This is an expanded version of the script I follow in teaching a one-hour class called "Information Evaluation." This class is a part of a five-class program which introduces college students to information research. This program was developed by the library faculty at Palo Alto College in San Antonio - Colby Glass


It has been said…

“You can find the answer to any question on the Web... as long as you don’t care whether the answer is right.”

Since we are beginning with evaluation of information on websites, let's look at a site:

If you were assigned a research paper and did a Web search for Martin Luther King, you would probably find this site. Does it look like a good site for information on MLK?

Click on the link JEWS AND CIVIL RIGHTS... Notice that this is an anti-semitic article by David Duke of the KKK. This is a clue that should lead you to the conclusion that this is a deceptively named hate site.

For more on this site and how to evaluate it, see Evaluating Internet Resources.

Let's look at another site:

This is a political satire site. Try the link to HOMELAND SECURITY. You will find out about the mandatory tattoo to prove you are patriotic.

Both these sites are indicative of the misleading type of information you can encounter on the Web. The fact is that anyone can put up a website. There are no editors or mediators who check what gets put up.

This is in contrast to a library, where the books you find have gone through several filters. First, books have to be of a certain quality or no publisher will spend the money to reproduce them. Second, the publisher has the facts checked by a legal department. Third, the book still doesn't get bought by a library unless there have been several good reviews of the book.

But even in a library, there may be books which contain misleading information. For instance, our college library contains a book titled The Bell Curve, which came out in 1994. It contains vast quantities of pseudo-science proving that minorities are by nature inferior in intelligence. It recommends that we should stop giving minorities welfare and other social programs because it just encourages them to breed inferior children.

Pretty repulsive. Why, then, is it in the library? Because it's publication created such a public furor that it is now on many reading lists... kind of like Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.

So, even in a library -- a sheltered environment -- you have to use judgement in what you read. You simply cannot trust anything uncritically.

"One study showed that nearly 54 percent of all statistics on the internet have no scientific basis" (, Nov. 12, 2005).
Let's return now to the subject of evaluating information on the Web. There are several actions you can take to facilitate your judging the reliability of a particular website. Let's look at another website and walk through the process of evaluating it. First let's go to our library's homepage:

Ozuna Learning Resources Center

This page was developed to help students and faculty do their work, particularly research. Notice the link on the left called WEB SUBJECT INDEX. Click on it.

This is an alphabetical index of the Web. It contains links to materials which might be of use or interest to our students and faculty. Notice the alphabet at the top. From here you can jump to the part of the alphabet you desire. Click on "C" to jump to the C section. Scroll down to CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES and click on that link.

Controversial Issues

This collection of links was created to help students assigned papers about current affairs and controversial issues. Scroll down and notice the different topics represented. Now scroll further down and click on an article titled "Doctors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S."

Doctors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

Now let's go through the process of analyzing this site for reliability...


1. Look for an “About Us” section.

Many websites explain their purpose, their origin, and their connections in a section variably called "About Us" or "About this site" or "Why Trust Us" or a number of other possible titles. See if you can find such a link on this page...

You did not find it. Taking a look at the URL in the address line at the top will tell you why. Every slash mark in the URL indicates an additional subdirectory inside the other subdirectories. You are obviously pretty far inside this site. An about us section is normally located at the home page. This page in fact has a link at the top called HOME. But what if it didn't?


2. Work back to the domain name for clues at the homepage.

There is a simple way to get back to the homepage. Simply click twice on the end of the URL in the address space at the top (You click twice to get rid of the highlight. If you allow the highlight to remain, the entire address will disappear when you touch the backspace key.) Now simply backspace until you have erased all but the first part of the URL (the part to the left of the first slash mark. In the example below you would erase the underlined part of the URL:

Now you are at the homepage. Look around. Notice if you scroll down a little on the left there are two links called "My Vision" and "My Qualifications." These tell you quite a bit about where this website is coming from. It is a doctor's website for his patients.


3. Consider the domain name extension.

The domain name is the part of the address before the first slash. In this case it is The extension is the last three letters. Dot com means it is a commercial website. A doctor's office is a business, so this is a commercial website. Can you trust a commercial site? Maybe. Most will certainly try to sell you something. Some will try to scam you.

Dot gov means it is a government site. If you trust the government, you can probably trust the site. Dot edu is an educational site. These are usually trustworthy. Dot org means it was put up by a non-profit organization.

