Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Rush Limbaugh taught me about research

In High School I was a Dittohead (Rabid Rush Limbaugh Fan), raised in a good Lutheran home watching the 700 Club. I was also a computer geek, well versed in the ways of DOS.

During college I heard an episode of the Rush Limbaugh show where he was talking about the antitrust case then pending against Microsoft. I knew the issues inside and out, so I was excited to hear Rush's take.

Rush went on to talk about being a Mac user and how people were all upset that there was a Microsoft utility on his Mac that he'd installed but never used. He then proceeded to paint the entire issue as being about people installing Microsoft software on their computers of their own accord. He went on to completely ignore the actual issues raised in the antitrust case and instead paint a fanciful and inaccurate vision of the issue. His vision, which I would later learn was a perfect example of a straw man argument, was easy to mock and debunk, which he proceeded to do.

I realized that Rush was one of two things:

1. A liar trying to discredit Microsoft's detractors.
2. A moron with no understanding of the issue who insisted on pretending to be an expert.

Neither option appealed to me. Both interpretations meant Limbaugh was a manipulative fraud more interested in his pocketbook than in accuracy. I began to critically evaluate everything he said, researching the topics on my own. I soon realized that Limbaugh was not to be trusted. He was either lying to promote an agenda or was too lazy to do any research past collecting a few tidbits that could be twisted to support his existing beliefs. Research, I realized, was critical. You need to evaluate not just the sources that you agree with, but the ones you find objectionable. There's no such thing as a bias free news source, although some try to achieve that goal. Sticking to one source however will just ensure you only get the news with that particular bias, that you'll only ever see things from one, often censored, viewpoint.

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