Category Archives: Government information

Putting a face on truth-seeking

I personally think honestly disclosing rather than hiding one’s subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism. But no journalism – from the most stylistically ‘objective’ to the most brazenly opinionated – has any real value unless it is grounded in facts, evidence, and verifiable data, Glenn Greenwald

In recent months I have spent far too much time viewing and listening to the saga unraveling in this, the Trumpian era.  One thing that has been of particular interest to me is the way in which we as viewers/listeners have come to “put a face” on those who dare to share their knowledge and, even more, their opinions.  In many cases, respected print journalists have emerged from behind the by-line to face the camera and/or microphone.

Whether it’s Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, Phil Rucker or Joy Reid, we now understand the news, in part, through the personality of the presenter.  Though this fact marks a change abhorrent to some who value journalistic objectivity above all, it is a fact of journalistic life.  To be honest, I appreciate putting a face on the skilled – and opinionated – journalists whose information and opinion I can assess  for myself.

My ultimate goal is to learn the truth.   This de-mystification of the process prompts me to ponder how these journalists locate, evaluate, and shape the information they share.  As I view or listen I match the presentation with the process;  I envision the roles of those who manage or at a minimum influence the information chain.  As the investigative journalist reports on her findings, my mind is asking how do you know that?  What resources did you use?  Who determined those resources?  Who organized it?  Who archived that information?  Who asked the questions?  How were the statistics collected?  What’s missing?  How do you know what you know?  I tend to put a face on each of the players on whom the journalist depends.

Mine is a subjective analysis of the information chain itself.  And still it’s time to put a face on what is an invisible, complex, implicit but undeniable – and ultimately very human – process.

Those who would mess with the information chain know the links all too well.  They are at the ready to hinder the flow, shape the issues, determine the players, and otherwise weaponize information.  Similarly, those who would squelch the truth are adept at determining that data are not collected, much less published, that voices are ignored, that stories are overlooked or skewed, that money talks – and is heard.  https://thinkprogress.org/trump-officials-erase-climate-data-2a4e4fe81f96/

Which is why the time has come to “put a face” on the process of information collection, interpretation, organization, preservation, distribution – all those “backroom” sorts of things that ensure that essential information moves through the information chain efficiently and effectively.  This will require more collaboration among the professionals who are the links in the chain; it will also require greater attribution.  Above all, this demands educating information consumers about the characteristics and function of the links in the information chain.

We the people, the decisions-makers in this democracy, depend on solid, verifiable information – truths – so that we are individually and collectively equipped to make good decisions in our own lives and in the life of the democracy.

Important as journalists are, their work depends on a powerful and dependable information chain that is forged by an unsung team of professionals, each responsible for a link, all responsible for the whole.  The work depends on intellectual and financial commitment.

It’s time for the professions to speak out, to demand respect – and financial support.  And it’s time for concerned citizens to understand the critical links in the information chain.  We need to put a face on the critical role and skilled work of those who gather, organize, preserve and otherwise make information accessible to journalists and other information presenters whose research, voices and visages convey that information to the public.

Fact checking after the fact is putting a band aid on misinformation.

* * *

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/advocates-sue-federal-agencies-to-obtain-lgbtq-policy-documents/ar-BBJWOAU

https://unredacted.com/2018/03/07/foia-a-colossus-under-assault/

 

 

Advertisements

Bamboozled no more…..

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.  ~ Carl Sagan

One way to come to grips with the challenge We the People face at this juncture is to frame the information crisis in an alternate context.  This repot by First Draft News is a useful tool to reorder the mental format for thinking.  One year into the Era of Our Discontent, we struggle mightily to recognize the complexity of information disorder, to recognize that the very premise is “disorder.”  We fail to recognize – or perhaps admit – that the complexity of information disorder online” starts from the premise of “disorder”.  Consider this:  https://firstdraftnews.org/coe_infodisorder/

The struggle to unravel the intent and complexities of our information state is a shared challenge:

We the People face today’s challenge with both heads and hearts.  Take just a minute to heed the words and appreciate the attitudes of these wise gentleman as they speak with both:  https://vimeo.com/253191   To read their position paper on Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression click here: https://jmp.princeton.edu/statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth ain’t goin’ away – So what do we do now?

A year ago this weekend we were inaugurating the 45th President of the US.  We were marching with pride in the Women’s March and girding our loins for what was to come.  A year ago I posted these comparatively hopeful comments. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/  Somehow I thought we would recognize and eschew the attack on truth and facts and informed citizenship that was to follow.

