LARRY LAMAR YATES
How do we know what to believe today? How to distinguish facts from crazy conspiracy theories?
Well, what is a “conspiracy theory?” I personally believe large-scale harmful conspiracies exist. But the stories out there can’t all be true.
Here’s how I sort out the bogus from the true.
Conspiracies don’t just happen because some mysterious “they” wants them to. Real large scale conspiracies involve large scale money and power. If your suspected conspiracy is the work of poor, or even middle-class, people, you are on the wrong track. They don’t have the resources, the contacts, or the time.
Tiny mysterious sects exist, but they don’t accomplish much. Real conspiracies aren’t really secret; the conspirators just can’t be held accountable. We all know that military contractors make billions in unjustifiable profits. Yet there’s never enough proof (or political will) for Congress to stop this.
Research is critical, but don’t just read one favorite source.
Many of my liberal friends rely on the New York Times to spot “conspiracy theories.” But the New York Times accepted the lies of our national security elite, and uncritically supported President George W. Bush’s Iraq war — a war that is still causing harm to both nations.
Does this mean that the liberal media’s opposite number is right, and we should trust Fox News? In the 19th century, all US newspapers were like Fox News is today — loyal to their party, not to the truth. That’s why its Big Stories are constantly replaced by new contradictory Big Stories — whatever serves today’s political storyline.
In our globally connected world, there are many sources. There are left wing and right wing sources, Black-owned media, business-oriented media — media for every human viewpoint. None are 100% reliable. How to choose? It depends on what you want to know.
First, for anything controversial, never trust just one source. For any news story I wonder about, I always seek out more than one version if I can.
Then I think about what each source’s interests are. For stories I question, I often check a local newspaper source. The Winchester Star isn’t better journalistically than the Washington Post (though I do respect the Star reporters I know). But local papers have a reason to spell the local folks’ names right, and to get most facts right. Meanwhile, some distant tabloid can “improve” the story by telling us Joe Smith here in Winchester has two heads.
On the other hand, if Grandiose Corporation is putting toxic material from their plant on the roads in Local Yokel Town, the Local Yokel News-Tribune may be soft on Grandiose because of local interests.
We most reliably find the truth by being open to a diversity of people, especially people who are often disrespected. Real world conspiracies benefit the greedy and powerful, not some ethnic group or belief group. And your neighbors, especially the poorest and most despised, are the real victims, and the real experts. Together we can understand our world and rebuild it.
Larry Lamar Yates is a resident of Winchester.