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Author Topic: NYT: don't think critically!  (Read 539 times)

Null42

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NYT: don't think critically!
« on: February 19, 2021, 09:32:25 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

So some of you may be old enough to remember when they taught you to 'question authority' and 'think critically' and the like.

No more! According to the NYT, because people are believing silly things, instead of trying to figure out the truth they should check approved sources and...Wikipedia.

Sometimes I wonder who won the Cold War.

oggsmash

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2021, 01:02:20 AM »
Yeah its bad, especially when they use stormfront as some sort of possible brain washing methodology for an average person. 

Ghostmaker

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2021, 08:07:38 AM »
As I have remarked before, now that a Democrat is in office dissent is now suddenly unpatriotic.

Pat

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2021, 08:49:29 AM »
They touch on some valid points, but they don't really address them in any depth. For instance, it's very hard to critically analyze information on many complex topics, without a very deep understanding. A good example is climate change, which is based on computer models that have been adjusted to fit the data. Are they legit? I have no idea, and neither does anybody who lacks a full graduate level education in that narrow specialty.

We can't make fully informed, critical decisions on most topics. We can follow the basic reasoning and recognize some obvious discrepancies, but we lack sufficient context and background information to determine for ourselves whether the reasoning is solid and the discrepancies are real or illusory. We can follow lead and after lead, verifying more and more supporting information, and still have only scratched the surface. So ultimately, we have to trust a source based on a degree of faith rather than on reasoning from first principles.

But their answer, when we tunnel past the coy phrases like "lateral reasoning", is to trust the mainstream narrative. Which they frame as a choice between an encyclopedia that at least has some pretense at objectivity, and an extremist website explicitly promoting highly offensive ideas. But we already assess data based on the reliability of sources. We know that Wikipedia is more trustworthy than Stormfront. That's not a novel insight.

The advice to check an unknown site's credibility before delving too deep is a solid one, and it sounds like it's a major failing of the Stanford students in the study. Though that's less damning than they imply, because even young adults admitted to elite schools are still learning the skills of critical thinking.

But it's only the first step. The article makes a classic mistake, which can be illustrated by a single quote: "[the advice is] designed for casual news consumers, not experts or those attempting to do deep research. A reporter working on an investigative story or trying to synthesize complex information will have to go deep."

No. A reporter spending a week or two investigating an article (I'm being generous; the typical article probably involves only a few hours of research) is not an expert. They're just someone who has followed a few more leads. The article talks the rabbit hole, but doesn't recognize that's exactly what journalists fall into: Spending a couple extra hours, or a few weeks, researching a subject in which you lack the basic fundamentals doesn't mean you've uncovered an objective truth. Even reporters who spend their entire careers writing on a topic are rarely experts in the subject, because they're trained in writing and asking questions, not in the field itself. But by going a little further, by putting in the time, they've convinced themselves they are experts. That people should listen to them, in their sagacious profundity.

Dammit, people should listen to them. That's what the article is really saying. They've fallen for all the traps they're decrying, and are convinced that they and their peers are objective arbiters of truth, and the problem is people aren't listening them as much as they used to.

But that's garbage, because anyone with a background in a relatively hard scientific field, and the popular reporting on it, knows how bad it can get. It's even worse, in the softer sciences, and I'm guessing it's completely garbage in the humanities.

While it's difficult to fairly analyze information from unfamiliar fields, or fields where we have light or tangential expertise (which can often fool us into thinking we have the knowledge we need to make an informed assessment, when we don't), most of us have areas where we are experts. What happens when we notice that the mainstream sources are sometimes blatantly wrong, in the areas where we are experts? And that they've been have been getting worse and worse, presenting less solid information and getting more and more biased, over time?

The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Mistwell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2021, 01:20:08 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

So some of you may be old enough to remember when they taught you to 'question authority' and 'think critically' and the like.