There are also two digit extensions. These indicate the country of origin if outside the U.S. Dot ca, for instance, is Canada. Dot za is South Africa; dot de is Germany, or Deutschland.

Check out these two:



    4. Look up domain name at

    You can find out who registered the website by looking it up at

    We already know about, so let's look at Go to the WHO-IS link at the top right of the screen and click... and type in "" and then hit GO!

    You get a page with the registration information. Notice that in this case no registrant is listed. So scroll down. Notice that the administrative contact is This gives you a clue. So go to the address line and type in What you get is a white supremecist site connected to the KKK.

    You could also try installing the software, Calling ID, which shows you who owns the sites you are visiting. It can be downloaded at


    5. Look for documentation, citation of sources.

    One of the most critical things you want to see, if you are going to trust any information source, is documentation. That is, where did they get their information? Unless they are a recognized authority in the field, or they are presenting a research study, they should explain where the information came from. If they do not give a source, you have to assume that they don't know what they are talking about, they are trying to mislead you, they are lying, or they are ignorant. Any of these conditions should lead you to reject the material.

    Let's return to the article on doctors we were just looking at...

    Doctors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

    Notice that Dr. Mercola says that the article comes from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which is a respected medical journal. He also gives a link to the journal. Notice, in addition, that if you scroll to the bottom of the article you find references listed. This is exactly what you want to find. The author of this article is being completely open and honest about their material.


    6. Look up the person or organization in Google.

    If a think tank put up the website, look them up and find out whose ideas they represent. If the website was put up by a person saying they are an expert, look up their credentials and publications. If all you have is the person who registered the website, look them up.


    7. Use critical thinking on the content.

    In the end, the best way to judge a website is to use your own common sense. As you read the material, it should make sense. It should match material you have found, or can find, from other sources, such as books, journals, and experts.

    Try to get more than one source of information which says the same thing. If a website is the only source which says something, there is probably a reason.

    Let's go to another website now and practice these same methods for evaluating a site. Go to the Web Index again.

    Web Index

    Click on A and scroll down to ALTERNATIVE NEWS SOURCES.

    Alternative New Sources

    This page was developed so that students and faculty have access to news sources outside the major media which are owned by 6 major corporations and tend to be monochromatic in their news coverage. However, just like with the major news sources, you should use judgement before accepting information. Take a look at NEXUS MAGAZINE.

    Nexus Magazine

    Follow the same steps listed above. Look for an "about us" section. Look at the extension of the domain name. Look at the content of the site.

    What do you think?

    You might well conclude that this is a conspiracy theory site... or just a site which publishes some really way out stuff. In any case, you would want to be very careful about any information you found here.

    (If you want to know more about critical thinking, Go here. This is part of an online class called Information Studies. These pages on Critical Thinking are part of the course readings on thinking.)

    Let's compare a couple of websites on gun control:

    Look at Crime and Gun Control. Who is the National Center for Policy Analysis? Cut back to the domain name or homepage and read the About Us section. Look up the NCPA on Google and see what is said about them.

    Now look at Gun Control vs. Gun Rights. Who is Open Secrets? Go to their homepage and read up on who they are. Read the content -- notice on the left that they give the money involved.

    Now look at Handgun Control. Who is Jim Brady? What is the campaign mentioned on the page?

    Take a look at some of the other links listed under Gun Control in the Web Subject Index.



    Take a look at the following site:

    Beware of Bread!

    What do you think? Are you now convinced that we should make bread illegal? Probably not. This is a humorous site. But it leads us from evaluating websites to the larger subject of evaluating information in general.

    (Another example: Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide! "..colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there"

    For more examples, see the collection of links called Misleading Sites.

    Information Evaluation
    How to Spot Bogus Information

    The birth of spin…

    Edward L. Bernays, known as the “father of public relations,” developed the science of spin in the 1920s.

    Bernays argued that “people are not merely unconscious but herdlike in their thinking… remarkably susceptible to leadership” (Rampton & Stauber, 43). Hence, “the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos” (Rampton & Stauber, 42).

    For more on Bernays, click here.

    [Is this how you think of yourself?]

    Quote from him: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country” (Rampton & Stauber, 42).

