Transcript and Highlights for Outrage 014 – How we can try to make sure news enlightens rather than enrages us – Lawrence Eppard

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00:00:00 “Exploring the Decline of Trust in News Media” +

00:03:00 Heading: Examining Misinformation and Alternative News Sources in the Media +

00:05:00 “Exploring Misinformation and Disinformation: A Conversation with Lawrence Eppard” +

00:07:00 Heading: Exploring News Literacy and Outrage Overload with Lawrence Eppard +

00:09:00 Conversation on Nonpartisan News and Historical Issues with Lawrence Eppard +

00:10:00 Discussion on News Literacy and Ideological Silos +

00:12:00 Discussion on Media Ecosystem and Confirmation Bias +

00:14:00 Exploring the Quality of Media and the Need for News Literacy +

00:17:00 Conversation on Media Literacy and News Sources +

00:19:00 Exploring News Literacy and the Benefits of Pausing Before Reacting +

00:21:00 Conversation on the Impact of Partisan News Outlets on News Consumption +

00:23:00 Conversation on Moderation and Self-Censorship in Media +

00:26:00 Discussion on Political Polarization and Misinformation +

00:29:00 Conversation on the Responsibility of Podcasters to Guide Discussions on Complex Topics +

00:31:00 Heading: Understanding the Difference Between Hard News and Opinion Pieces in the Media +

00:34:00 “The Impact of Media Bias on Journalism” +

00:38:00 Exploring Solutions to Restore Trust in Media +

00:40:00 Conversation with Lawrence Eppard on Misinformation and Disinformation +

00:42:00 Conversation Summary: Outrage Overload Podcast Episode Discussion +

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions.


[00:00:00]  : David:  Welcome to Outrage Overload, a Science podcast about outrage and lowering the temperature. This is episode

  : Lawrence Eppard: 14.

[00:01:00]  : David: Just 34% of Americans say they trust the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly according to Gallup in that polling,  Democrats generally trust the media more than Republicans. The majority of Republicans indicate that they have no trust in the media at all. These numbers have been steadily falling since the 1970s when the majority of Americans, about 70%, indicated that they trusted news media.

  : By 2004, that number had slipped to a minority at just 44%. What’s more is a dramatic increase in those that say they have no trust in news media at all, over almost four decades, that number went from under 10% in the 1970s to about 20% in 2012. It is nearly doubled in the decade since to 38%. Today, more Americans say they have no trust in the media at all than say they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust.

  : These numbers can be worse depending on the poll, but they all underscore one thing. Americans say they don’t trust news media. So

  : Lawrence Eppard: how we feel about news often comes down to how we feel about government and how well it’s functioning. They have the sense that there’s so many media choices out there.

[00:02:00]  : They’re  sort throwing their hands up and saying, I, I don’t think I can trust any of it.

  : David: That’s researcher Benjamin Toff. So how did we get here? Scholars offer a number of explanations. Many suggest that some of it is a self-inflicted wound that we’re exhausted by the constant outrage porn. Here’s Ted Coppel.

  : Oh, the ratings

  : Lawrence Eppard: are up. It means you can’t do without Donald Trump. You would be lost without Donald Trump. Let’s go to M S N B C. Is there a moment of the day when they are not focusing on Donald Trump or some intimately related subject? It is essentially, oh, I know. Every once in a while, you know, if the number of people who died in Indonesia gets up to a thousand, they’ll give it a mention or a term.

  : But by and large, the only news that’s covered program after program, after

[00:03:00]  : David: program, This distrust of the mainstream media results in a tendency to withdraw from it and turn towards alternative information  sources, particularly online non journalistic news coverage such as social media or alternative online news sources that reflect hyperpartisan views like this guy.

  : And we know

  : Lawrence Eppard: they were set and ready. With that tragedy, there is something going on. What do you think’s happening here? I can tell you children did not die. Teachers did not die on December 14th, 2012. It’s fake. You have to see what’s going on. Blue screens, it’s fake. There’s something going on. Again, we don’t know what’s going on.

  : There is something going

  : David: on. Here’s Joel Rogan. Fact checking. But then when proven wrong, questioning the source.

  : Lawrence Eppard: I don’t think it’s true that there’s an increased risk of myocarditis from people catching covid that are young versus increased risk of myocarditis from the vaccine. No, there is. There’s bias prove, well, let’s look that up because I don’t think that’s true.

[00:04:00]  : 12 to 17 molecular belt myocarditis with three months of catching covid at a rate of four 50 cases per million infection. This compares to 67 cases of myocarditis per million at the  same time following her second dose of Fi Pfizer. Yeah, so you’re about eight times likely to get myocarditis from getting covid than from getting the vaccine.

  : That’s interesting. Now that that is not what I’ve read before, but also it’s like when even when we’re reading these things, it’s like, what are we getting

  : David: this from? Here’s epidemiologist, Dr. Katrina Wallace speaking about this.

  : Lawrence Eppard: We would just like Spotify to have a clear and public policy to moderate, um, misinformation on their platform because as I mentioned before, we’re in a public health emergency.