No more! According to the NYT, because people are believing silly things, instead of trying to figure out the truth they should check approved sources and...Wikipedia.

Sometimes I wonder who won the Cold War.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.

2. Investigate the source.

3. Find better coverage.

4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

shuddemell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2021, 01:31:30 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

So some of you may be old enough to remember when they taught you to 'question authority' and 'think critically' and the like.

No more! According to the NYT, because people are believing silly things, instead of trying to figure out the truth they should check approved sources and...Wikipedia.

Sometimes I wonder who won the Cold War.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.

2. Investigate the source.

3. Find better coverage.

4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

Except virtually all sources can be shown to have lied on multiple occasions, even the fact checkers. SO any judgement you have on the veracity of a media source is suspect from the beginning. Without on the ground video or audio, it is all hearsay, and while that can guide you in your search for the truth, it certainly will NOT be the truth itself. So, as this alludes to, searching for the truth is a process that is never complete.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of the expertsRichard Feynman

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.Nikola Tesla

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.Bruce Lee

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.Marcus Aurelius

For you see we are aimless hate filled animals scampering away into the night.Skwisgaar Skwigelf

jhkim

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2021, 02:50:17 PM »
The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Saying "don't believe anything", though, is effectively just saying "believe your preconceptions". I think that just intensifies the trend of people believing in whatever fits their political beliefs.

The media has always been untrustworthy. If anything, the Internet Age has restricted the media's ability to tell complete lies - but conversely, it has also increased their motivation to tell sensational half-truths, because they have to compete with social media in outrage and clickbait. I think the main shift from the past is that the media used to be more unified, but now increasingly there are separate sources based on what people want to hear -- especially social media which feeds many different sides whatever will get them the most outraged and addicted.

I think it's a good general rule to pay less attention to (for example) unsourced social media posts, and more attention to sourced material that has been reviewed in detail by other sourced, reputable people.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.
2. Investigate the source.
3. Find better coverage.
4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

Except virtually all sources can be shown to have lied on multiple occasions, even the fact checkers. SO any judgement you have on the veracity of a media source is suspect from the beginning. Without on the ground video or audio, it is all hearsay, and while that can guide you in your search for the truth, it certainly will NOT be the truth itself. So, as this alludes to, searching for the truth is a process that is never complete.

There is a fixed, absolute reality. Just because no source is perfect, that doesn't mean that every source is the same. Some sources are much better than others. Sure, fact checkers have lied -- but they generally present their sources and give links explaining what information is where, and what sources say what. They at least present their cases in a rigorous fashion.

Shasarak

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2021, 02:53:12 PM »
Was this the same guy who looks at Wikipedia to do his "fact checking"

 ???
"There can be no middle ground with bigots. Bigots want to deny the rights and livelihood of people different from them. They want them to cease existing, either by going underground or by murdering them. There is no "let's meet in the middle" with that. To suggest there can be is ignorance" RPGNet

Shasarak

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2021, 02:55:10 PM »
Sure, fact checkers have lied -- but they generally present their sources and give links explaining what information is where, and what sources say what. They at least present their cases in a rigorous fashion.

So whats your limit to the number of times your "fact checkers" lie?
"There can be no middle ground with bigots. Bigots want to deny the rights and livelihood of people different from them. They want them to cease existing, either by going underground or by murdering them. There is no "let's meet in the middle" with that. To suggest there can be is ignorance" RPGNet

shuddemell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2021, 03:09:40 PM »
The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Saying "don't believe anything", though, is effectively just saying "believe your preconceptions". I think that just intensifies the trend of people believing in whatever fits their political beliefs.

The media has always been untrustworthy. If anything, the Internet Age has restricted the media's ability to tell complete lies - but conversely, it has also increased their motivation to tell sensational half-truths, because they have to compete with social media in outrage and clickbait. I think the main shift from the past is that the media used to be more unified, but now increasingly there are separate sources based on what people want to hear -- especially social media which feeds many different sides whatever will get them the most outraged and addicted.