As the weeks and months passed, reality happened and hope faded with each proclamation, every disruption of information integrity, every political appointment, every charge that the press is the “enemy of the people,” every assault to truth that emanated from the Oval Office and environs.  The more I observed the more I admitted what a well-oiled army of deconstructionists had invaded the nation.  They came with a diabolical action plan brilliantly designed to attack the very essence of an informed democracy.  As a lifetime protagonist for a free press, an informed public and the fundamental principle of truth, I was and am cut to the proverbial quick.

In truth, hope faltered.  Though I kept writing blog posts, they were sappy – most never posted. Posted blogs were generally limited to calendars of events, posts that passed on information produced by organizations and individuals whose words and acts were braver and more articulate than my own.  Mine was silent resistance here to the insidious and methodical attack on truth.   I started to characterize this blog as Moping Around with Mary……

The anniversary of the inauguration prodded me back to Poking.  It’s clear that industry is not going to honestly address, much less solve, the onslaught of alternative facts, propaganda, foreign interference or any other strategy that cuts into corporate profits.  Consider the latest brain burst from Mark Zuckerberg: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/1611a52828318ba7

Clearly, it cannot remain to the gurus of corporate America to lead the crusade for truth.

And so I’m back to thinking and writing,  sharing on this blog, more about how it remains to us as thoughtful individuals, as institutions and as a society to “speak truth to power.”  It takes work and guts.  And yet, as the great philosopher Elvis Presley who advised us that “truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”  Though I’ll continue calendar highlights that might fall through the cracks, I’ll go back to more thought posts about basic principles of truth, the right and responsibility to know, freedom of the press and the insidious peril to this democracy.

Words matter.  Truth matters.  Ideas and opinions matter.  Inspired by the weekend Women’s March I’m determined to stop moping and return to poking around and speaking out.  My hope is to “go high” with renewed energy and commitment to truth and to the ways in which the press, education, libraries, civic discourse and individual engagement and action can keep hope alive.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~~Desmond Tutu

 

Facing the dark side of Information Power

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth-  Buddha

As we the people come to realize and celebrate the power and accessibility of good information we face the unprecedented fact that information, this nation’s uniquely renewable resource, has been brutally weaponized.

Not that anyone needs more evidence, this piece in the NYT tells the story with clarity – and a flair.  (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html?_r=1)   Wired also offers a fresh analysis of the basics in this recent article:  https://www.wired.com/story/president-trumps-lies-and-untruths/?mbid=nl_7217_p1&CNDID=44690478

And yet the fact is that the forefathers created this democracy on the fundamental premise that we the people are thoughtful, informed, educated and oriented to search for truth. Today’s clash between truths and alternative facts is cataclysmic. The good news is that the torrent of alternative facts does not drown but inspires truth seekers to resist in creative and wondrous ways.

The fact that Congress is even now taking steps to unlock the work of the Congressional Research Service is a case in point. ( https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/congress-moves-to critical-research/)  In ways too diverse and numerous to describe concerned individuals and organizations are “taking arms” to resist prevarication. Some related stories.

Clearly, this nation faces an unprecedented challenge.  Instinctively we assume that the rules of logic prevail. It helps to face the harsh reality of the dilemma, to rethink the very nature of prevarication.  Consider this thoughtful article: https://www.wired.com/story/president-trumps-lies-and-untruths/?mbid=nl_7217_p1&CNDID=44690478

One creative – and mind-expanding —  approach is to view reality through a different lens, that of the artist.  A good prompt to refocus the observational lens can be is this article published in Hyperallergic.( https://hyperallergic.com/387008/the-trump-regime/)   To peer with greater depth into the creative imaginations of several contemporary artists explore this digital display: https://hyperallergic.com/tag/drawing-in-a-time-of-fear-lies/

The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others – Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

 

Archivists challenged to look ahead for looking back

The sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history and our history in general.  Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

We live in what Harlan Cleveland dubbed a “temperocentric” world, a world that expresses ideas in fewer than 140 characters, and then moves on……

This is digital age, when thoughts expressed in 140 characters start a war, when a signature replaces a thoughtful disquisition, when Facebook and emails can be manipulated and alternative facts thrive, the work of the archivist is ever-more challenging and still more essential.

And then my thoughts rambled:  I wondered future researchers will ever know how decisions were made……. At the core is a deep concern about the implications of those tweets for government transparency and accountability?

More concerning is the degree to which the ephemeral nature of information and communication will relieve them of responsibility – culpability – for the consequences or blur the causes of their actions.]

It is cold comfort to learn that the President’s tweets are safely archived, available for researchers who will bear the burden of explaining this era:  http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com.  Still tweets, even archived tweets are of scant value.