  : So it is their, it is a responsibility they have to the public to protect them from this kind of harmful information when information. Like this is on a huge platform. It creates a false balance as if there’s two sides to the scientific information, and really there is not. The overwhelming evidence is that the vaccine works and that they are

  : David: safe.

[00:05:00]  : What some call content moderations, others might call  censorship. Where do you draw the line?

  : Lawrence Eppard: Who decides? And I know the slippery slope there, right? Because I don’t want somebody. A bad faith actor to have control of that process, right. To be, you know, I understand the problems of having a disinformation board, right, like that, that can, that can go south, uh, really quickly.

  : On the other hand, misinformation and disinformation is poisoning the American mind full stop. I mean, uh, it is poisoning the American minds Smallpox is coming back. You know, people are trying to overthrow our democracy.

  : David: That’s Shippensburg University professor at Lawrence epd. You’ll hear that again later in the show.

  : This idea of picking and choosing our sources to fit a preferred narrative is really at the root of this problem. Here’s an example.

[00:06:00]  : Why won’t they interview all the January 6th police? I have no idea where, where is that claim coming from? Oh, I heard one of ’em on, on the January 6th. Police officer. I mean, you keep throwing out  claims.

  : I’m just curious where they’re coming from. You’re not giving me any evidence. The computer. Look, Jan, January. Six police officer to know why he wasn’t questioned by the January 6th committee. I’m still looking for the January 6th police officer that wasn’t questioned. I see a lot of articles saying that there’s police officers claiming it’s a video, that there was racism.

  : What do you mean? It was a video? So, so it, it was, it’s a January 6th police officer actively talking like it wasn’t an article. It wasn’t a. It wasn’t a interview, it was a video. So a Jan six officer, was he identified or is it just some random, like personal anecdote of a gun on YouTube channel?

  : Unfortunately, I’m having issues with your evidence here, my guy, right? And I have same issues with your evidence. Um, that is just mainstream media

  : David: propaganda, trust in media misinformation, disinformation news literacy, content moderation. How do we stay informed without becoming overwhelmed with outrage overload?

[00:07:00]  : These are all challenging problems. And that’s what we’re going to talk about on this episode of the Outrage Overload Podcast. I’m your host, David Becker,  and my guest is friend of the show and Patron Lawrence epd.

  : Lawrence Eppard: I’m Lawrence epd. I am a faculty member at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. My main areas of expertise are racial and economic inequalities and news literacy.

  : And that third thing, news literacy is what I’m here to talk about today on outrage overload.

  : David: Yeah. Well, thanks again for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate making the time. Uh, professor Eppard, I wanted to talk about the counter forum a little bit and then kind of swing it back. As you know, the podcast here, we talk about kind of outrage media and outrage in society and things like that. I’m just kind of gonna tie it back to that, but the, the counter forum, as I understand it, is.

[00:08:00]  : The main way that you, uh, disseminate information is through the podcast, I think. Mm-hmm. And then, and then, but you also have some interesting stuff about kind of rating and  ranking news sources and some interesting criteria on that, which is pretty cool. And it doesn’t seem like the podcast is always kind of a news item.

  : It’s kind of just sometimes is, and sometimes it’s more of a historical thing or a general topic. Is that

  : Lawrence Eppard: sort of correct? Yeah. I mean, uh, our, our general idea is that we want to. Uh, tackle topics that we think are important for people to understand, whether they are a major news item of the day, or just some sort of historical issue.

  : So, for instance, uh, for Thanksgiving we record an episode with, uh, an expert on Early American history, and they talked about the history of Thanksgiving, you know, about that first Thanksgiving and the Wampanoags, and the, the English colonists. And just, you know, give people, uh, some insight into. What really happened, uh, what we can really learn from it.

[00:09:00]  : And so, yeah, sometimes it’s just something, um, you know, child poverty or, uh, immigration or some, you know, major societal issue. Sometimes it’s historical, sometimes it’s a major news item. But the  idea is whatever we’re tackling to try to do it in a totally nonpartisan way. You know, when I talk to these experts, the, the thing I’m always asking is, is this the way to the evidence?

  : You know, is this a consensus in the field or are you an outlier? Right? Like, are you here telling me something that’s. Way out of left field and your colleagues would say, oh my gosh, Lawrence, you know, why would you trust that particular perspective? So, and, and, and your podcast is certainly geared towards, uh, what we’re interested in, which is trying to get away from the extremes.

  : Trying to get away from ideological silos, uh, and just give people really trustworthy information and know that our process is trustworthy. You know, make corrections, tell people where things are more ambiguous, more contentious, or when things, this really is the fact, right? This really is what. Uh, we should understand to be the fact about this particular thing.

[00:10:00]  : David: Right, right. Yeah, yeah. You know, and so, you know, I look at a lot of research. I’m a little narrow because we’re sort of looking at things sort of adjacent to this outrage media kind of stuff. Um, so it is not always a, you know, some kind, some kind of a connection to that. So a  little, a little bit more narrow than, than what you’re looking at.

  : And you know, and of course we just sort of report what the data says, you know, and generally that’s Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, and generally that is, and some people get mad at that, right? Because generally these. Psychological phenomena apply wherever you are in the spectrum, right? Yeah. So sometimes people get mad at that cause they want somebody to, to be angrier at the other side

  : Lawrence Eppard: more.

  : Well, you know, it’s, it’s interesting you say that because, uh, you know, I’m, I’m an academic and my main area is of researcher economic and racial inequalities. And I’m also doing a lot around news literacy these days. And. You know, when and when you talk to people about getting away from reality and being in ideological silos and, and, and, uh, consuming partisan information and media, oftentimes it feels like that’s a left message, a leftist message, right?

[00:11:00]  : And so the, the leftists are nodding along, and I’m in a field, you know, sociology and an industry, academia. There are a lot of people on the left, and so they, it feels like, ah, you’re, you’re talking to us, right? Like, you know, this is a message intended  for us, and it’s criticizing that side, but you’re absolutely right.

  : The psychological phenomena that are at play here, for instance, confirmation bias. They’re hardwired into every human brain and we’re all guilty of it. It just depends upon which particular issue we’re talking about. Right? So for instance, uh, if you were to talk about climate change, yeah, you’re gonna find a lot of people on the right, in their ideological silos who are getting really bad information, and their confirmation biased, the motivated reasoning, uh, they’re gonna eat that up.

  : Right, because it feels good. It confirms their priors, all that kind of stuff, right? But if you talk to leftist about GMOs, you know, or if you talk about, you know, all the debate about, you know, sex and gender and, uh, you know, gender identity and that kind of stuff, as, as not being really settled, being really contentious, all of a sudden you start really, you know, hitting against their confirmation bias.

[00:12:00]  : So, yeah, this is something we all suffer from, and that’s why it’s so important that the media ecosystem be responsible. Otherwise, it  just feeds all of our priors, right? And we’re seeing that poisoning our country. Right. And that’s

  : David: kind of where I, I I, the, the main thing I was reaching out to you about is kind of, you know, we, we, it seems like the media is kind of letting us down, but in some sense, I al always say, you know, we’ve met the enemy and the enemy is us.

  : Cause we often let ourselves down by going and seeking out this stuff. But it, but it seems like to some degree the media is guilty of. Uh, this kind of trust problem, right? I mean, you, you, whatever side you’re coming from, you could probably accuse them of either being biased or just flat out sensationalized, or sometimes it’s flat out lying and it, it happens and, and, and then you get this whole thing that you can’t trust anybody, and then you kind of go deeper and deeper.

[00:13:00]  : And I, I, I worry about, you know, people going too far, falling into that pretty quickly, cuz there’s some. Fairly well funded, weird alternative news things, you know, on YouTube and otherwise that can take people down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes pretty fast. And you know, to some degree, you know, I can see how people get there, you know, because they get upset with the, the quote unquote,  mainstream news and, um, and, and, and mean what, what have you learned about that with your project?

  : Lawrence Eppard: Yeah, well, you know, just to start with, I should say, um, One of the things that I talk about in, in my classes with my students is, um, and it, and it’s, it often shocks them when I say this, because, you know, many people have the perspective you have, right? Like, the media’s letting us down. There’s so much bad media.

  : All that’s right. Right. But, uh, one of the first things I tell my students is, uh, there’s, you have, as you have easier access to more good information and high quality journalism than ever before, there’s more of it. And you have easier access to it. So I always pull my phone outta my pocket during this conversation and I say, you know, if you were to.

[00:14:00]  : Go back in time, in a time machine, you know, talk to George Washington or go back further and say, uh, you know, excuse me, fine gentlemen, could you take me to your, your, you know, your best library, your best institution of knowledge? And they’d take you there and, and they’d look around. They’d be bragging  about it, right?

  : All these bound books and everything, and smells of Rich Mahogany, right? And you’d say, well, uh, this little device in my pocket has exponentially more information and better quality information than anything you have here. Right? So, I don’t think the issue is that media writ large is bad, right? So, like you said, at the Connors forum, we’ve developed this rubric using, uh, ad fontez media, who has the media bias charts, uh, news Guard, the factual, all sides.

  : We, we’ve used that to develop this rubric to say which ones are really trustworthy, which ones are getting stuff right. Most of the time when they don’t, they correct it. Right. Which ones, um, have, have limited bias? And there are several. I mean, there are numerous at the national level and at the state level, right?

[00:15:00]  : There’s all sorts of major newspapers, which are still really, really good. The problem has been the explosion of bad. Right, and the explosion of stuff on the internet and talk radio and cable news. And so the problem now is not, not not access to good information, it’s figuring out  which information is good, it’s filtering.

  : Um, I, there’s somebody, I think one of the CEOs of News Guard, they mentioned it, like, you know, if you walk into a library, I. And every page in the library was just swirling around in the air and you just had to grab at them randomly, right? Like that’s, that’s the media ecosystem now. Right? Unless you know what you’re looking for.

  : Some of my colleagues take the approach of saying we need to teach people news literacy, right? How to deconstruct an article and look at the sourcing and all that kind of stuff. And with, with all due respect to my colleagues who say that I, I think that is a woefully inadequate way to think about this because most Americans do not have the skills nor the time to do that.