I think it's a good general rule to pay less attention to (for example) unsourced social media posts, and more attention to sourced material that has been reviewed in detail by other sourced, reputable people.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.
2. Investigate the source.
3. Find better coverage.
4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

Except virtually all sources can be shown to have lied on multiple occasions, even the fact checkers. SO any judgement you have on the veracity of a media source is suspect from the beginning. Without on the ground video or audio, it is all hearsay, and while that can guide you in your search for the truth, it certainly will NOT be the truth itself. So, as this alludes to, searching for the truth is a process that is never complete.

There is a fixed, absolute reality. Just because no source is perfect, that doesn't mean that every source is the same. Some sources are much better than others. Sure, fact checkers have lied -- but they generally present their sources and give links explaining what information is where, and what sources say what. They at least present their cases in a rigorous fashion.

No actually there is not a fixed, absolute reality, at least not one anyone is privy to with our limited faculties (that is another discussion), since our perceptions are subjective. Some "reality" can be verified by testing, but a lot not, and they rely on this very fact to hoodwink their audience. They know a lot of what they say is unverifiable. That being said, sure there are those sources who provide good sourcing, and I pay more attention to those than social media, but I also pay attention to who is paying the bill and what they have to gain from their slant on the "narrative." The fact that the term "narrative" (the story they made up) has become a stand in for "their truth", it's no suprise that we are where we are politically and socially. I am not saying you can't get information from a source, but rather a single source is always suspect, especially when it relies on an interpretation of the data. And no, fact checkers usually neither present their case in a rigorous fashion nor in a politically or socially unbiased one. How many errors (or lies) are acceptable? How much corroboration is needed?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2021, 03:17:19 PM by shuddemell »
Science is the belief in the ignorance of the expertsRichard Feynman

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.Nikola Tesla

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.Bruce Lee

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.Marcus Aurelius

For you see we are aimless hate filled animals scampering away into the night.Skwisgaar Skwigelf

shuddemell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2021, 03:23:31 PM »
They touch on some valid points, but they don't really address them in any depth. For instance, it's very hard to critically analyze information on many complex topics, without a very deep understanding. A good example is climate change, which is based on computer models that have been adjusted to fit the data. Are they legit? I have no idea, and neither does anybody who lacks a full graduate level education in that narrow specialty.

We can't make fully informed, critical decisions on most topics. We can follow the basic reasoning and recognize some obvious discrepancies, but we lack sufficient context and background information to determine for ourselves whether the reasoning is solid and the discrepancies are real or illusory. We can follow lead and after lead, verifying more and more supporting information, and still have only scratched the surface. So ultimately, we have to trust a source based on a degree of faith rather than on reasoning from first principles.

But their answer, when we tunnel past the coy phrases like "lateral reasoning", is to trust the mainstream narrative. Which they frame as a choice between an encyclopedia that at least has some pretense at objectivity, and an extremist website explicitly promoting highly offensive ideas. But we already assess data based on the reliability of sources. We know that Wikipedia is more trustworthy than Stormfront. That's not a novel insight.

The advice to check an unknown site's credibility before delving too deep is a solid one, and it sounds like it's a major failing of the Stanford students in the study. Though that's less damning than they imply, because even young adults admitted to elite schools are still learning the skills of critical thinking.

But it's only the first step. The article makes a classic mistake, which can be illustrated by a single quote: "[the advice is] designed for casual news consumers, not experts or those attempting to do deep research. A reporter working on an investigative story or trying to synthesize complex information will have to go deep."

No. A reporter spending a week or two investigating an article (I'm being generous; the typical article probably involves only a few hours of research) is not an expert. They're just someone who has followed a few more leads. The article talks the rabbit hole, but doesn't recognize that's exactly what journalists fall into: Spending a couple extra hours, or a few weeks, researching a subject in which you lack the basic fundamentals doesn't mean you've uncovered an objective truth. Even reporters who spend their entire careers writing on a topic are rarely experts in the subject, because they're trained in writing and asking questions, not in the field itself. But by going a little further, by putting in the time, they've convinced themselves they are experts. That people should listen to them, in their sagacious profundity.

