Accidents are Increasing on the Information Superhighway

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Preppers are planners and the basis for our planning is information. We collect it through the methods we have learned through the normal processes of education, life experience, observation, analysis, and my favorite, trial and error. And as soon as man discovered how to record information, in crude cave drawings, etched into stone, or clay there, I believe mis-information was invented as well. There is an old joke about two cavemen talking, the first says “Ugh!” and the second says “Ugh! and then the first responds “Ugh, Ugh!” and the second replies “Don’t change the subject!” I know somewhere during the stone age Gork was rejected by Petunia and he etched some insults in a cave wall about her. Funny thing is someone college professor probably used those etchings to do his or her PHD thesis.

Fast forward a few eons and now information, and its counterpart misinformation, travel at speeds approaching the speed of light. For example in the financial world if you are reading about some investment opportunity in the Wall Street Journal you have already missed the boat because it reports what already happened. Others closer to the origins of the data have already seized the opportunity, set the base price and you will be paying their dividends should you bite.

The information super highway has so changed the world that while we attempt to catch up and think we are keeping up we are like the racing greyhounds forever hoping to catch that mechanical rabbit.

And, as preppers, seeking information upon which to base real economic decisions on (do I build out that greenhouse to increase my sustainable food production? More ammo or more MRE’s?) is challenging as we now live in a world where we are bombarded with information and misinformation – “thousands WILL DIE as a result of (fill-in-the-blank)!!!!!” has lead to a new equation of skewed TRUTH:

Where E = Establishment source, a = Agenda, F = Fake, and T = Truth, and the only solution is null; one must be prepared for increasing accidents across the information superhighway as a result of skewed information. I have used this example before: a horse race between an American horse and a Russian horse. The American horse wins. Headline in America: “American Horse Wins!” Headline in Russia: “Russian Horse Finishes Second, American Horse Finishes Next to Last!” – both true statement.

So, in  a recent post on finding information when the grid is down I thought it appropriate to followup with a post  on the challenges of finding information before the grid goes down, something that has become a labyrinth. And since the Internet is becoming more the source for information I want to focus on that medium. For instance I question the following map presented by Oxford University claiming to show internet usage worldwide:

Really, the world’s second most populated country and the home of call centers and outsourcing IT services, India, is less “connected” than some Central African Republics??!! Really? (And I would feel slighted if I were Canadian though it does depict where most Canadians live.)

Okay, so where does the internet stack up against print media and television in the delivery of news.

The internet surpassed print media several years ago and it is now challenging television, and that passes my smell test. Everywhere we go we see people heads-down focused on their electronic devices. Even if only 15% of that time is watching the news it makes sense AND so many people get their news feeds through social media outlets, Facebook in particular.

This has become so prevalent that there are college degrees now in optimizing web content (SEO.) I have taken a couple of on-line courses through the University of California in the past year to learn how to increase market penetration, to place keywords and phrases strategically to get better results from searches, to mimic the searching patterns that most people use. I use it everyday, all day in adding pictures as well as key phrases that are relevant to the posts you see on TPJ.

Really, What Are They Selling?

“Every time I Google a current news story it give me the related articles from CNN, The New York Times, Vox, NBC, Express.co.uk, Salon, and the BBC”…..TPJ – all impeachable sources. All sources that even Wikipedia lists as “leftist, or left-leaning, or skewed to liberal politics.”  Why? Because Google is also left-leaning. Few secrets in this world are as guarded as the specifics of Googles search algorithms. 

The news media is a business, and like every business it sells a product or service in exchange for monies (advertising). The product is content and their business used to be information as content. But dry factual information does not sell itself or well in our faster and faster paced society. Information needs to be “embellished”, that is spun, dressed up, and packaged for the target audience. This has lead to specialization which, in some things is very good (medicine, for example) but alas in the media it brings with it agenda, spin and secondary goals.

