At the moment, (since our governments seem un-interested in carrying out an open review of the events surrounding Sept. 11th) it is up to us citizens to carry on the search for the truth, ourselves.
In doing so, we are confronted with a basic challenge:
How do we discern the truth, from so many conflicting stories? -some of which cannot be trusted for accuracy... and others, to varying degrees?
How do we discern solid information from soft?
Without the central source of information-gathering, (normally available to us in society, through government, police, etc.) and with the mass of the mainstream media prejiduced against an independent inquiry,
Let the following be but a contribution to a list of reminders about effective research, (and a reflection of the principles guiding the research you see before you):
In terms of social events, institutions, power... opinion becomes fact, (generally) in two ways:
by logical argument, (what "makes sense" to us personally); and,
to what extent an opinion is agreed upon by others around us.
Obviously, there are exceptions and limitations to this.
To a certain extent, logic, (like beauty) lies in the eyes of the beholder.
If something doesn't make sense to me -or appeal to my own interest- then I am not going to keep reading; yet sometimes, we can reject concepts or information which are actually worthy of our interest, agreement, (as is our nature, as imperfect beings).
This is why we study, contemplate, communicate: to learn more.
This is also why we consider the opinions of others: because they reflect the larger human condition; and the combined opinions of a certain group or society tends to offset the weaknesses, bias, or imperfections of our own, singular perception.
Thus, the collected body of opinion in a society is a significant measure of truth for us as individuals, and a fundamental test of our own opinion's value.
At the same time, however, it's also possible for the members of a society to be so profoundly mislead about certain truths, (for the social discourse to be so corrupted) that an individual who chooses not to be so misled must make certain adjustments in their/our own thinking.
They/we must sometimes be willing to "stand alone" in the midst of society, to maintain positions which are deemed "unpopular," "untrue," etc.
Yet this should not tempt us to reject the opinions of the "the many," out-of-hand; rather, we may need to translate those opinions, that they remain congruent with our convictions, whereby the notion of a unified, intelligent society, (as expression of truth) can be preserved.
An example of such a translation may be in our choosing to see the mass acceptance of a corrupt government policy as an expression of economic insecurity, fear, naivete, and propaganda -rather than a well thought-out, conscious conviction.
Obviously, in such a situation as this, we individuals run the risk of insulating ourselves from the opinions of others: of turning whatever "society" says, into an agreement with whatever we choose to see.
Such a danger cannot be helped or averted. It is the natural consequence of an unbalanced social condition, which can only be righted by the combined efforts of individuals who deny neither their own convictions, nor the conviction that the truth of all remains the ultimate test of one's own, (regardless of how distorted the expression of all may be).
While this translation may sometimes err on the side of the ideal or the convenient; while it may always be subject to review, transformation, etc. it is an essential ingredient of our willingness to verify what we hold to be true in the experience of others: to hold up our convictions to the mirror of "the many"- even as we hold up that mirror to a critical light.
Such is the dance we cannot do without.
In certain social circumstances, we may have to be satisfied to know that only one or two other people truly understand what we are trying to say, (if we are so lucky); and what makes such a momentary satisfaction real, is our willingness to ever-seek its expansion in a wider, more-inclusive dialogue.
The logical ideal, by which we organize our thoughts, to make them understandable, lyrical, or otherwise effective, may stand as the medium by which we attempt to adhere to the logical instincts within humanity as a whole; but given that the most absurd, unfounded arguments can also be made to sound, logical, reasonable, objective; and given the strength of our conviction, the ultimate test of our opinion's reality lies in our willingness to do...
By referencing our work, (opinion) to that of others, this does not necessarily mean that showing more voices in agreement with ours means it is more true.
Often, it is a matter of finding credible voices, which carry the weight of many other voices with them; conversely, it's often only after sifting through a large amount of material/opinion that the credible voices start clearly speaking to our ears.
Quantity of data alone is not sufficient, of course; an over-reliance on quantity can tire even the resolute reader; we must strive to be -and to look for- writers who can present substantial quantity with a simplicity of presentation.
Style too, and readability can suffer, when we reference our work: an ongoing challenge, this remains.
By giving accurate references, as to where we have gotten our information, we allow the reader to judge the value of that information for themselves; for clearly, there are other considerations to a claim of "fact" than the "fact" alone.
Credibility of Source
In general, first-hand experience is more-credible than second or third; and opinions of trained experts in a particular field are more substantive than novices.
Yet there are exceptions.
Those who experience an event first-hand may be so drawn into it, emotionally, that they are unable to see the external causes, (background circumstance, causes) with equal precision; thus, while the validation of an occurrence still stands, one’s capacity to draw the meaningful conclusions may demand an extra level of scrutiny.
In a similar vein, experts within a certain field tend to have the opinions most relevant to events and issues pertaining to it; and it’s also true that those with specialized knowledge can be so blinded to the broader consequences of their viewpoint, that they retard a meaningful understanding.
Many are the examples of medical doctors, chemists, nuclear engineers who justify or downplay hazardous practices and programs, while hiding behind a wealth of statistical data.
Further: simply because some television personality calls someone an "expert" doesn’t automatically make them one.
Another relevant component of "credibility" is access.