  : I don’t, when I’m reading Maggie Haberman or any one of these, you know, news stories, I don’t have the expertise to go through every single hyperlink and, and look at every study and, you know, I’m depending upon them to vet that information for me, right? And so if I’m relying on enough reliable sources, the Wall Street Journal in New York Times, you know, Axios, whatever, I’m gonna get a well-rounded view.

[00:16:00]  : If somebody makes a mistake,  one of those folks are gonna point it out, right? Like the Wall Street Journal wants to find the New York Times making a mistake and, and vice versa. And so I, I teach people to rely on really trustworthy sources. And of course, the news literacy aspect is important, right?

  : Because even those sources make mistakes. But yeah, I, I think we have a lot of really, really good media. We just, we just need to figure out a way for people to, to be relying on the good stuff.

  : David: Right. And I’m glad you mentioned that cause I didn’t want it to sound like I was the guy saying, no, no, stop using mainstream media.

  : My point was kinda like, sometimes I think people can do this, kind of throw the baby out

  : Lawrence Eppard: with the bathwater thing. AB absolutely. That’s, and that’s, and that’s what I see with people, very smart people on my orbit. Right? Like I. They’ll see a mistake and you know, it’s like, oh, well, you know, all media can’t be trusted.

  : And that’s happening with all institutions, right? Like a big institution makes a mistake. And it’s like, who can we trust? And I’m with you.

[00:17:00]  : David: I mean, I just don’t think we can do that. Very, no, very few of us do. You know, that’s the do your own research sort of camp. Right? And most of us don’t know how to do  research.

  : Lawrence Eppard: Right. No, no. I hate that. I hate that saying so much. That’s, uh, you know, it, I, and I tell my students this all the time, I say, absolutely you should do your own research. Right. But you also should be aware of the skills that you have to do research, right? So if I’m reading an article about some, you know, climatology model, you know, have you ever read one of those articles?

  : They’re inable, you know, economics articles. I’m a big fan of Rachetti at Harvard. But when I read some of his stuff, it’s like I have no idea what they’re talking about. So I’m depending upon a community of scholars to vet that information, right? And then I’m depending upon the media to decipher it for me.

  : And, and I’m not saying that, that news literacy skills aren’t important, right? So when I’m teaching in the classroom, we, we go through it, of course. And, you know, I, I start with the foundation of you should rely on a handful of, uh, sources that, you know, to be trustworthy, right? But there are some, some skills that are useful.

[00:18:00]  : So, for instance, one of the things I always tell my students is if you see something that looks out,  you know, sensational, outrageous, uh, it look, it seems like an odd claim, right? One of the first things you should do. Is just look and see if the other trustworthy sources are reporting it. Right? And if they are, what are they saying?

  : Are they saying it the same way? Are they saying it differently? Are they using different sources? And the example I always use with my students is when Kobe Bryant died and the helicopter crash, uh, one of my friends sent me a link about it and it was like some local LA station and nobody else was reporting it at the time.

  : And so I thought, I’m not gonna reject it because nobody’s reporting it. I’m not gonna reject it just because I’m skeptical. I’m not gonna accept it just cuz somebody said it. I’m just gonna hit pause for a moment, right? Like, let’s, let’s all learn this skill of just like pausing our, our outrage and pausing our, you know, reaction to things.

[00:19:00]  : And I’m gonna wait, right? And within 30 minutes, A bunch of other news sources were reporting it, right? So that’s why I tell my students, look, you know, uh, I know we all want something now. We all want it as quick as possible. News  cycles, you know, they spin as fast as ever, but you know, if you see something, wait a day, wait a few days.

  : If, if you have a handful of really reliable sources you use, you’re gonna get the correct version of the story in short order. Right. People I

  : David: know often ask me, like, cause I, they know, I kind of pay attention things. They’ll ask me something and they’re always frustrated a lot of times when I give them like, well, I don’t, I don’t know yet because, you know, this is, this is still kind of developing, you know?

  : I don’t know for sure what the answer to that is, and they’re like, oh no, you must just tell me. But, yeah, so, you know, another aspect of that, I was thinking about another version of that, that I think it’s harder. It’s a, if you see the story and it’s. Weird. That’s a little easier. You know, the ones that I often tell people to stop and think about are the ones when you see it and you really like it, like that’s the thing I want to hear.

  : That’s when you absolutely trigger those, some of those things and say, ah, maybe I need to step back and double check this.

[00:20:00]  : Lawrence Eppard: Well, you know, and so when my students come into my class, we, we, my, one of my, um, one of my students, uh, who helps me with the podcast and does some independent research with me, we’ve done some surveys recently of some college students about their news  literacy and we’re, we’re using that to really dive deep and, and look for, you know, factors as might contribute and that kind of stuff.

  : What these surveys are showing us is most of them really aren’t seeking the news very much, right? Like they, they just kind of wanna pass up on their phone. They take a look at it and you know, they have some news literacy skills. Some of them check the sourcing, but, They just really aren’t actively looking for news.

  : And so a lot of sites they’re just not aware of, right? So like Reuters is totally new, uh, associated Press totally new to them. And when they send them to these websites in class and that we, we do all these sorts of workshops and activities around this, I ask ’em to describe to me like, what, what sorts of feelings do you get when you read this compared to, say, watching C N N or M S N B C on the left, or you know, Fox News and Newsmax on the right.

