Alternative Facts, Alternative Truths – Data & Society: Points

Article by Dr. Francesca Tripodi, a sociologist and postdoctoral scholar at Data & Society Research Institute who takes an ethnographic approach to studying how partisan groups interact with media, and the role that community plays in legitimating what constitutes news and information. web page

Trump supporters are not not fact checking. They spend a significant amount of time consuming media, but they have been trained, most often by their pastors, to make their own interpretations.

Tripodi followed two communities of people to observe how they interpret media.

>Those I observed consumed a wide variety of news sources and applied their critical interrogation of the Bible to what they were reading, watching, and listening to.

> At one point during the meeting, the Pastor turned from the Bible to the new tax reform bill, where he encouraged the group to apply the same “deep reading.” The group poured over the text together, helping each other decide what it really meant rather than relying on mainstream media coverage of the bill. In that moment, I realized that this community of Evangelical Christians were engaged in media literacy, but used a set of reading practices secular thinkers might be unfamiliar with. I’ve seen hundreds of Conservative Evangelicals apply the same critique they use for the Bible, arguably a postmodern method of unpacking a text, to mainstream media — favoring their own research on topics rather than trusting media authorities.

One of tenets of the Protestant Reformation is that the laity ought to read the Bible for themselves, unfiltered/translated by clergy. Focus is on the plain words written on the page and what that means to the person reading them.

The Reformation may not have been successful if it were not for Gutenberg's printing press that made it possible to produce copies of the Bible so that laity could in fact read it themselves.

In some ways we may have a reformation taking place today in the United States. Perhaps we ought to consider it a U.S. Democratic Reformation away from Representative democracy to a Direct democracy . If this is the case then like Gutenberg's printing press, the Internet appears to be the technological advancement that is enabling this reformation.

My fear is that this is more than a mere analogy. The Protestant Reformation caused wars throughout Europe that killed many people. Ironically it was the Protestant Reformation that led to the alignment of religions and monarchies, which led to the ultimate formation of the United States. One can take the First Amendment as a consequence of the Protestant Reformation.