    “He helped jump-start sales of bacon, a breakfast rarity until the 1920s, by enlisting a prominent doctor to solicit fellow doctors’ opinions on the salutary benefits of a hearty breakfast and by arranging to have famous figures photographed eating breakfasts of bacon and eggs” (Rampton & Stauber, 45). He also increased the popularity of bananas using similar methods.

    For more on spin, see excerpts from an interview with Noam Chomsky. Also, see more examples of spin here: Spin.

    Because of spin-masters, as well as the very human tendency to lie...

    "Now unplug from the Matrix" ("Articles." The Nation, July 19, 2004: 14).


    SEGUE: Bad information is worse than useless--it's harmful. (example of buying a used car --- salesman tells you a little old lady owned it; you buy it and what do you find out?

    There are three ways to really find out about a car:

    1. Look it up in to get its history.

    2. Have a mechanic go over it.

    3. Drive it yourself. Turn everything on to see what works. Drive it over a bumpy road and see what falls off! But a car is a physical object and relatively easy to find out about. What about all those things people tell you that aren't physical? How to you find out if they are bogus?)

    Any time you're exposed to new ideas or data, ask yourself the following questions. They will help you spot the bad stuff (BS) 90 percent of the time:



    Genuine information is always presented in concrete words and figures.

    Words that should be red flags:

    For instance, "Most Americans want freedom." What does that mean? What Americans exactly; how many? And how do they define freedom?

    More on Ambiguous Language


    Extreme confidence can reflect a concrete grasp of the facts. More often, however, extreme confidence is a sign of ignorance. Smart, educated, people have repeatedly experienced the need to change their minds based on new facts coming to their attention. This experience makes them wary of being over-sure of things. The best sign of a smart, educated person is their wish to qualify any statements they make.



    Never rely on facts if their source is not clearly stated.

    As an example, take a look at the following website:

    Is there an "About Us" section here? Are sources given?... Not really. All you can do is look at all the materials given and judge for yourself... and read up more on the subject.

    This site lists priests who have molested children. This is a very sensitive subject and we certainly want the information to be trustworthy. Notice at the top of the page he has an "about us" link. More important, however, is a link further down the page. Just above the request to submit your email address there is a link called "Important Notes on Priest Database." This page tells you where he got his information.

    IS THERE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE OR IS IT JUST A POINT OF VIEW? It's just personal opinion unless the author or speaker offers specific figures, surveys, sources, or actual cases. Anything else is unsupported assumptions.

    We devote an entire other class to documentation -- MLA and APA -- because it is so important. Your instructors want you to give credit for the sources of information you use, not just because it is legal and the morally right thing to do, but also because it gives them a reason to trust you and what you wrote

    You should demand the same standard from anyone you read or talk to. If they cannot give you sources of information, then you should go in search of information yourself, particularly if you are making a decision which is important to you.

    For instance, remember the example of the used car? You can't be certain if anything the salesman tells you is true. So how would you get information? Well, for one thing you could take the car to a good mechanic you know and have him look it over and test drive it for you. Another thing you can do is look up the history of the car on the Internet at

    You need to get the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) off of the car you are looking at. It is usually located on a metal plate on the dashboard on the driver's side (it's in the very corner and can be seen by looking through the windshield). Enter this VIN in the blank line at carfax and for a small fee they will send you the car's history.

    Remember: What are statements without documentation? Either opinions or plagiarism.

    For more on getting sources, see Sources.



    If you can add the word “all” to a phrase, it is a generalization you can dismiss.

    This is also called "stereotyping." Categorical statements about groups or individuals are rarely valid. Life comes in too many varieties.

    More on generalizations.



    Analogy assumes that because there is a relationship between two things, they must therefore be alike in every way.

    A current fad is to compare business to medieval Japanese Samurai warfare. There are SOME parallels, but many more differences. [You don’t kill people; you don’t use a sword; etc.]

    See Analogy of the Day



    If dealing with science or technology, insist on your information being recent.

    If dealing with psychology, sociology, and many other fields, the key studies in the field may be decades old. (Current studies may be so narrow as to be meaningless).

    Corollary: Forgetfulness

    The opposite of currency, is the misleading method of assuming that if things are current, they are not relevant. History does, indeed, have a lot to tell us about how things are manipulated. If we forget, then we can be manipulated again.

    For examples of forgetfulness, see the following website.