[00:21:00]  : And you know, it’s boring. Right. It doesn’t elicit rage, it doesn’t elicit, you know, feelings of joy or, or righteousness, you know, self-righteousness or being able to look down at a certain group, cuz that’s not what news is supposed to do, right? News isn’t supposed to make you feel a certain way, it’s supposed to  enlighten you, right?

  : And, and provide context and deeper information that you didn’t have before. And you’re absolutely right. One, one of the lessons that I think these partisan, I, I know these, these partisan outlets have learned is that there’s a psychological reality that we respond better. Let me, lemme rephrase that. We don’t respond better.

  : We were strong more strongly. Uh, to rage and to fear than we do to hope, right? So there’s a reason why, like, you know, Fox News isn’t talking about these aspirational immigration reforms, or, you know, MSNBC isn’t talking about things that, you know, really play on the hopes and, and dreams of the left. It’s more about like, what’s making you angry?

[00:22:00]  : What’s making you outraged, right? Uh, fearful, right? What’s threatening your children? What’s threatening your country, your group? That kind of stuff works. It brings you back. It’s addicting. Right, and people are becoming really addicted to that. So when you go to the associated presses or Reuters of the world and they’re giving you complexity and nuance in a way that doesn’t fit neatly into a bucket,  it’s boring.

  : And that’s what it’s supposed to be.

  : David: It’s boring and it requires more sort of cognitive load to process too, because you can’t easily. Drop, like you say, drop it into a quick bucket by labeling it sort of thing. You know, and it’s funny because I talk ab I, I, I, I talk to people across different, um, disciplines, you know, social scientists, political scientists, uh, psychologists and, um, neuroscientists.

  : And they all kind of come at this from this different places. But, you know, their data, whichever they’re gathering, kind of shows the same thing, you know, and it’s like, You were saying the outrage, fear kind of things compared to positive messages. It’s weird. It’s like a two to one ratio. It takes like two positive things to counteract one negative thing.

  : It’s just kind of how our brain is wired.

[00:23:00]  : Lawrence Eppard: Well, yeah, and you know, to your point, you know, I, I, I have no idea. That’s why I’m, I reach out to all these different places like Duke in a variety of others to try to say, you know, what are you guys doing? What are you figuring out about. You know how we can get people to come back to good media and, and stop being addicted to this stuff,  right?

  : Like, if you’re surrounded by a bunch of things from one perspective and then one counter perspective makes its way through, you’re gonna reject it. Right. And so you have to be within an ecosystem where you’re constantly getting good information for that, to really make a difference. Right? And so, um, I, I don’t know what the answer there is, but, uh, it’s, it’s really disheartening.

  : To be quite honest.

  : David: Right. Cause it’s a, it’s a challenging problem and it’s, and absolutely it’s hard to scale. Like, you know, you could go, you know, find like, you know, maybe we could save our family members and good friends by having one-to-one dialogues and at least agreeing to disagree and being civil and, and still loving each other and respecting ’em as humans and stuff.

  : We still might not change anybody’s mind, but at least we could talk. Like, it’s getting to the point now where, you know, I’m finding a lot of people can’t even talk to, to, you know, they’ve, they’ve dropped. Connections with people. They were, you know, known for decades. Um, and it’s, and it’s pretty sad over, over some of these things.

[00:24:00]  : So with, with your podcast, um, and talking about, well, not only with your podcast, just with your  overall work in this space, you know, we, it seems like these more moderate voices get pushed out by the extremes, right? So there’s sort of a distortion that things are much more extreme than they really are.

  : And, and this sort of, the, the, the more moderate voices tend to almost self censor because of all the, the. Uh, pushback and, and potentially, you know, sort of being accused of being an apostate and this kind of thing, if they don’t say the right thing. What, what have you sort of learned about that, you know, with your community that, that you’ve developed to, have you sort of seen that or, and you see a, a sort of audience there and, and, and it seems like there’s a genuine desire.

  : To, to bring the temperature down even almost as people, maybe in the same, in the same sentence, kind of raise the temperature a little, but there seems like, like the the need, the the want for

  : Lawrence Eppard: it seems genuine. Yeah. I, I’m conflicted on this question because, um, I can’t remember who it was. We had a guest, I think it was Rachel Kleinfeld, um, and she was going through this survey data on this, on, on how many moderate there actually are, right?

[00:25:00]  : So  I do think. That most people would like the temperature to come down. I do think that people would like government to work better, to have less partisanship and polarization, all that kind of stuff. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much appetite there is for, for hearing the other side, uh, you know, because of all these psychological processes.

  : I think this is stuff we’ve always had. It’s always been hardwired. It’s just that our media ecosystem has unleashed it to do its worst. I, I always, I tell my students, I, I, I give the metaphor of, um, if they’ve ever seen the movie Jurassic Park and in increasingly this is becoming less and less likely to mean much to them as they get right.

