Asking questions and getting answers may nor may not mean anything

"By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."         Oscar Wilde

About a week ago, national news shows were reporting that 80% of Americans were against a strike against Syria.  Just yesterday, I saw on TV that 50% of Americans are against a strike agains Syria, 42 % are for a strike and 8% are undecided.   I do not know enough and I am not psychic nor omniscient.  How am I qualified to have an opinion on this topic?

Who are these people who hold opiinions pro or con on Syria?  Where did they get their information?  How do they know the information is accurate?  Does the source of the information have a bias or an agenda?

The last statement I read/heard that seemed reasonable was that who launched the sarun gas against the civilians, children, women, the elderly, is UNKNOWN.  Was it the government lead by Assad?  Was it one of the rebel groups? If so, which one?

It is undeniable that the photos that have been released show corpses of children.  Videos show people suffering pain. The UN inspectors  report that Sarin gas has been released on the people of Syria---but even the inspectors are not sure who possessed the toxin nor who released it.

Of course, many people are against war--period, and that is usually a legitimate position.  But, what if we had not entered WWII?  When is war justified?  Necessary?

How many times has your phone rung and a stranger asks "How are you?  I am XYZ.  Are you willing to answer some questions regarding_____?" (fill in the blank)  They do not ask if you know anything about the subject being polled.  And they certainly do not care how you are!

I usually say that I am not willing to answer the poll questions, but a couple of weeks ago the call was about Oil "development" in North Dakota including the fracking and the flaring.   I thought I might know enough on this topic to have a valid opinion.  I have lived in ND all but 5 years of my life.  I have vivid memories of loud oil men wearing Stetsons and cowboy boots, speaking with Texas accents, as they went from table to table in the GP Hotel restaurant at lunch time, making deals and impressing each other.

 My father bought and sold mineral rights during the first oil rage, and he took me to Tioga when I was about 14 to see the flaring, and to visit a rig.  He was outraged at the waste of the natural gas being flared.  He was born in Bismarck and remembered the first test wells drilled in the 20's and 30's and the reports that there was no oil.  However, some of the oil comopanies continued to lease at bargain rates before they miraculously discoverd oil in the 1950's.  I thought I might know enough to answer the questions.

I agreed..

As the questions proceeded, it becamse apparent that 1) the gentleman who was asking the questions knew nothing about the topic nor about North Dakota nor the history of the oil industry in North Dakota.  I finally asked him, "Where are you calling from?"  He seemd starled and hesitantly replied "Toronto."  He admitted he had never been in North Dakota.

He asked a few more questions.  The answers were prescribed:  Strongly agree, Agree somewhat, Disagree somewhat, Strongy disagree.  Ultimatley I told him I thought the questions were rigged in favor of the oil industry and I did not care to answer any more questions.  He was very polite and tried to persuade me to finish, but I refused to be complicit in something that will likely "prove" that North Dakotans think drilling in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and flaring and fracking are fine.  

Yes, our state treasury is swollen with money, but the fact is most of the oil money goes out of state to the "developers" in Wyoming or Texas, or do we really know where?  Does any of the ND oil money go to the obscenely rich princes of the Middle East?  I do not know, but I hope not. 

We have no obligation to answer questions posed by anonymous callers.  We do have an obligation to ourselves to learn before we form an opinion.  We can use libraries and the internet.  We need to reseach the topic and the source of the "information."  Much "news" is not news.  It is influenced by money and the bias of the owners of the media outlet, so readers and listenters are wise to research not just the topic, but the source of the reports, lest we form a hasty opinion based on slanted or false information.  "Fadts" are easily distorted, at which point they prove nothing.

"The Age of Information has turned out to be The Age of Ignorance."  Mark Crispin Miller