I have been fascinated for a long time with the fact that there are groups of people who firmly believe one thing and other groups that firmly believe the opposite thing. I’m not talking about religion or philosophy, but rather disagreements about things that reasonable people should be able to come to consensus on.
For example: Barack Obama’s published birth document is/is not a certification that he was born in Hawaii.
Put aside the questions of forgery or fraud and focus only on the question, “does the document assert that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii?” Reasonable people, given an opportunity for exchange of ideas, with not-too-much research, should be able to find out what, on the face of it, true or not, the document says.
Now here is where the title of the article “United States v. Blog” comes in. If you were to take a poll by doing a web search for “Obama Birth Certificate”, selecting only blogs, you would find a massive majority of “No” votes to my question (and high-confidence in the answer). If you took a poll of people in the United States, you would find a massive majority of people who had never heard of a published birth certificate, but nonetheless are convinced that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Why do rational people differ? The answer is that bloggers get information from bloggers and most people get their news from radio, television and newspapers.
One person can set up a blog and using relatively simple free software can with some effort set up a very impressive-looking web site. A billion-dollar news organization can also set a very impressive-looking web site. The old addage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover” applies equally to the web. The web sites can look similar but the typical independent blogger has limited resources to verify what appears, while the news organization has access to people and services that the average person does not.
What you may see in a blog is nothing more than a collection of rumors inside a fancy cover. Blogs are still in their infancy and some blog readers haven’t yet learned to separate the quality of the layout from the quality of the content. There are certainly some high-quality blogs out there, but it’s hard to separate them from the garbage just by looking at the cover.
It’s OK to read blogs and get information from them, but it is not OK to believe everything you read without a little critical thinking and a little fact checking. If you see a link on this blog, more than likely it will be to a newspaper, a university or a government agency because I wouldn’t expect anyone to accept somebody’s blog as an authority.