  : You know, as I get further away from that movie being released in the 1990s, but I say, you know, in Jurassic Park, Those dinosaurs are incredibly dangerous. They will end your life in one second, right? But, uh, they’re not dangerous even within a few feet of you. When the electric fences are working right and everything’s fine, all the guardrails, all the security systems are in place.

[00:26:00]  : The dangerous, of course, when Dennis Ned,  uh, deactivates them and then all of a sudden the dinosaurs are eating people, right? These are, uh, psychological biases we’ve always had. They’ve always been hardwired in human beings left and right, but the guardrails and the security systems, uh, have been deactivated.

  : Right. And you know, I don’t, I think we are a partisan people. I think we are a tribal people. I don’t know how much appetite there is to really be hearing the other side. You have to kind of be forced to do it. On the other hand, at the same time, people, you know, social scientists know, people can believe too, completely contradictory things.

  : At the same time, in their head, people do want the temperature to be lower. Right. And it’s, it’s a, I don’t know the answer here. I, I think you have to be forced to see good information. And if not, you will inevitably go to the bad stuff that makes you feel good. I hate to bring, you know, the pessimist view.

[00:27:00]  : You’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong. I think there’s, there’s an audience for it. I don’t know if it’s the  most people. Right. It’s probably not, I don’t know. I mean, I, I’m, I’m hoping you’ll prove me wrong, right?

  : David: Yeah. Well, that’d be, that would be nice. Yeah. Um, I, I think, uh, one, one I talked to one of the, a, a big pod, uh, podcaster who does science podcast, and he said, well, I hope you do well, just because for every, you know, sort of second of airtime, you take away from Joe Rogan, that’s an

  : Lawrence Eppard: improvement in the world.

  : Well, and you know, and people like him, people like, um, you know, Jordan Peterson, for instance, when Jordan Peterson first came on the scene, I’m not saying I liked him, but like he was asking questions that I, I was like, this is great, right? Like, like there should, we should break the orthodoxy on a lot of things and we should have a hetero conversation about a lot of different issues, which really aren’t settled.

[00:28:00]  : Right? And then he went off, off the deep end and he started saying some really crazy things. Joe Oregon’s the same way, right? Like, uh, I appreciate the fact that he is gonna bring people on who are from different perspectives, those sorts of things, right? But. The problem that I see is that’s just sort of uncritical, letting people say things that are  lies that are untrue.

  : And if the audience is not, doesn’t have the skills to understand one, something that’s blatantly a lie, blatantly, misinformation, disinformation, et cetera, you’re doing them a disservice. So yeah. One of the things I tell my students is, imagine that I’m gonna ask you this question. I’m gonna give you five minutes to think about your answer, and I’m gonna force you to come to the front of the classroom and explain in front of the whole class your answer.

  : So it’s gotta be good. It’s gotta be smart. How does a zipper work? Tell me the mechanics of how a zipper works. All right, here’s the second one. How does a toilet work? Right. And so, and they get very flustered. It’s like, you know, something very basic that you depend upon every single day that you would assume you have a general knowledge of.

[00:29:00]  : You have zero knowledge of, right, right. And so these are simple things, right? Like a zippers are rather simple. Uh, mechanism, climate change.  Right, right. Uh, the origins of the coronavirus, right? I mean, these are incredibly complex things that involve multiple, incredible complex systems, right? And so, uh, you need somebody right to, to, to guide you.

  : And people like Joe Rogan, you know, unfortunately, you know, I, I value having, uh, different perspectives, but there’s gotta be somebody there guiding the conversation in some way. You can’t just be saying anything you wanna say, right? Right. And like you were saying

  : David: earlier, sort of there’s no weight that sort of, 90% of science thinks this and 2% think that, and then you’re just sort of putting ’em out there as though

  : Lawrence Eppard: they’re equal.

  : Right. And, and look, like we say, you know, there are people throughout history, there were heretics, right? That were, that were saying things that, uh, the majority of scientists were saying, oh, that’s ridiculous. The, you know, the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun. That’s a, that’s crazy. Right? Burn this person at the stake.

[00:30:00]  : Uh, so it’s not always that you just take the, the, the mob rule, right? Or the majority, you know, tyranny the majority, but that that’s the responsibility of you.  As, as a podcaster right, is to say, I’ve done the work on this, and it looks like, yeah, while there is some, um, lack of consensus here, lack of consensus really seems to be driven by something that’s not really, that’s a really bad faith or whatever the case may be.

  : Right. So, um,

  : David: yeah. Right. And if you’re gonna have that person on at least sort of say, you’re in the minority on this, so tell us, us, you know, that kind

  : Lawrence Eppard: of thing. Right. And so, and so you would say this because of, because why? Right. Like what’s the, what’s the problem with the dominant methodology? And so at the very least, right, you’re, you’re keying people in on something that if you had just presented it as, without any background information, what ends up happening is, uh, so if I, so if I don’t know anything about anything, right?

  : So you’re like, if, uh, somebody’s debating, uh, astronomy on tv, right? And they’re using jargon that I have no idea about, you know, they’re from institutions they’ve never heard of, uh, they’re talking about something that’s way, way beyond me in terms of complexity, and they’re disagreeing. I throw my hands up as a consumer.

[00:31:00]  : Right. And so I think that’s where a lot of Americans are exactly, is there’s this  huge ecosystem of, of media, we don’t know the weight of each one, right? Like infowars is not the same as the Wall Street Journal, right? Like the Palmer Report is not the same as the New York Times. But if you see them all together, Right, and they’re saying very different things.

  : It can kind of feel like, well, I have no idea what’s right and what’s wrong. I have no way to, to verify this. I, I have no way to even, um, understand any of this. And so, you know what? Media’s, media’s terrible. You know, you can’t trust anybody. And that’s a dangerous place to be. It’s where we are right now.

  : It’s a dangerous place to be.

  : David: Right. That, that’s what concerns me. It’s kind of like, well, there’s just no way to know.

  : Lawrence Eppard: Right. Exactly. Right. Yeah. That’s, that’s a lot of my students are there because they’ve never had, and, and my class becomes the first place. A lot of them are confronted with actually having to figure out, well, how do we know?

[00:32:00]  : I. What’s trustworthy and what’s biased, and I think they feel pretty comfortable coming outta my class that we, we do that, right? And I give them a variety of, of sources, right? Like I say, look, the  hard news people at a newspaper aren’t even in the same room as the opinion people, right? Like I write an opinion piece every month for my local paper here, uh, in Shippensburg University or in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

  : I’m not the newsroom, I’m not a journalist, right? Like that’s the opinion and commentary section. It’s labeled as such. And. Oftentimes that’s what goes viral on Facebook and social media is these crazy opinion pieces, which oftentimes are crazy. The Wall Street Journal will run some absolutely insane pieces, so will the New York Times.

  : Right? But, but they’re not the same as the hard news. And so having a basic understanding of, of how newspapers work, what commentary is, versus hard news, what the good stuff is versus the bad stuff, um, it can be really helpful, but without it, I get it. Right? If, if you see, you know, well, Donald Trump was allowed to say, You know, 800 election lies in, in the Wall Street Journal.

[00:33:00]  : If you think that’s the same as the Wall Street Journal’s, hard news on the election. I can get from the less perspective why you’d  say, ah, the Wall Street Journal can’t be trusted right now. I trust the Wall Street Journal. They’re hard news. I don’t trust anybody’s opinion pieces cuz they’re opinion pieces.

  : Right? Yeah. You know, not every problem. I, I think one of the great myths in America, Is that every problem, both sides are equally guilty, right? And so if you’re talking about, uh, immigration or you’re talking about climate change or whatever, like, you know, both sides have their points. No. Sometimes one side’s completely wrong.

  : Sometimes one side’s 75% wrong, right? And so on, on the issue of the media, it’s just baked in. It’s just assumed on the right that the media is corrupt. It’s been corrupted, it’s biased. It’s been captured by the left, and they’re victims of something. They’re victims of a concerted effort over a number of decades to convince them of that.

[00:34:00]  : And it’s just baked in. It’s just taken for granted.  And, and you start, like you say, you start the conversation with conservatives that you can’t trust any of the media, and that’s difficult now. You know, I, I would say, you know, in talking to many journalists, I, I would say it does seem like people who enter the profession of journalism, Tend to be more leftist than, than right wing for whatever the reason I, I think there’s just, there’s some sort of selectivity bias there, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t institutions that do a really good job, right?

  : And so again, if you’re treating the entire media ecosystem as, as one thing, and everybody within it as equally problematic, then then fine. It’s like, well, you know, most of them are leftist and therefore the whole thing is corrupt. If you take a more nuanced view of it. And you say, well, well sure. Right?

[00:35:00]  : Like I’m an academic, I have my own biases. Um, I’m a person. Why would you trust my social science? Because there are guardrails, right? So when I write an article, I send it to a journal and it’s blindly peer reviewed by two  or three experts in the field who don’t know my name. They don’t know who I am on my credentials.

  : The only thing they have is my work. And, and believe me, those peer reviews are ruthless. They are ruthless. I mean, one of my colleagues got a peer review, he’s a leading poverty scholar in the country and he got a peer review back one time that said, I’m not even sure English is this fir for this person’s first language.

  : They write so poorly. It’s ruthless because it’s supposed to be. Like, we don’t gain anything from just letting something pass through. And so media’s an interesting thing. So, uh, at the Connors forum, my co-director, uh, Michael Ds, he’s a, he’s a professor right now at Northwestern University, one of the preeminent journalism schools in the country.

  : Uh, but he, he started his career in newspapers and he worked at the Chicago Tribune. And so, yeah. Report is there, right? Many of them were a little left-leaning right. But it’s not like they got to just, you know, they just trust a source blindly and then they write whatever they want and then they put it in the paper.

[00:36:00]  : Well, they have editors,  right? And so, uh, the, the, the, the article goes to the editor, and even if this source is anonymous to the reader, They oftentimes are talking to their editor, editor about who the source is, right? And the editor makes it a determination, right? Like, why I’m not, I don’t think, I think this is too thinly sourced.

  : I think you need to get more, I think we need to go look at these databases and corroborate this. I think we should go through these documents, et cetera, et cetera, right? So, you know, there are all these guardrails. I, I get the suspicion, right? Like there are horrible opinion pieces. There are horrible commentary pieces.