    Also, see Why History?.



    The best information comes firsthand from those who actually know whereof they speak. As with gossip, the more people it passes through on its way to you, the greater the opportunity for intentional or unintentional error.



    Advertising agencies and governments have found that if a lie, no matter how improbable, is repeated often enough, most people will start to believe it.


    Sharmistha Law, Scott A Hawkins, Fergus I M Craik. "Repetition-induced belief in the elderly: Rehabilitating age-related memory deficits." Journal of Consumer Research. Gainesville: Sep 1998.Vol.25, Iss. 2; pg. 91, 17 pgs.

    Hertwig, Ralph, Gigerenzer, Gerd, Hoffrage, Ulrich. "The reiteration effect in hindsight bias." Psychological Review. Washington: Jan 1997.Vol.104, Iss. 1; pg. 194, 9 pgs.

    Samuelson, Robert J. "The triumph of the psycho-fact." Newsweek. New York: May 9, 1994.Vol.123, Iss. 19; pg. 73.

    Begg, Ian Maynard, Anas, Ann, Farinacci, Suzanne. "Dissociation of processes in belief: Source recollection, statement familiarity, and the illusion of truth." Journal of Experimental Psychology : General. Washington: Dec 1992.Vol.121, Iss. 4; pg. 446

    Did you ever notice how often the same ads are repeated on television? If it weren't effective, advertising agencies and corporations wouldn't spend that kind of money on repetition.

    More on Repetition.



    When the public becomes hysterical or frightened, it is often because it has been manipulated by agitprop (agitational propaganda). People convinced of the myths and superstitions propounded by agitprop can become hysterical when disagreed with, asked for proof, or shown contradictory proof. The very fact that the person is hysterical or agitated indicates that they are not in a rational state of mind.

    More on Hysterical Tone



    Setting the agenda means setting up the discussion so that it is done on your terms and on your schedule.

    ex. "Why do you beat your wife?"... this question sets the agenda by assuming you beat your wife...

    ex. "Do you support our troops?" ... this assumes that if you do not agree with the person asking, then you are unpatriotic.

    More on Setting the Agenda.

    More on Framing


    10. IS IT A LIE?

    One of the most common ways to manipulate people is to just lie. Flat out lie.

    More on Lies



    Most things in this life are complicated. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to want to simplify things. This is a dangerous tendency. Try to avoid it. And be suspicious of others who do it.

    More on Simplification.



    There is a common human flaw in thinking, an inclination to depend on a "hero" to save us from problems and to solve our issues. All people, even great ones, come with flaws as well as strengths. In addition, there are very few great people. Most problems are solved by people working together, not by one great individual coming to the rescue. Yet the American people, as an example, tend to look to the President to solve problems, not the Legislature, which is really their representatives and much better qualified to address national problems.

    For more on this thinking fallacy, go to the Hero Myth page.



    Some writers, authors, and speakers are experts at massaging facts and slanting words to create misleading conclusions and support hidden agendas. But you can unmask their efforts to bamboozle, mislead, and exploit you. It's easy to spot such information manipulation every time when you know the TELLTALE CLUES: Here they are:


    a sign of manipulation:


    Information manipulators are masters at presenting only material that supports their ideas. They deliberately leave out all the inconvenient facts that contradict them.

    Noticing only the proofs that you agree with is a human tendency.

    It’s up to YOU to find the REST of the facts.


    Another sign of manipulation:


    When someone suddenly raises an issue that seems unrelated to the main subject, he or she is trying to throw you off the track.

    History in Scandinavia… to get a dog off the scent, drag a ripe fish over the trail... a "red herring."

    More on Red Herrings


    Another sign of manipulation:


    [called Ad Hominem in Philosophy – Latin for against the person] Information manipulators often resort to insulting opponents.

    More on Mud Slinging.


    Another clue of manipulation…


    When someone wants to turn off your critical faculties so you will miss important holes in their contentions, they sprinkle what they have to say liberally with emotionally laden appeals.

    [This is a particularly dangerous technique… Psychologists tell us that most people make 90% of their decisions based on emotion, not reason.]

    More on Emotionally Loaded Arguments

    More on Agit Prop


    Another clue of manipulation…


    [also called THIRD PARTY TECHNIQUE] Information manipulators love to dazzle you with endorsements from celebrities and experts. (remember Bernays popularizing bacon and bananas?)