The serious work archiving President’s papers is in the hands of archivists. abby Zimet’s article published just yesterday in Common Dreams, offers a good – actually fun-to-read– overview of one major effort to cope with the Trump archives.  https://www.commondreams.org/further/2017/05/09/lots-copies-make-stuff-safe-saving-trumps-bigly-dumb-words

Clearly, it is a mighty challenge to capture the archival record of this era, much less to assure permanent access to past public documents. In recent months archivists have welcomed the assistance of informed volunteers – archivists, librarians, researchers, historians and others concerned with preservation of real facts have met the challenge.  Though it’s a finger in the dike of information flow our nation’s recorded history is at risk.

Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today. ― Sara Sheridan

August 2017 update  -https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/2017/08/memo-future-historians-trump-presidency-good-luck-youll-need/

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/05/ex-feds-confident-comeys-devices-and-files-are-safe-even-if-fbi-wont-confirm/ 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Access to Obama Administration Archives — A priority in progress

Writing about the current President’s tweets prompted me to focus with greater interest on just what’s happening with the archives of the Obama administration.

It did not take long to appreciate that reality exceeds expectations.  With the cooperation of the Obama Administration archivists are committed to assure access to massive amounts of information by and about President Obama’s eight years in the White House.  To give some idea of the massive research possibilities: The Obama administration is providing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) with more than 250 terabytes of electronic records, including roughly 300 million emails.

NARA will start digitizing the unclassified records using a “new model” for the storage of presidential records. The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago has made a commitment to fund the digitization of all unclassified records of the Obama presidency.

In a May 3rd article in FCW, Chase Gunter describes how NARA is shifting to digital preservation strategies; Gunter writes that “henceforth the unclassified records of the Obama Administration will be archived using a new model for the storage of presidential records.  Instead of building a new site for the records they will be housed in existing NARA facilities and the agency will work on preserving and making them accessible in digital format to the greatest extent possible.” (https://fcw.com/Articles/2017/05/03/obma-records-digital-asps?p=)

Some basics re the Obama Administration archives:

March for Science – Minnesotans march to protest federal cuts

When I first posted mention of the March for Science a couple of months ago both the date and the concept seemed remote.  In recent weeks we have all learned more than we want to know about the  horrendous cuts to federal funding for science – everything from EPA to NIH to NOAA and more (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/climate/trump-budget-science-research.html?_r=0)

As a community and as a nation we experience the imperative to resist in a public way, to speak out, to stand up – and to march – essentially to remind ourselves and our nation that science matters. On Saturday, April 22, Earth Day 2017, thousands of Americans will gather in Washington, DC for a march not unlike the Women’s March in January – only warmer.

As with the Women’s March there will be satellite marches throughout the nation.  In Minnesota, a coalition of individuals from all walks of life will gather to march to the State Capitol.  Promoters of the Minnesota March say that these teachers, researchers, librarians, students, nonprofits, labor unions and faith groups share a common mission to (in the words of my high school teacher) “combat ignorance.”

The March will start at Cathedral Hill Park at 11:AM ( https://goo.gl/maps/dRjQxoPqS6Q2) with a Noon rally at the State Capitol. Marchers are encouraged to wear blue and green.  (Unlike the Women’s March, parkas, thermal underwear and boots are optional)

Learn much more here:  http://www.MarchForScienceMN.com/march

Minnesotans have a unique opportunity to learn and think about the mission of the March through a series sponsored by the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul.  All are welcome to participate in the April 8 Solidarity Saturday: Science, Not Silence discussions:  http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/solidarity-saturdays-science-not-silence/

The web offers a wealth of information about the March – background, mission, examples of proposed and current budget  cuts, and why science matters more than ever.

One source of particular relevance is PLOS, a “peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. It’s a great – and accessible – update on what’s happening in the world of science.  A recent op-ed by PLOS co-founder Harold Varmus, explores “why Trump’s NIH cuts should worry us,” Another PLOS post by Judith Reichel speaks to the relevance of the March, “Standing up for science – Now more than ever.”  More about PLOS here.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLOS_ONE

Among other resources I enjoyed are book reviews of a current popular read entitled “Rigor Mortis: How sloppy science creates worthless cures, crushes hope, and wastes billions.   Though I have yet to read the book, the reviews motivate me to dip into what seems to be accessible to this lowly liberal arts major who knows little but cares mightily about the ongoing attacks on science.

Planners provide many options for keeping abreast of and engaged in plans for the Minnesota March for Science:

Email: info@MarchForScienceMN.com
Facebook: /MarchForScienceMN
Instagram: @MarchForScienceMN
Twitter: @ScienceMarchMN
Snapchat: @ScienceMarchMN