A Tutorial On Evaluating Information
I found this on a FB group, and thought it was a very good basic tutorial on how to evaluate the quality of information you find now.
"On Intelligence Gathering for the Prepper"
Copyright 2021 Prepping For Beginners (FB Group HERE, its a pretty good one even if you are experienced.)
Copyright 2021 Scott Skowronski
"I'd like to talk about a nearly-hidden, mostly un-talked about cornerstone of prepping once again: The ability to gather and sift information on your own for intelligence of value to you.
As a prepper, you generally should have an inherent mistrust of the information you are offered. A decent rule of thumb (but not always the case) is the more accessible the information is, the more you should be suspicious of it. This is because it takes a significant amount of labor to gather and sift information -- more than most people are inclined to put in. So we rely on "the professionals" to provide our information for us.
The upside of this is, like most other situations where we have "the professionals" doing the job, is that they're better at it. The downside is, like most other situations where we have "the professionals" doing the job, is that we have to trust that they are doing that job to the highest quality available - to our standards. For a prepper, who is at heart a do-it-yourselfer, even when you DO have "a professional" do it, you have a better chance of being able to tell when a job is sloppily or unprofessionally done because of your experience and skill set.
But what is overlooked is most people's inability to see that same lack of standard in information. Because outside of investigations courses or journalism class, gathering information and sifting it, ultimately for presentation (professionally), is something usually relegated to term papers and theses, which are generally a distillation of someone else's concepts and a "fresh new take" on information already available.
Gathering intelligence in real time is different, mostly because you don't have reference materials to back up your data. You can't go to the Encyclopedia Britannica and find out what happened last week. There's a time lapse. And intelligence is all about acquiring TIMELY information, so that you can make decisions WHICH AFFECT YOUR LIFE on that information. Which is why I and most other preppers are deeply insulted when some idiot wannabe coughs up a conspiracy theory, trying to pretend to "fit in". They're fucking trolling and that kind of tinfoil hattery REALLY annoys me. If you can't back your shit up with facts, don't give me bullshit.
But therein lies the rub - how do you GET the facts when they're so fresh they're only being published by the "professional" sources -- sources which ALL have a bias. Yes. All of them. I like to use a process. Let me say straight out front that this process is NOT infallible; it is simply the best I've found, dumbed down to rules of thumb which of course are subject to interpretation -- and the more skilled you become, the less you must rely on "rules of thumb" and replace them with your own judgement.
My process is thus: Three sources. Preferably of opposing or at the very least dissimilar political leanings. This way, I can use a crossover of what I find in all three sources as relatively factual.
Understand that with all of the propaganda and, irritatingly, the coordination of that propaganda by multiple opposing sources, this process has failed me, more often recently. So sometimes we have to look at "alternate sources" -- this is where the wackadoodles and the tinfoil hatters start rejoicing, because they can't fucking tell a good alternate source from a bad one. And they tend to figure that since we're utilizing the same sources, we must be similar in our mental bent.
Alternate sources are generally LESS accurate and contain MORE obvious bias than mainstream. However, you can use this to your advantage by again, looking for the crossovers - what data do all sources have in common? Then, once you have GATHERED your data, you must consider it. Note I did not say "analyze"...that comes later. Your consideration should BE those biases. Can you recognize them (be honest with yourself - I don't give a crap whether you're good at this or not, but you will if you misinterpret the data and make a life-changing decision based on bullshit you couldn't see as bullshit) in and out of context?
If you don't see the bias - it just means you either agree with it, or it's too subtle for you to see at this point. I've gone back ten years later and read the same article or story and immediately caught the bias the second time, because of my skills and experiences. DON'T discount your experiences - every bit of experience has value - EVEN the bullshit has value, as you can use it as a comparison. "Hey, this seems like the same sensationalist bullshit I fell for 20 years ago..." THIS is valid consideration.
The trick is learning to sift. To recognize based upon your experiences and the relation to the information being handed to you vs. your reality. Unfortunately, many of us live in a reality of bullshit, insulated from the really awful stuff that's happening all around us, either through inattentiveness or deliberately ignoring it for the sake of happiness. Sometimes it boils down to: You can be informed, or you can be happy. It isn't always that way but more often than not, that's the choice you have to make.
Understand that when people put something down, write it down for others to read, it automatically gains importance in the mind of the reader - this is a psychological "if it wasn't important, why would they write it down?" sort of thing. Which is why certain kinds of written propaganda, no matter how outlandish, seems convincing. Because someone thought enough to write it down. Unfortunately, and this is the part our lizard brains can't take into account, is that "important enough to write it down" is NOT the same as "truth" or "accuracy". Feel free to research the "Big Lie" from Nazi Germany to understand a little more about that kind of propaganda. But that's an extreme example, intended to blatantly show this phenomenon. Modern real life examples can be much more subtle.
Another thing to consider is WHY. Why did this person write this down? This is related to the above. WHAT is this person trying to tell me and WHY are they trying to tell me? WHAT REACTION are they looking for from me? Again, a most blatant example of this would be trolling: Where someone says something outlandish and upsetting in order to evoke a response -- any response. But instead of being manipulated into responding, give consideration as to why that person did what they did.
WHAT'S THEIR ANGLE??
That's the real question. What's the angle? If you can't see the angle, this source may not be good for you - find another. You MUST be looking for the angle. The bias. What the presenter of this information WANTS OUT OF YOU. Whether it's to keep feeding you bullshit so you eventually believe it, or whether it's to upset you so you make bad decisions, or whether it's to test you to see if you're paying attention -- or any number or combination of infinite reasons. It's up to YOU to look for that angle. Recognize it. And either evaluate the angle or filter it out, depending upon the information you need. ALL information has intelligence value. Some in what is said, some in how it's said, and some in what is NOT said. Like a puzzle with a few pieces missing, sometimes you can tell what information you need by the shapes of the "holes" in the story you've been presented.
Once you have considered the information, THEN analyze it. What does it say? How does it say it? Are there weasel words being used in order to get you to think a certain way? "Killed" has a much different emotional connotation than "murdered." Why were certain words chosen, to elicit a specific EMOTIONAL response from YOU the reader? Analyze the data ruthlessly. Weed out the things that cause you to react strongly, either positively or negatively, and weed out the FACTS. Once you have weeded out the facts, THEN go back and analyze the language -- this will give you insight both into the bias and into the motivation behind the bias, and may help you to evaluate the accuracy of the facts as they have been presented to you.
Cross reference your data.
In computers, a single bit is used as an accuracy indicator, called a "check bit" which creates a "checksum" -- that is, when a byte of data (8 bits) is transmitted and/or read, 7 of those bits are data, and the 8th bit is the "check bit". The checksum is to verify it comes out even. If the 1s and 0s of the other 7 bits come out to an odd number, the check digit is a 1, to make it even. If the 1s and 0s of the other 7 bits come out to an even number, the check digit is a 0, to keep it even. When gathering informational data, YOU are the one looking for the checksum. You are looking for the verification. Do NOT rely on a single source if you don't have to. Make sure your data is solid BEFORE you make a decision.
If you are making life-altering decisions, it is in your best interest to be able to gather and evaluate information - to separate hard facts from the bullshit. Don't get caught up in semantics, or euphemism -- both are methods of deception (not necessarily lying, but definitely deception), and learn to FILTER OUT THE BULLSHIT.
Your life will depend on it. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but at a time when you need information, the only sources are limited, shit, or a nasty combination of limited shit, and you need to make a timely decision. The better your informational skills are, the more likely you are to make a good decision which will help you and your family survive."