In an age of anarchy, we need to pull ourselves together before we tear each other apart.
Number 6 in the picture above was quite a young man, and he is person #2 of people everyone should know.
That photograph is part of a ground-breaking and iconic experiment conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch.
The young man is a subject in that milestone experiment.
Numbers 5 and 7 were only pretending to be subjects, but were confederates of the experimenter.
The experiment was simple: there were a series of lines with another line drawn away from those, and the subjects had to state which line in the series was the same height as the test line.
What subjects didn’t realize was that the confederates would be deliberately stating that an absurdly wrong line was the same height.
The purpose of the experiment was to see whether the real subjects would break away from the group’s lunatic choice (which would be the correct answer), or would they go along knowing the wrong answer, but appeasing the group by going along with the stupid choice.
Most test subjects went along with the wrong choice.
But Number 6, our hero, stood his ground throughout the entire experiment.
Which wasn’t easy because the fake subjects were putting on the pressure, but Number 6 would not back down.
He did get defensive, telling the experimenter he had to “call them as [he] sees them.”
That’s what a media skeptic does: calls them as she sees them.
A media skeptic is not someone who distrusts facts.
But insists that facts must be independently verified with primary sources.
In other words, show me the research.
If a line is not equal to the test line, the media skeptic will call it out.
Opinions and peer pressure is irrelevant.
A media skeptic embraces seeing reality and truth.
A media skeptic also understands that perceptions do not always align with reality, but there are ways of accounting for differences.
We must test.
We must experiment.
We must compare.
We must contrast.
We must test.
We must challenge.
We must verify.
We must reflect.
We must analyze.
We must question.
We must reason.
We must double-check.
Facts are our most precious resource, and yet we have lost respect for that beautiful atom of knowledge.
For a new kind of journalism to emerge, skepticism must be at the forefront of its process.
It is a form of radical centrism: becoming a spirit level as we measure ideological influences as we square it with truth and reality, all while being aware of how interpretation and perceptions add to the mix.
We need information. The world is starving for it. For all of its bluster, bravado, and hype, the Internet has feeding the world junk food, slowly closing the arteries of the information stream.
And the world truly deserves better than that.