There is an upside to this – we don’t have to sit and watch all the fluff news stories to get financial information we might be interested in, we can go to those sources directly and thus attempt to keep up with the ever increasing flow of information. We can also go directly to sources for weather information as opposed to again, sitting through the story on the truck load of live chickens that were loosed on the interstate as the result of an accident. Specialization I believe is the result of so much information being available. If one were to attempt to get a degree from a university in Physics these days, 4 years is not enough cover all the specialties. The same with medicine, the law (legislators just have no discipline) and many other technical degree programs.

But really, What Exactly Are They Selling?

The news media is selling Google Analytics, period. Bold statement, let me make my case.

Google Analytics are used to sell advertising. The higher their rating the more they can charge for ads. Google provides the web best audience analytics on the planet and is the go-to source for all media outlets when it comes to the details on their audience. And the more the “news” is skewed to their demographic, the higher their score, the more they can demand for advertising, the more they can narrow in on a demographic (female voters between the ages of…., professionals….., etc.) This circle is indeed vicious as it is self-perpetuating, it feeds upon itself and spirals inward faster and faster – in that sense it is an amazing thing to watch. By this I mean that the analytics received are the result of the SEO and the manipulation of the data presented to generate better scores in the analytics. There are rules in place to stop the obvious ways to skew the results (excessive use of key phrases, use of unrelated keywords to increase traffic, etc.) but where there is a way, there is always a way around.

TV vs The Internet

I know I don’t have to convince anyone that when Frank Loyd Right said “Television is just chewing gum for the eyes” (or did he?) some 60 years ago he was speaking to what has become a universal truth. Bruce Springsteen released a song titled “57 Channels and Nothing On” in 1992 and now cable TV services have 300+ channel of nothing on. I counted my Direct TV channels once and it was 336 at the time, with 157 being 24/7 infomercials. Dish and all the cable companies have the same business model. They sell content masked (poorly) as infomercial channels that are pure advertising.

The internet has clearly disproved the age-old theory that if you put enough monkeys at enough typewriters (keyboards) for long enough they will eventually produce – the works of Shakespeare, the Bible, or some other established literary accomplishment. Mythbusters would declare this “Busted!”

While the world of information it has opened is impressive and pervasive the information superhighway is now blurred it its reporting of news, in a fog generated by Google, FaceBook and the other social media platforms. I have seen videos on YouTube related to chemicals and weapons that are downright dangerous in the misinformation they provide, more a case of lack of knowledge as opposed to some sinister agenda in my opinion. I do not cut the news media the same slack, which is my whole point.

On social media every political statement by a celebrity, one currently working, or one from a sit-com cancelled in the 1970’s “gets the pulpit” as long as they have said something negative and political. Fox News and Breitbart promote these just as much as all the sources I mentioned above. Why? Because they draw endless comments and the more comments they get the better the Google Analytics they receive, the more that can make the case for larger audience penetration and ask for increased fees for advertising. But that is only the first layer for social media. The next layer is the fake-comments. In almost every post on any subject, be it politics, or a cat video, or a swift water rescue, there will be a comment about politics. They will state an outrages position. These are usually done by the news producer who posted the article in the first place in order to generate comments which generate higher Google Analytics which…you see the agenda. They are usually in the first three comments posted and if you look at the poster of the comments most are fake, made up, just a few pictures, no real data on the individual. Tools of the new advertising trade. THIS is how the internet news business is now run on the information superhighway. It was not taught in the courses I took but anyone looking for “a way” to increase traffic will think of it when they see the Google Analytics Case Studies.

As preppers making financial and lifestyle decisions on an almost daily basis by processing the information at hand and our understanding of it I think most of us knew already that the “news business” is first and foremost a for-profit business, and that the news presented is merely content to produce their product, increased Google Analytics . All the old cliche’s apply: follow the money, Caveat-emptor, believe 50% of what you hear and 90% of what you see.

We prepare as a result of the information we get and the information we get is highly suspect from the news media. Proceed accordingly.

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