Generally, mainstream media sources with a lot of financial resources and government connections have a certain "credibility" that lower-budget sources do not; that is, they are able to get to the sources of influence, and/or insure on-the-scene reporting.
We know, however, (from our experience with the mainstream) that the more-powerful institutions often ignore or even cover-up details which may conflict with their corporate/establishment bias. It is more often the smaller, independent sources which consistently dig for the truth, (though such trustworthy voices are still often hard to find, in a media landscape awash with small-scale sensationalists, and big-time wannabees).
When critically assessing government, corporations, and other centers of influence, it makes sense not to base our larger analysis on mainstream sources; yet those sources are often an essential component to critical research –because of their access, and also precisely because of their tendency to tout the government line.
That is, when we find an article in a mainstream publication that gives evidence to a critical analysis of government, it is often in spite of that source’s best intentions.
They may feel compelled to report on a controversial subject, as a kind of pre-emptive strike, (to deflect critical opinion) or at ease to report on something rather routine –without realizing the significance of that fact, to those who see it from a different angle.
In such an instance, where "they" and "we" do not agree on what the facts mean, the facts themselves tend to stand more-alone, naked, less-adorned, than do the shades of "opinion."
Even the most brazenly-apologetic mainstream source has to speak the truth some of the time, in order to maintain access-credibility, (and sell advertising space). It remains for us to find the story within the evidence of the story.
Having said this, of course, it would be a mistake for us to base ourselves solely on referencing our work to the opinions and experience of others; for
journalists can (and do) line up an impressive array of "opinions" to give the appearance of a debate, when, in fact, they are all carefully orchestrated to support a single point of view, (usually the government’s).
Nor should we attempt to be absolutely objective in this process, or avoid taking sides. It’s sufficient that we present the other point of view as a reference to our criticism, and let the reader decide how well our underlying bias is grounded in objective reality.
In a serious investigation, the dilemma remains that, we can overlook no piece of reporting, or evidence –out of hand- for it may become relevant later on; yet it’s also problematic for us to base our search for truth solely on the information we provide, (i.e. the amount of it).
There is a saying that may be appropriate: "less is more."
There is no limit to the amount of information that can be placed before a mind to ascertain the simplest thing.
In of itself, information is simply dis-empowering, disheartening... enticing us into an endless sea of questions, with no way to the simplicity that true understanding reveals.
We need to be able to discern the most relevant data from the secondary; and to do this, we need to be able to turn to the heart, the gut, the inner voice –not as a replacement for the mind, but as its corrective companion.
It is this inner voice which allows us to turn off the TV, the computer, the mental chatter, the external gab, (when we need to) and let the evidence find its measure of relevance in the weight of our whole, living BEING.
To summarize, it seems that for our research to be credible, we must base our work primarily on it being well-referenced, (to credible sources); and second, on being both logically explained, and heartfelt.
As often as is possible, we should reference a statement of fact to a particular first-hand (or media) source, and we should also reference where we got that statement from, (if we got it from another source, such as on the internet).
Although statements of opinion and logic still hold their own, intrinsic value, that value is ultimately limited, unless it is accompanied by a reference to the source of evidence supporting it.
Here now is a listing of the main internet sources I have thus far used in my research, (a few which I have avoided) and some thoughts on how I have approached them.
Naturally, this is just a beginning. I do not claim this to be an exhaustive list.
I merely present them, so that you can be in the best position –to assess my outlook according to your own.
I have found it rare for authors to consistently reference their statements of fact to specific authors and publications; those that do, tend to focus in one small area of a subject in order to establish what may be generally called "proof," or "hard evidence."
It seems to be a sign of real investigative work that progress comes by slow, steady effort -needing to take into account the doubts and alternative possibilities that may arise in the minds of many possible observers.
While it's also necessary to combine this with an overview of the larger picture, generalizations are not the foundation of a real investigation.
Numerous articles and sources tend to have references to one or two pieces of evidence; then proceed to make wild, bold statements without a reference to the source. Credibility thus quickly diminishes, (though portions may still be useful).
Some sites can have credible contributions mixed in with a lot of junk –which has the effect of discrediting the good stuff, and making the weak stuff more-absorbable.
At the same time, inconsistent sites can also reveal important material, links, etc –if we are able to make the distinctions, sift through, and find them.
Ultimately, the possibility ever remains: whether a once reputable source may eventually become a source of dis-information –either through unconscious bias, or conscious design.
That an author might end up twisting what was once valuable evidence, (into some narrow theory) cannot be helped; this doesn’t discredit that evidence, if we can find credible references to it elsewhere.
A word may also be said here about the "left" and "right" sides of the political spectrum.
Without getting into a lengthy analysis of what "left" and "right" means... there are elements within both communities which offer a radical and relevant criticism of the modern state.
In general, the "left" approaches this from the viewpoint of the dis-enfranchised, (workers, minorities, women, the poor); while the "right" approaches it from the viewpoint of individual and local sovereignty –against "big government."
Out of these two basic positions develop the sometimes opposing, sometimes agreeing critiques of economics, foreign-policy, gun-control, corruption, etc.
In order to gain a full spectrum of all the available, relevant information, (from both right and left) we may need to sometimes by-pass and disregard information alongside that is skewed, uninformed, or even absurd.
Judge for yourself: