Skip to main content

Skepticism rules! Your best tools for rejecting fake news and narratives

Written By | Sep 6, 2019
skepticism rules

Portait of influential French skeptic Michel de Montaigne, date unknown. Image in the public domain, via Wikipedia entry on Montaigne.

WASHINGTON. We began our voyage in this series by searching for an escape route from the daily deluge of video, print and online propaganda whose real intent seems to be the destruction of the United States as we know it. Our mantra is “Skepticism rules!” The grandfather of all Western skeptics, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), would certainly approve. His skeptical motto, rendered in contemporary French, was “Que sais-je?” Which means, “What do I know?” And, by extension, “What do you know?” Great question. Although the the question I prefer, after some leftist acolyte justifies his latest falsehood, is “Why?” Bottom line: Skepticism is your greatest friend when fighting the propaganda wars.

Our continuing anti-propaganda journey involves rejecting fake news and narratives whenever we see them. Which these days is quite often. This series is based on writer Caitlin Johnstone’s original article on the topic. My introductory article is here. Already practiced skeptics should read Johnstone’s full, original article here. The entire 32 tips are her own, not mine. My edits and comments, however, reflect my thoughts after having read Johnstone’s original.

As noted previously, my edited version appears in this series. My own comments and observations follow each excerpted tip. You can find previous segments in this series here and here.

I’ve subtitled my riffs on Johnstone’s tips as:

32 Tips for Avoiding Propaganda Hell

(This article contains tips 13 through 20 and an edited version of the original text. My own comments follow.)

13 — Be patient and compassionate with yourself when it comes to developing your narrative navigating skills.

Like literally any skill set, you’ll suck at it for a while. If you learn you’ve been wrong about something, just take in the new information, adjust appropriately, and keep plugging away.

Comment: Johnstone’s best advice may be hiding here. I’d rephrase this whole thing. I’d tell you to always be a skeptic and an iconoclast. Fake news is everywhere, even on some sites we generally favor. So remember: skepticism rules. And always assume there’s a healthy measure of bullshit in everything you watch and read. Because there is.

14 — Find reliable news reporters who have a good sense for navigating the narrative matrix, and keep track of them to orient yourself and stay on top of what’s going on.

Use individual reporters, not outlets; no outlet is 100 percent solid, but some reporters are pretty close on some specific subjects. Click this hyperlink for an article on one way to do build a customized and reliable news stream…

Comment: Johnstone goes on to endorse newsies she chooses to follow via Twitter. That’s a lot of what you’ll find if you click the hyperlink she provided. Problem is, this is perfectly good advice for progressives. It sucks for conservatives and libertarians. Because Twitter, Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. carefully shadow-ban, demote, demonetize or outright eliminate non-left material, comments and the like. In so doing, they meticulously curate what the average user sees, which favors prog and Marxist stuff only.

The moment any conservative overtones are snagged by each service’s carefully nested algorthims, they are eliminated. And the originator is immediately banned, suspended, or otherwise sidelined. To get their views out to a general audience, conservatives and libertarians must work a lot harder and should never rely on popular social media for starters. Or even the badly slipping Matt Drudge lately. (He now seems to favor the standard left-wing nests of hackery and lies.) Whenever reading newspapers or web articles or watching what passes for news on cable TV, be sure to keep your skepticism intact.

To re-establish access to sane and generally high quality, believable reportage, begin to build a new list of sites by checking out Instapundit and Whatfinger at least twice a day. Via these two aggregation sites, you can build your own, customized, non-progressive news reference list. Instapundit’s contributors often provide value-added original commentary of their own to each link. Whatfinger is more focused on aggregation, and it out-Drudges the original Drudge in the sheer volume and specificity of every link it provides.

15 — Don’t let paranoia be your primary or only tool for navigating the narrative matrix.

Some people’s only means of understanding the world is to become intensely suspicious of everything and everyone, which is about as useful as a compass, which tells you that every direction is north… Rejecting everything as false leaves you with nothing as true.

Comment: In other words, be an iconoclast and a skeptic. But don’t go over the edge with your skepticism, which is always a clear and present danger. Be a realist, too. Doctrinaire skepticism can beget paranoia, which begets conspiracy theories. Worse, of you’re a member of the Lost Generation and if you consistently suck on the sour teat of, say, MSNBC, objective reality will soon be lost to you forever.