Dammit, people should listen to them. That's what the article is really saying. They've fallen for all the traps they're decrying, and are convinced that they and their peers are objective arbiters of truth, and the problem is people aren't listening them as much as they used to.

But that's garbage, because anyone with a background in a relatively hard scientific field, and the popular reporting on it, knows how bad it can get. It's even worse, in the softer sciences, and I'm guessing it's completely garbage in the humanities.

While it's difficult to fairly analyze information from unfamiliar fields, or fields where we have light or tangential expertise (which can often fool us into thinking we have the knowledge we need to make an informed assessment, when we don't), most of us have areas where we are experts. What happens when we notice that the mainstream sources are sometimes blatantly wrong, in the areas where we are experts? And that they've been have been getting worse and worse, presenting less solid information and getting more and more biased, over time?

The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Well said and on point.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of the expertsRichard Feynman

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.Nikola Tesla

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.Bruce Lee

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.Marcus Aurelius

For you see we are aimless hate filled animals scampering away into the night.Skwisgaar Skwigelf

Mistwell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2021, 04:22:05 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

So some of you may be old enough to remember when they taught you to 'question authority' and 'think critically' and the like.

No more! According to the NYT, because people are believing silly things, instead of trying to figure out the truth they should check approved sources and...Wikipedia.

Sometimes I wonder who won the Cold War.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.

2. Investigate the source.

3. Find better coverage.

4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

Except virtually all sources can be shown to have lied on multiple occasions, even the fact checkers. SO any judgement you have on the veracity of a media source is suspect from the beginning. Without on the ground video or audio, it is all hearsay, and while that can guide you in your search for the truth, it certainly will NOT be the truth itself. So, as this alludes to, searching for the truth is a process that is never complete.

It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be much better on average. The idea that, if a source has ever lied, then everything from the must be suspect is frankly nonsense. That's not how life functions. We all know InfoWars and DailyKos are less reliable than Wall Street Journal and USA Today, even though WSJ and USA Today have gotten things wrong before. It's not "all hearsay" if it comes from a generally more reliable source. Most of it is legit, and we're savvy enough with the Internet these days to be able to figure out when something smells fishy or not. But for fucks sake, let's stop giving the bullshit clickbait sites our clicks when we know those sources are garbage more often than not.

Pat

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2021, 04:24:16 PM »
The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Saying "don't believe anything", though, is effectively just saying "believe your preconceptions". I think that just intensifies the trend of people believing in whatever fits their political beliefs.

The media has always been untrustworthy. If anything, the Internet Age has restricted the media's ability to tell complete lies - but conversely, it has also increased their motivation to tell sensational half-truths, because they have to compete with social media in outrage and clickbait. I think the main shift from the past is that the media used to be more unified, but now increasingly there are separate sources based on what people want to hear -- especially social media which feeds many different sides whatever will get them the most outraged and addicted.

I think it's a good general rule to pay less attention to (for example) unsourced social media posts, and more attention to sourced material that has been reviewed in detail by other sourced, reputable people.
I'm not saying believe your preconceptions. What I'm saying is quite literally the opposite of "believe": I'm telling people to be a lot less certain about their conclusions.

And yes, the media has always been untrustworthy. But that's like taking the current measurement of the speed of light, and comparing it to Romer's estimates in the 17th century, and saying "measurements have always been uncertain." That's true, but there's a difference between being off by about 30%, and being correct to about 10 digits of precision.