    “ its most obvious and crude form in the television commercials that featured actors in physicians’ lab coats announcing that “nine out of ten doctors prefer” their brand of aspirin” (Rampton & Stauber, 17).

    More on Appeals to Authority

    Another third party technique is to place the conclusion you want in the mouth of a THINK TANK. A majority of think tanks are funded by special interest groups or corporations. They supply experts for news people to interview (definition of an "expert" – an ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure). For a list of Think Tanks and their affiliations, go to Think Tanks.

    More on Think Thanks


    Another clue of manipulation…


    That is, calling something by a misleading name, or even calling it the opposite of what it is.

    Example: “The Freedom Act” was really to remove freedoms for the sake of security.

    Example: “The Reagan administration.. invented the phrase “revenue enhancements” as a substitute for “taxes”” (Rampton & Stauber, 55).

    Example: “Gambling casinos prefer to call themselves the “gaming industry”” (Rampton & Stauber, 55).

    Example: “Corporations refer to failed business ventures as “nonperforming assets”” (Rampton & Stauber, 55).

    Example: “The military refers to civilian deaths as “collateral damage,” bombs as “vertically deployed antipersonnel devices,” and killing the enemy as “servicing the target”” (Rampton & Stauber, 55).

    Example: "Right to work" in Texas means you can't join a labor union and expect a decent wage and decent working conditions.

    Example: "Whining" means you are complaining and I don't care.

    Example: "War on terrorism" implies it can be won (like the war on drugs!) and that enough force and violence will fix the problem (in fact, violence usually begets more violence).

    For more on this subject, see the book by William Lutz, Doublespeak.


    More on Misleading Terminology

    War as Manipulation


    Another clue of manipulation…


    A study by the Wall Street Journal “found that more than half of [newspaper] news stories ‘were based solely on press releases’” [mostly from corporations or the military] (Rampton & Stauber, 22-3).

    More on PR as News


    Another clue of manipulation…


    Recent stories in the alternative media indicate that pharmaceutical companies are “ghostwriting” studies to support their drugs, then hiring doctors to place their names on those studies.

    Whenever independent scientific studies result in conclusions that big corporations don’t like, they “rush to sponsor a series of contrary studies” (Rampton & Stauber, 186).

    “If you want to know just how craven some scientists can be, the archives of the tobacco industry offer a treasure trove of examples… it [was] a systematic effort to pollute the scientific literature” (Rampton & Stauber, 199).

    More on Fake Science

    Related to fake science is the misuse of statistics. For more on this, see Statistical Lies.


    Another clue of manipulation…


    There are many devious ways to make a flawed argument seem to make sense. Philosophers have names for all logical fallacies -- slippery slope, ethnocentricity, conformity, oversimplification, face saving, rationalization, and many others. The thing to remember here is that it is easy to be confused. Insist on the argument being clear and straightforward. Otherwise, assume that the information manipulator is trying to put something over on you.

    Go to Logical Fallacies for a complete list of such flawed arguments.

    The best thing here is to take a course in informal logic to learn about how arguments can be turned against you.



    1. Question authority and be suspicious of your own reaction to authority.

    There is a human tendency to place too much trust in authority figures -- a "propensity for obedience" (Jacoby, Russell. "Savage Modernism." The Nation, October 13, 2003, 29).

    Classic experiment “in 1974 by Stanley Milgram, who tried to see how far people would go in following orders given by a seemingly authoritative scientist.

    The subjects of Milgrim’s research were taken into a modern laboratory and told that they would be helping conduct an experiment that involved administering electric shocks to see how punishment affected the learning process.

    The subjects were seated at a machine called a “shock generator,” marked with a series of switches ranging from “slight shock” to “severe shock.”

    Another person was designated as a “learner” and was hooked up to receive a jolt each time he gave the wrong answer on a test.

    A third individual, the “scientist,” stood over the experiment giving instructions and supervision.

    Unbeknownst to the real subjects of the experiment, both the “learner” and the “scientist” were actors, and no actual electricity was used.

    As each fake shock was administered, the “learner” would cry out in pain.

    If the subject administering the shocks hesitated, the “scientist” would say something like, “Although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on,” or “it is absolutely essential that you continue.”