16 — Hold your worldview loosely enough that you can change it at any time in the light of new information, but not so loosely that it can be slapped out of your head by someone telling you what to think in a confident, authoritative tone.

As Carl Sagan once said, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

No comment needed.

17 — Speaking of confident, authoritative tones, be suspicious of confident, authoritative tones.

It’s amazing how much traction people can get with a narrative just by posturing as though they know that what they’re saying is true, whether they’re an MSNBC pundit or a popular conspiracy Youtuber.

Comment: Yeah, what Johnstone said. Unfortunately, most of the real bloviating comes from the left. Being Marxists at least in spirit, “their truth” is whatever the institutional left tells them that it is. Scientific, logical truth is either unknown to them or is instantly rejected as the construct of dead, white European males. Never believe these supremely self-confident leftist clowns. It’s all about the dialectic. The perpetual argument. Not the truth.

They can’t handle any kind of skepticism. They can’t handle the truth.

18 — Be aware that sociopaths exist. 

Comment: I prefer to use an earlier term for this phenomenon that shrinkologists currently forbid: Psychopaths. They do exist. And, hat tip to an old psychology prof, I define them as “loveless, guiltless individuals.” We frequently see them on cable TV and in Hollywood. They often make a lot of money. Calling these people “sociopaths” is a sneaky way of blaming society — you and me — for their psychopathy. I don’t buy in to this kind of subtle wordsmithing. But whatever you decide to call them, they absolutely exist. And they’re highly successful in a Western world that has passively rejected logic as a tool of white male hegemony. We need to change this. Soon.

19 — Be aware of projection, and be aware of the fact that it cuts both ways[.]

Unhealthy people tend to project their wickedness onto others, while healthy people tend to project their goodness. Don’t let your goodness trick you into thinking there aren’t monsters who will deceive and manipulate you…

Comment: A lot of what all of us see today is projection. Most of it, in fact. False narratives in the media begin with an actual story. The narrators then project their own hallucination as the actual conclusion of the story. Problem is, the real-life conclusion is often quite different, sometimes significantly so. As, for instance, in the Jussie Smollett fantasy. That turned out to be a colossal and ultimately costly lie. Media lefties, however, still can’t acknowledge their part in perpetrating that damaging falsehood and by so doing, further poison the already tense racial situation the Democrats have been setting up ever since Barack Obama’s inauguration. A healthy national skepticism would never have permitted the radicalized racial politics of Obama and Smollett to gain any traction at all.

20 — Be suspicious of those who excessively advocate civility, rules and politeness.

Manipulators thrive on rules and civility, because they know how to manipulate them.

Comment: Ponick’s Corollary: Never, ever allow a leftist crusader or a social justice warrior (SJW) to set the premises of an argument. That’s why those on the right often lose. They never grasp this obvious point. By accepting the left’s false premises, those on the right side of the argument automatically forfeit the match. Worse yet, most of them have no idea why. They need to reacquaint themselves with Montaigne’s healthy skepticism.

If you allow your leftist opponent to set the terms of the argument, you lose. Always. Simple as that. Most GOPers are horrible in this ideological arena. Which is why they always seem to be losers. They marshall science, facts, original source material. But they lose. They don’t need to. But they never learn to reflexively reject the underlying left-wing premises that underpin the left’s false news and false narratives.

In closing…

For example, I have yet to see anyone on the right (or anywhere else) successfully contest the left on global warming climate change hoax by rejecting the manipulated “scientific” premises the left routinely uses to clinch the argument. Their premises are false. Their “hockey stick” chart has been proven false by other scientists. And now its defense has failed in a court of law. That’s because the originator of the lawsuit against the “climate deniers” who demonstrated the flaws in his climate change chart refused a court order to make his “evidence” available. “Evidence” that has been long disputed, as in the chart below, via Natural News.

skepticism rules

Battle of the Graphs: Mann vs. Ball. Chart courtesy Natural News.

But by tacitly accepting the premises of the climate change hoaxers for years, climate realists lost this fake argument every time. It remains to be seen if even the “denialists'” recent court victory can put an end to this ruinous pro-socialist narrative.

If we don’t stop accepting the left’s false premises here, the world will ultimately pay for this cleverly disguised  income redistribution scheme. Big time. This has to stop.

—Next: Feed your head.

—Headline image: Portait of influential French skeptic Michel de Montaigne, date unknown.
Image in the public domain, via Wikipedia entry on Montaigne.


Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17