Alchemical Thoughts

Can you trust those political blogs?

Posted on: July 2, 2007

I read a few political blogs. In the interest of disclosure, I will say that most of the blogs in the political category in my aggregator fall in the liberal side, though I also have at least one libertarian blog and a couple of conservatives. Having said that, the reason I am thinking about this is that I came across this post by Marc Meola, writing for the ACRLog, asking "Can (Political) Blogs Be Trusted?" Mr. Meola is describing an ALA program on the topic. In the process, there are some interesting questions to consider in terms of our students. I am always thinking of ways to teach how to better evaluate sources of information and overall how to think more critically. When it comes to political blogs, one has to be especially careful. Here are some questions Mr. Meola rises for us librarians, which I think are things we should be teaching our students to ask too:

  • "As librarians and educators, we often recommend that students distinguish fact from opinion, usually without much more guidance than just stating it. This guidance is usually given in the context of the student needing information to write an argumentative paper, perhaps for a first year writing course. When we advise students this way, are we saying that all opinion writing should be distrusted? Or treated with less trust and more skepticism than so-called factual writing? Does this advice help for teaching students how to cultivate a useful attitude for dealing with opinion writing for the rest of their adult lives?"
  • "There’s also the problem that readers of political blogs an opinion may be reading them for other reasons, to have their own opinions confirmed for example, and are therefore less likely to be open to information at odds with their own point of view. Or they may also just be nakedly politically motivated and perhaps they agree with attacking someone who disagrees with the group, regardless of the facts."

Mr. Meola then urges libraries to follow the Library Bill of Rights, especially the idea of offering materials and information representing all views.In the end, Mr. Meola says it well:

"As educated members of an information abundant society, we need to learn not only how to disentangle fact from opinion, but also how to put a check on our own ability to customize the information we receive by actively seeking out opinions that differ from our own, so that we aren’t increasingly caught in our own echo chambers."

Maybe that is why I try to read items that I may not agree with or differ from my political views. I strive to avoid the echo chambers. It's not an easy thing to do. It is so much easier to simply have one's views confirmed. But one cannot be truly informed or educated if one does not look at diverse views, weigh and evaluate them, and then make an informed decision.

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