    The result was that many subjects continued to administer shocks, even when the “learner” claimed heart trouble, cried out, or pleaded to be set free.

    “With numbing regularity,” Milgram observed, “good people were seen to knuckle under [to] the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. [They were] seduced by the trappings of authority” (Rampton & Stauber, 289-290).


    2. Recognize propaganda

    Remember that "public relations" was a phrase invented by Bernays to replace the unpopular word "propaganda." Propaganda is often characterized by the following:

    * Name-calling – the use of insult words
    * Use of generalities
    * Use of euphemisms
    * Third party technique
    * Plain folks technique (politicians use a lot)
    * Bandwagon – tries to persuade you that everyone else supports an idea… like the Pepsi challenge which claimed that most people preferred the taste of Pepsi.
    * Use of fear – can lead people to do things they would never otherwise consider.
    * Use of the “big lie” – “Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’s observation that “the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it”.
    * Information glut – “jamming the public with so many statistics and other information that people simply give up in despair at the idea of trying to sort it all out” (Rampton & Stauber, 294).

    More on Propaganda


    3. Pay attention to what people DO, not what they say.

    Remember how magic works. The magician gets you to look at one hand, while the other hand is where it is really happening.


    4. Beware of your tendency for self-deception.

    This is a very common human trait. Don't let it mislead you in making decisions that are important.


    5. Reconsider your own beliefs.

    How many years have you been in the public school system, absorbing their doctrine?

    Did you ever wonder why the public education system was created? It was created after the Civil War to teach children how to follow a schedule based on a clock, and work without complaining. The following quote from The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler tells the story:

    "As work shifted out of the fields and the home.. children had to be prepared for factory life. The early mine, mill, and factory owners of industrializing England discovered, as Andrew Ure wrote in 1835, that it was 'nearly impossible to convert persons past the age of puberty.. into useful factory hands.'... Built on the factory model, MASS EDUCATION taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic... Beneath [this overt curriculum, however] lay an invisible or "covert curriculum" that was far more basic. It consisted--and still does in most industrial nations--of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time.. It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning. And it demanded men and women prepared to slave away at machines or in offices, performing brutally repetitious operations" (Toffler 1980, 29).

    The following are more quotes on the same subject from A People's History of the United States. by Howard Zinn. NY: Harper & Row, 1980:

    "In the meantime, the spread of public school education [after the Civil War]... It was important that these people learn obedience to authority" (257). "This continued into the twentieth century, whem William Bagley's Classroom Management became a standard teacher training text, reprinted thirty times. Bagley said: "One who studies educational theory aright can see in the mechanical routine of the classroom the educative forces that are slowly transforming the child from a little savage into a creature of law and order, fit for the life of civilized society"" (257).

    [Note here the common confusion between SELF-discipline and EXTERNAL discipline. The necessity of inculcating external discipline came from the organization of schools as factories. There were too many students in each class for true teaching to occur, so external discipline became a convenient necessity, resulting in the destruction of independent thinking which leads to self-discipline.]

    "It was in the middle and late nineteenth century that high schools developed as aids to the industrial system, that history was widely required in the curriculum to foster patriotism" (257). [Patriotism defined as unquestioning loyalty to the policies of the elite leaders of the country.].

    It may be time, now that you are in college, to question everything that has been drilled into you by the public education system, your parents, your peers... everyone. Be critical and start thinking for yourself.



    Gudjonsson, Gisli H., Sigurdsson, Jon Fridrik. "The Relationship Of Suggestibility and Compliance With Self-deception and Other-deception." Psychology, Crime & Law; Dec2004, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p447, 7p.

    Lewis, Jerry M. "How Much Self-Deception Helps?" Psychiatric Times, Jul 2004, Vol. 21 Issue 8, p35.

    Fayers, Peter. "Lies we live by: The art of self-deception." Quality of Life Research, Aug2003, Vol. 12 Issue 5, p597.

    Patten, David. "How do we deceive ourselves?" Philosophical Psychology, Jun2003, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p229-247.

    Toffler, Alvin. The Third Wave. NY, Bantam: 1984.

    Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. NY: Harper & Row, 1980:

    More on Self Deception

    More on Myths


    5. Keep an open mind.

    This is very hard to do. Even scientists often fail to change their minds when presented with contrary facts.


    6. Don't trust first impressions.

    Psychologists say that the first thing you hear or see, you tend to believe as the truth, especially when later evidence contradicts it.


    THE ONCE-OVER CAN YOU TRUST FIRST IMPRESSIONS? By: Flora, Carlin. Psychology Today, May/Jun2004, Vol. 37 Issue 3, p60-65

    First impressions versus good impressions: The effect of self-regulation on interview evaluations. By: Nordstrom, Cynthia R.; Hall, Rosalie J.; Bartels, Lynn K.. Journal of Psychology, Sep98, Vol. 132 Issue 5, p477-492

    First Impressions. By: T.M.B.. Scientific American, Oct89, Vol. 261 Issue 4, p33-35

    First Impressions. By: Ruthen, Russell. Scientific American, Feb89, Vol. 260 Issue 2, p18, 2p

    More on First Impressions


    7. Look out for those who set the agenda.

    The news media and the government (the "bully pulpet") are the two largest and strongest agenda setters. They basically define how issues will be discussed, making some things important and other things unmentionable. This amounts to limiting how we think.

    "The news may not succeed in telling us what to think, but it does succeed in telling us what to think about: This is called agenda setting" (Jennifer Niesslein. "Labor Pains." The Nation, March 29, 2004, 32).

    More on Setting the Agenda


    8. Take a course in statistics to learn how legitimate science is done

    * Science is not a source of infallible truths
    * Science deals with uncertainty and probabilities
    * The answers to most issues are complicated, not simple
    * How data was collected should be explained
    * How data was analyzed should be explained
    * Are the results consistent with other studies performed by others?
    * Who disagrees with this study and why?


    9. Be suspicious of news stories

    * Journalists rarely verify the credentials and reliability of their sources.
    * More than half their stories are propaganda from PR agencies.

    Ex. The British Medical Journal ran a humor issue in which they faked a study that said that shaken (not stirred) martinis have beneficial anti-oxidant properties. Although BMJ repeatedly tried to tell people it was a joke, the “wire services including Reuters, Knight-Ridder, the Associated Press, UPI, and Scripps Howard” all distributed stories which appeared as straight news “in more than 100 publications, including the New York Times, Houston Chronicle, London Financial Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Seattle Times, Forbes magazine, and, of course, Playboy” (Rampton & Stauber, 308).

    More on Misleading News


    10. Think for yourself

    Plato said that the definition of a slave is someone who has ceded his self-understanding to another.

    What about YOUR beliefs? Have you evaluated everything that you believe? Josh Billings said that "It ain't what a man don't know that makes him a fool, but what he knows that ain't so." (For more on responsible thinking, see

    Let's just take one example. Not a big one like your religion, but a little one like the Pledge of Allegiance. It was created in 1892 by a preacher to brainwash children in extreme nationalism. In 1943 the Supreme Court struck down the state and local laws which required reciting the pledge, saying that the government did not have the right to coerce consent.

    "...hundreds of Jehovah's Witness children [who object to the pledge as idol worship] were expelled from schools across the country for refusing to salute the flag. Many of these children were beaten. Police in Richwood, West Virginia, forced Witnesses who refused to recite the Pledge to drink castor oil. In the wave of hostility that swept the nation following these well-publicized refusals, vigilantes castrated Witnesses in Nebraska, tarred and feathered them in Wyoming and jailed them "for their own protection" in Illinois." (Letters. The Nation, May 17, 2004: 2).

    Henry B. Gonzalez compared the pledge to the Nazi Sieg Heil! (Letters. The Nation, May 17, 2004: 19).

    Look around you the next time the pledge is said. Notice the robotic behavior of those reciting the pledge. It is a religion to them. Try talking to people about it and they will show the same irrational emotional response they show when defending their religious beliefs.


    11. Learn about the truth of history

    Some historians, like Zinn, Loewen and Parenti, tell the real (or at least until now untold) stories behind the official history. When you learn how things worked in the past, you are on your way to learning how things work right now.

    In writing about the age of the robber barons (1890 to 1920), Jonathan Hansen says that "corporate and political leaders exploited public ignorance and amnesia to divide Americans" (The Lost Promise of Patriotism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, 63).


    12. Read some of the books below for more information.

    Homework for the lab is to review these notes and to look at the web sites listed below.


    Beder, Sharon. Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1998. A comprehensive look at corporate anti-environment PR campaigns.

    Carey, Alex. Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997. Shows how corporate propaganda protects corporate power against democracy.

    Crossen, Cynthia. Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in America. NY: Touchstone Books, 1996. Shows the striking correspondence between the results obtained through published research and the financial interests of the financial sponsors of the research.

    Greider, William. Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992. How influence peddling operates in Washington.

    Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. NY: Pantheon Books, 1988. How the mass media distorts the truth and hides what’s really going on.

    Jensen, Carl. 20 Years of Censored News. NY: Seven Stories Press, 1997. All the amazing stories that never appeared in the major media.

    Kick, Russ (ed.). You are being lied to : the disinformation guide to media distortion, historical whitewashes and cultural myths. NY: Disinformation Co., 2001. A collection of essays on all aspects of disinformation.

    Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

    Lutz, William. Doublespeak: from "revenue enhancement" to "terminal living" : how government, business, advertisers, and others use language to deceive you. NY: Harper & Row, 1989.

    Mintz, Anne P. Web of Deception : Misinformation on the Internet. Medford, NJ: CyberAge Books, 2002.

    Parenti, Michael. Democracy for the Few. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. All about how the democratic ideal doesn’t always work in the United States.

    Paulos, John Allen. A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. NY: Doubleday, 1995. How numbers in the news are often misleading or just wrong.

    Rampton, Sheldon, and John Stauber. Trust Us, We’re Experts: How Industry manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future. NY: Penguin, 2001.

    Roszak, Theodore. The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994. A critique of the notion that computers can think for us and that information is equivalent to knowledge and wisdom.

    Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. You will be horrified at what is in fast food.

    Youngson, Robert. Scientific Blunders: A Brief History of How Wrong Scientists Can Sometimes Be. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1998.

    Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. NY: Harper & Row, 1980. What happened in United States history that isn’t in the history books.


    Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask, see UC Berkeley.

    Why It's Important to Evaluate Web Sites, see UC Berkeley. See the examples at the bottom which compares websites on different subjects.

    The Junk Science Home Page, see, … created by a hireling of the tobacco industry, it uses “school-yard taunts and accusations of “mindless anti-chemical hysteria, [it] routinely attacks the world’s most prestigious scientific journals” (249). He accuses them of “using unsound science to advance various political agendas” (249).

    PR Watch, see, … investigative reporting on manipulative and deceptive practices of the public relations industry.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., see Is actually a hate site developed by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

    The White House, see Is actually a satire site, making fun of the administration’s policies.

    CorpWatch, see Gives the latest news on the dirty tricks that huge corporations are committing.

    Characteristics of Critical Thinkers, see Critical Thinkers … compares the thinking habits of critical and un-critical thinkers.

    Critical Thinking Errors, see CT Errors … lists all the most common types of flawed arguments dealt with in informal logic.

    Death in a Breadbox!, see Beware of Bread! … an example of fallacious thinking.

    Evaluating Quality of Information and Websites, see Evaluating Quality … basic guidelines from this lecture.

    Evaluation Checklist for Internet Information, see Ursuline Checklist … how to differentiate good from bad information on the Web.

    Web and Information Evaluation, see Evaluation … tips for thinking critically about Web resources.

    TV, How Much Do You Know About? According to child development specialists, the average child is 6-8 years old before he or she is able to understand that the purpose of advertising is to sell a product... So why is PBS peddling products on pre-school shows like Barnie and Sesame Street?... besides children, the quiz also covers the TV media business.

    All Your Base Are Belong To Us WARNING! The information contained on this website may shock or disturb you... What you are about to see is photographic proof of a conspiracy so large and so complicated that the depth to which society is involved, and the complete story behind the facts is still unknown

    Massive Media: Facts and Figures "How a handful of companies came to exercise such control over the media is one of the astonishing stories of our time"

    Responsible Thinking/Reading "an investigation into critical thinking, the methods of science, and the problem of false beliefs"

    Analyzing Arguments and Evidence excellent summary list of hate groups on the Web

    Becoming Webwise tutorial on using the Internet

    Web of Deception a book about all the ways that you can be deceived on the Internet.

    Autodidact notes on how to teach yourself

    Critically Analyzing Information Sources
    Internet Evaluation Articles
    Evaluating Information
    Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources
    Criteria for Assessing the Quality of Web Information

    Colby Glass, MLIS