That's the situation we're in now, except precision has been declining. Because of a complex feedback loop with numerous factors, including the decline of print circulations, the rise of advocacy journalism, the rise of the internet, clickbait advertising, the death of the fairness doctrine, the continued polarization of cutlure, the tipping point where a conservative minority in academia and downstream professions like journalism essentially vanished, the spread of echo chambers, the merging of opinion and fact-based reporting, cancel culture, the weaponization of language, the rise of fact checking, and more, the mainstream media has become much, much less reliable than they were in earlier decades. The decline started in the 1990s, and accelerated from the aughts to today.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2021, 04:49:49 PM by Pat »

shuddemell

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2021, 05:15:02 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

So some of you may be old enough to remember when they taught you to 'question authority' and 'think critically' and the like.

No more! According to the NYT, because people are believing silly things, instead of trying to figure out the truth they should check approved sources and...Wikipedia.

Sometimes I wonder who won the Cold War.

Hyperbole of the headline notwithstanding, his actual advice is sound:

1. Stop.

2. Investigate the source.

3. Find better coverage.

4. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

I agree with this. Reading a source you know lies isn't often helpful. Reading a more reliable source for the same information is often a better use of your time for critical thinking.

Except virtually all sources can be shown to have lied on multiple occasions, even the fact checkers. SO any judgement you have on the veracity of a media source is suspect from the beginning. Without on the ground video or audio, it is all hearsay, and while that can guide you in your search for the truth, it certainly will NOT be the truth itself. So, as this alludes to, searching for the truth is a process that is never complete.

It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be much better on average. The idea that, if a source has ever lied, then everything from the must be suspect is frankly nonsense. That's not how life functions. We all know InfoWars and DailyKos are less reliable than Wall Street Journal and USA Today, even though WSJ and USA Today have gotten things wrong before. It's not "all hearsay" if it comes from a generally more reliable source. Most of it is legit, and we're savvy enough with the Internet these days to be able to figure out when something smells fishy or not. But for fucks sake, let's stop giving the bullshit clickbait sites our clicks when we know those sources are garbage more often than not.

No, better than average isn't good enough considering the point to which the average has fallen. I never said it must be perfect, I suggested you much be suspicious of virtually all sources and as a result, as Pat points out, you need to be far less sure of your conclusions. Do you know the definition of hearsay? One such definition is "The report of another person's words by a witness, which is usually disallowed as evidence in a court of law." Which really means all news is hearsay unless there is video or audio. Some hearsay is more reliable than others, but if you got your news from someone else, a reporter or your friend, technically it is hearsay. What I mean by that is simple, you are taking someone else's word as the truth with little more than a masthead to convince you of its reliability. I trust some of your reliable sources as much as I trust your ability to determine its truth by its fishy aroma.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of the expertsRichard Feynman

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.Nikola Tesla

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.Bruce Lee

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.Marcus Aurelius

For you see we are aimless hate filled animals scampering away into the night.Skwisgaar Skwigelf

jhkim

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Re: NYT: don't think critically!
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2021, 07:53:04 PM »
The correct assessment isn't to put even more trust in mainstream sources, and to ignore fringe sources. No, the correct assessment is to treat Stormfront as garbage, but to also to downgrade our assessment of the reliability of mainstream sources.

This is a bad result. It doesn't get us to true answer any more reliably. It means it's really hard to know what's true anymore, because the media is untrustworthy. But that's the world we live in, and pretending otherwise is buying into an illusion.

Saying "don't believe anything", though, is effectively just saying "believe your preconceptions". I think that just intensifies the trend of people believing in whatever fits their political beliefs.
I'm not saying believe your preconceptions. What I'm saying is quite literally the opposite of "believe": I'm telling people to be a lot less certain about their conclusions.

On reflection, I agree about this. Too many people are completely hardened into their conclusions, especially because it fits their politics. It's hard to find anyone willing to discuss political issues with an open mind these days.

My concern is that the message of not trusting media won't make people less certain of their conclusions and more open-minded. I suspect that many will take it as confirmation of their beliefs, and harden further.