On getting your news.

Dear Coquette,

Where do you get your news? Growing up, I watched both my siblings reach a phase where they realized that the major news resources are heavily biased, so they jumped to the independent, conspiracy-theory-laden end of the spectrum and started eating it up just because it was different. As a result, I checked out altogether. I figured all news is biased, so why bother?

I know I’m not exactly helping the situation by asking someone else to spoon-feed me a news source I can trust, but I’m 22, and I’m tired of feeling sheltered and stupid. I don’t want to be willfully ignorant, but I know I’m naive and don’t have the critical thinking skills or instincts to know when a reporter is full of crap. I’m afraid that I’m the type to mindlessly buy whatever I’m told. How do I get my head out of my ass?

Congratulations. The very fact that you’re tired of feeling sheltered and stupid means you’ve already pulled your head out of your ass. The real trick now is to make sure you don’t shove it up someone else’s by blindly trusting any spoon-fed news source. 

Instead, you have to start trusting your own capacity for rational thought. Learn how to analyze the media. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Check sources. Most importantly, don’t get distracted by a little bias. Media bias is harmless when you can spot it, so quit whining about your naïveté and sharpen those critical thinking skills.

If you need a jumping-off point for becoming an independent thinker in the face of mass media, go pick up copies of “Manufacturing Consent” by Noam Chomsky, “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan and “Letters to a Young Contrarian” by Christopher Hitchens.

Read them, reread them and then read them again. They may frustrate you at first, but don’t give up. Every time you hit an unfamiliar reference, light up Google and learn something. Remember, it’s not about what to think. It’s about a way to think.

I promise, you are capable of clear and independent thought. You don’t need to be spoon-fed anything. Once you trust in your own ability to analyze the media, you will be able to consume any source of news, chew it up, and spit out all the bias and bullshit.


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