor matter of how it is that we as readers happen to know the facts so well in the first place. It's rare that "everyone knows."

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  24. At this time I am going away to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming over again to read further news.

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  25. Now I must draw the line. It is an absolute truth, without the possibility of debate, that no gentlemen ever wore brown shoes with a blue suit, at least not in a sober state.

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    1. In that case, the controversy devolves into a question as to whether the man is of gentle birth or not, more so than the issue of suit and shoe color. That is to say, it becomes a matter of the facts surrounding someone's origin, ignoring the possibility that the rules may vary from place to place. It is difficult to establish hard and fast rules in such matters.

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  26. News and Opinions are News and Opinions, they are neither good or bad, we choose the label between our ears. 100 years from now, who will even care???? I don't now.

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  27. I read the NYT and the WSJ this morning. They were very different in the news they chose to cover and how they covered it. But I think each was truthful. I read both to gain a perspective and help me evaluate what I think is real y going on.
    Blogs are a different matter. I read a blog because I generally enjoy something that provider is sharing. If I found that the blog seemed to consistently be untrue I would not read it.
    I find this blog to be exceptional. The content and pictures (old and new) are consistently great. The comments are varied and interesting.
    Muffy - THANK YOU for your talent and effort.

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  28. It depends. If a blog allows unmoderated comments, and if it is understood that the comments are unmoderated, then the blog owner has no responsibility to vet them. After all, I think we’ve all come to understand that, for the most part, online sites’ comment sections are where civility goes to die. On the other hand, if a site owner moderates comments, I think he/she/they have an obligation to vet them before publication.

    Posts are, of course, a different matter. They must be true/fact-checked before publication.

    Having said all that, I agree with an earlier commenter: could we please go back to talking about gauntlet buttons and locker loops? I come here as a sanctuary from the unpleasantness out there.

    -Mike

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  29. Just read this this morning; thought it pertained to here in several ways...

    "Media Outlets Say Voting for What We Want is Selfish"

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  30. "would you return to a blog or news site that posts comments that are known without question by the host to be untrue?"

    and

    "For example, calling The New York Times "biased" or "imperfect" is fair game, but calling it "fake news" is deliberately dishonest and part of a larger agenda."

    to answer the question: nope I wouldn't be back. I stopped reading the New York Times many years ago when I realized that they don't follow that standard as the former editor is claiming. Some of it is false (and knowingly so) while other stuff they print is what I would call "fake news" (that term, BTW, predates President Trump. He just made it more of a household term). For example, what was "newsworthy" for the Times to print the home address of Police Officer Darren Wilson?

    Of was making that private information public part of a larger agenda, one that is more "corrosive to society"?

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    1. i do not think Darren Wilson's street name was newsworthy, but it was not private information. also, the fact that his neighborhood had a swarm of unmarked police cruisers to protect his safety was newsworthy. PS, the reporters who included his address had their addresses published on the internet. welcome to the internet.

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  31. first, I have worn blue suits with shoes some people might call 'brown,' but the shoes are actually color 8. shell cordovan is wonderful. second, blogs aren't governed by journalistic standards, so the moderator can include or exclude comments for any reason, or no reason. third, i don't shun all news sources simply because they might not always be honest. if i habitually avoid fox news, it will be harder for me to understand how a significant minority of our population thinks. I may not agree, but i am inquisitive.

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