due diligence

The Need For And Role of Journalistic Integrity: Thwarting Breitbart Bias And Propaganda

More manipulation, propaganda and incitement stir the airwaves and reverberate through the internet as the Shirley Sherrod controversy unfolds before us. This marks yet another time that a heavily edited, doctored and flagrantly erroneous video was successfully used to smear and tear down a target of the right-wing. And yet again, the source was found to be lacking integrity; the story told by the video a complete fabrication. But the public and officials still choose to react to such trash without question, even after repeatedly finding that the source has intentionally deceived and mislead in order to affect negative change.

How can we stop this mad dash toward insanity and push for a greater degree of accountabilty, if not from the sources of such misdirection then at least in some form or capacity that prevents a knee-jerk reactionary response to such trash without a pre-requisite pause to question and verify?

Perhaps we can't. Then again, perhaps by driving home the growing facts regarding the importance of personal due-diligence, it may be possible to at least provide some underlying guidelines to protect against further future misdirections. In the spirit of optimism that such efforts would prove useful, here's a list of documented distortions made by Breitbart, taken from Big Falsehoods: An updated guide to Andrew Breitbart's lies, smears, and distortions over on Media Matters. Each link goes to the appropriate entry on that site, where there's more information about each event:

Updated July 21, 2010 3:24 pm ET

Following the dissolution of Andrew Breitbart's smear of former Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod, Media Matters provides an updated look at how his sensationalist stories have been based on speculation, gross distortions, and outright falsehoods.

Over the jump, I'm concluding this piece by quoting selected excerpts from Holding America To Her Principles from the USPatriotsUnited blog, with permission. The excerpts focus on the importance of a free and independent media, and provide some hints to the role that such a media should play in our society today. I selected them in particular because they provide some insight about the "how" and "why" the rise of the blogosphere and citizen journalism in prominence is a result of the failure of the traditional media to faithfully discharge its role.

If you find this post useful, please talk it up and send links to it far and wide. We must, as a nation of concerned citizens seeking a better & brighter future, start encouraging others like us to do our part to quell the fires of incitement.

When Google Goes Bad...

Remember years ago when the concept of "Customer Service" didn't exist and if you had a problem with a product and called the company, you got nowhere? Perhaps some of you have worked with products or services that came "as-is" and offered no additional feedback, and only token support -- no actual support, but a suggestion for "where to go" if you had a problem...and the alternate meaning for "where to go" was more likely the intent, as the actual "where to go" was nothing more than a relatively barren wasteland populated only by others searching for solutions to similar problems?

That's what I'm dealing with at this moment. The product is one that is well-known for ~not~ being officially supported. Problem is, the support forum that users are directed to appears to be wholly void of any Google-ish help beyond the basic FAQ information (at least for this problem).

The product? GMail...specifically, when a GMail account has been shut off for a "violation of TOS" when it's highly unlikely that any such violation occurred, and affected account is a one set up for a professional non-profit organization's headquarters.

When "Carpe Diem" and "Caveat Emptor" Collide: Online and Work-From-Home Money Scams

The nation is in rough shape right now, with an infrastructure and economy suffering after eight years of neglect and abuse that initiated a period of record job losses. Even after a massive stimulus package, folks are still finding money tight, and jobs scarce. Conditions are forcing people to look toward new and different opportunities and within different venues to make a living; the conditions are also creating a perfect opportunity for scammers, who have been having a field day with the growing numbers of potential victims.

Many of those who have been forced to look for income opportunities outside of their normal areas of experience have turned to online and work-from-home opportunities, hoping to find something that would enable them to work on already strained schedules. Some see themselves as budding entrepreneurs, embarking on new voyages to endless vistas of self-employment with cries of Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! -- a battlecry oft associated with and used as encouragement for the new entrepreneur. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with any sort of cautionary note; it's an oversight that I think should be amended to include a standard disclaimer and reference to personal due diligence, which I'll define in this case to mean a "reasonable person's responsibility to follow up and follow through on reasonable research into any opportunity."

It's a disclaimer that could be simply stated and relatively benign, like "look before you leap" or somewhat more enigmatic such as Caveat Emptor, or "let the buyer beware."

One of the prevalent scams that I've recently become acquainted with is the Google Home Business Kit, which is known by several other names as well. I'm sure I'd seen it around and ignored it, but actually got an email from a skeptical-yet-hopeful friend asking me if I would check it out.

I did. It quickly registered on the b.s. meter, and a bit more Googling provided some links that appeared to confirm my suspicions.

Over the fold, I provide some links and excerpts from sites that have already taken it upon themselves to do the heavy lifting and expose this particular scam; please check 'em out and share 'em. By educating ourselves and sharing information, we can diminish the effective impact of these scammers and hopefully help save a few of our fellow citizens before they find themselves counted among the victims of these schemes.

When Reality and Politics Collide: Midnight Rule Change in Light of Recent Derailments

Two trains derailed early this morning1 near Dresback, Minnesota. There were only two reported injuries -- two railroad employees were taken to the hospital with minor injuries -- but the area was evacuated due to a leak caused by the crash. Some articles report a leak of both propane (from a switching station) and liquid ammonia from one of the cars, other news bits report just one or the other.

Two of the derailed cars (at least) plummeted into the Mississippi River.

The NTSB will be investigating, but some initial reports indicate that the two trains collided by "sideswiping" each other. For the most detailed and up-to-date information, check out the story in the Star Tribune.

By itself, this incident is obviously newsworthy. Taken in context with news from the other day about another "midnight rule change" by the Bush Administration, and it sounds downright ominous...