  : Many journalists are left leaning right, but if you, if you. If you really look at work that looks at which, which, uh, organizations are doing a good job, what are the mechanics of good journalism? There’s lots of really great stuff out there, and I tell my students all the time, if you put, if you have a basket of, of an institution that does good center hard news, but maybe some right-leaning commentaries like the Wall Street Journal.

[00:37:00]  : One that has some good hard news, but then maybe some  left-leaning commentary like the New York Times, then maybe one in the middle Associated press, Reuters, you know, throw one in there, right? If you were to rely on those three, one of ’em is gonna get something wrong, right? Uh, but those three are gonna correct their mistakes.

  : Number one, they’re gonna tell you clearly what mistake they made. They’re gonna update the story. And if you’re seeing news from all three, even if one is slow to correct. The other two are gonna catch it, right? So if you just wait a few days, you’re, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get the real story. But they, they’ve been victims of a concerted death era.

  : It’s been a long standing campaign. It’s baked in. I was just reading some comments in some, uh, newspaper, the today, some newspaper, uh, comments section where it was like, you know, well, of course all media is corrupt and it’s all leftist, and the only thing you can trust is, you know, blah, blah, blah. Right?

  : Yeah.

  : David: So what, do you have any thoughts on, on some ideas of maybe restoring some of this trust in media so that we get less people going down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes?

[00:38:00]  : Lawrence Eppard: Yeah, I, I, you know, I’m wracking my brain  about this. Like you, I basically am, I, I seek out people to come on the podcast to, I.

  : Basically it’s like a, a plea for help. You know, I, I, I reach out to legal minds, uh, I reach out to psychologists, uh, I reach out to media members and I’m just constantly, basically, like I don’t actually have the answer. A lot of people I think who, who have podcasts or I. You know, other media ventures or they write in newspapers, like they really do have an idea that they want to install.

  : And so they sort of do, they do the bad faith game of pretending like they’re reaching out and talking to folks, but they really have one idea. I don’t actually know what it is that will work. In fact, you know, I had a few people on my podcast and I just asked them like, is there’s something we can do to regulate the media?

[00:39:00]  : And I know the slippery slope there, right? Because I don’t want somebody. A bad faith actor to have control of that process, right. To be, you know, I understand the problems of having a disinformation board, right, like that,  that can, that can go south, uh, really quickly. On the other hand, misinformation and disinformation is poisoning the American mind.

  : Full stop. I mean, uh, it is poisoning the American mind. Smallpox is coming back. You know, people are trying to overthrow our democracy. These are, these are things that were just unheard of. And it’s because of misinformation and disinformation. And even just suggesting on my podcast that, uh, we have some sort of government intervention.

  : You should see the hate mail that I got from people. You know, you’re a communist. You’re this, you’re that. I, I believe me, I, I wasn’t starting. With the, the notion that I want government controlling it and working backwards to try to like collect a bunch of people to, to prove my point. I don’t know the answer.

[00:40:00]  : It was an open question. The best thing that I can figure right now. Is to try to, you know, not in the words of Steve Bannon, you know, flood the zone with awfulness, but, uh, is is basically just to flood the zone with, uh, things like we’re doing, like  rating systems and just try to keep hitting people with these notions that, you know, this, this outlet is good, this outlet is questionable, right?

  : Here’s why. Full transparency. Here’s our rubric, right? I don’t have a good idea. I, I know that, you know, you probably, you would love for me to have a good one and it would really blow your listeners’ minds, right? So, yeah, I, I, I, I’m, I’m lacking answers. You know, Lee McIntyre, who, who wrote Post Truth, I’ve had him on my podcast multiple times, and.

  : You know, he, he advocates just going one-on-one with people. You know, he talks to flat Earthers and all these different people and, and, uh, you know, trying to go one by one. And, and that’s great in your social network. That’s great in trying to get your, you know, your uncle back from the Abess. Right. But yeah, like in terms of scale, um, that’s not gonna, that’s not gonna cut it clearly not gonna cut it.

[00:41:00]  : Right? I mean, our country is rapidly, like I said, the American mind is being rapidly poisoned. I, I see, I see. No way out. I’m by, by nature. I’m a pessimist. So, you know, I, but I’m desperately trying to have somebody prove me wrong  on that, on that front. Yeah, exactly.

  : David: All right. Well, I really appreciate the, uh, you know, getting a chance to talk to you.

  : I’ve really enjoyed it, and I, I appreciate you going a little long,

  : Lawrence Eppard: too. Cool, man. All right. Later.

  : David: Information literacy was mentioned often on this episode. Our partners over at Connors Forum have some excellent resources on that topic. Check it

[00:42:00]  : That is it for this episode of the Outrage Overload Podcast. For links to everything we talked about on this episode, go to outrage I’m asking you good listener to join our Facebook  listeners group. There’s a great place to get actionable ideas and resources to join. Visit outrage

  : Slash join. The sooner you do it, the sooner your ideas can help make the show better. I hope to see you there on the Facebook group. Okay, watch for a new episode in a : Lawrence Eppard: few weeks.

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