Former Republican Bruce Bartlett's The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks comes out today. From the author, in a USA Today op-ed:
The media has become so fragmented that people need to know more than they used to about the nuts and bolts of news gathering to judge whether a source is trustworthy or not….
Ultimately, news consumers — average people — must take it upon themselves to learn how to identify fake news, irresponsible news sources and those peddling a political agenda from those that strive to tell the objective truth, exercise quality control and editorial oversight, correct errors, and maintain a reasonable separation between reportage and opinion….
[T]he best cure is critical thinking and skepticism about stories that suit our religious, ideological or political beliefs too well — or are simply too good to be true.
In other words, abstaining from the pitfalls of confirmation bias. Would that we all practiced such abstinence. Regrettably, precisely the opposite behavior is exacerbating. As Pew Research noted earlier this month, "Americans are less likely than in the past to hold a mix of conservative and liberal views. At the same time, ideological consistency – the shares of Americans holding liberal or conservative views across a wider range of issues – is increasingly associated with partisanship…. Overall, 32% of Americans now take a roughly equal number of conservative and liberal positions on a scale based on 10 questions asked together in seven surveys since 1994. As recently as 2015, 38% had this mix of values – and 49% did so in 1994 and 2004."
This twofold cloistering, if you will, of public opinion is of course the result of Americans having increasingly sought sources of news and commentary that comport with their preexisting opinions. Virtually all of us are guilty of this to some degree — although the center-left's sin is much less damning than the right's, since most of the latter's sources of news and commentary have become little more than universal hellholes of malevolent obscurantism.
This cloistering is the fundamental issue, or difficulty. How does one retrain an eagerly biased news consumer to reject "fake news' and "irresponsible news sources" and opt instead for "those that strive to tell the objective truth" when fake news is exactly what the consumer wants and objective truth is the enemy of that want?
I haven't even the foggiest answer.