A key habit of media literacy is to seek out the perspective, bias and principles of the news site you’re reading. It’s not enough to say “all news is biased” without asking “but what does that mean in relation to this particular story, and what are they doing to address their bias?”
I’m going to make that easy for the InfoMullet by listing them below. What are these? Well, a perspective is the world view and experiences we cannot shed that will always influence what topics are examined. Bias is the subconscious personal or institutional tilt that writers bring to the news and informs everything from word selection to the sources they prefer to quote. To this point it sounds like we’re slaves to our past and subconscious. But principles- the principles are what we strive for that can counteract, or at least mitigate, our perspective and our bias.
What is the perspective of the InfoMullet?
The InfoMullet has a strong perspective from the US/EU viewpoint in world affairs, especially as it relates to the domestic policy and governmental functions of the United States. I study violence and instability, so if it seems like many posts focus on these kinds of issues – it simply reflects what I pay attention too. Likewise with foreign and domestic affairs, topics on the political-economy, history, regulatory or anything that I think might be getting so complex a little Mullet-trim might not help shed some light on. But to paraphrase Calvin, “Those seeking knowledge of the recondite arts of Popular Culture, Sports, Celebrity should go elsewhere.”
This doesn’t mean we won’t tread far afield (because field-trips are fun) but be aware of this perspective heading in. In the future I hope to add authors who can bring in distinctly different-than-this perspectives.
What is the bias of the InfoMullet?
My personal bias is that I am a Radical Moderate politically, a Cynical Optimist by personality and a footsoldier of the Enlightenment philosophically. However, for the InfoMullet, the bias I am trying to set forth is established in the principles below.
What are the principles of the InfoMullet?
- Being accurate is more important than winning the argument.
- Assume little, err little.
- Embrace complexity and explore it through articulation.
- Use rhetoric for reason rather than rage.
- Pursue ideal ends through principled means.
- Even bad ideas are invited into the Community of Letters because only there will error be exposed, evidence be questioned and swayable onlookers observe the results.
- Good humor is a part of a well-balanced diet, snark is empty calories.
- Civility is not dead.
The Story of the InfoMullet
I guess you could say it began somewhere around 7th grade (1987?) when I wrote a report on Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the dangers of the a politically unstable middle east. (Yeah I was that kid.) I’ve been a newshound all my life: foreign and domestic affairs, politics, current events. I have a near-photographic memory on certain topics so I can remember just about everything I’ve read and where to find it again. That means over time my brain developed this wiki-esque database not just on useful reference resources – but on what actually happened, or what people are actually said or are saying. I have a sixth sense when news is bullshit and can usually find the flaws in under a few seconds.
These skills, as they were, were honed when I started writing on LiveJournal under the user name chapel_of_words in May of 2002. This was only a few months after 9/11 and the ability to understand what was going on in the world had shifted from what had been a hobby to something that seemed vital. So I began writing what I knew. Daily. And I kept on writing.
In 12 years I wrote over 1400 posts, received over 10,000 comments and wrote over 10,000 replies myself. A Community of Letters formed, debating in a dialectic that followed each post. Conservatives, liberals, communists, anarchists, Catholics and atheists and all the other hues joined in (mostly) civil debate on the important events as they happened. The lead up to the Iraq War, the war as it ran its course, the financial collapse, healthcare reform, Arab Spring…you name it we wrote, and argued, about it
But one post, written in June of 2004, can probably be called the official birth of the InfoMullet. It was titled “In Context: Are We Running out of Oil?” and was my first (and last for awhile) conscious attempt to put my skills in an intentional way to unraveling the really complex issues people were talking about. Looking back – it even has the same format of an InfoMullet.
Eventually Facebook took over and the LiveJournal community was lost. Facebook just doesn’t enable that sort of Community of Letters. But I kept writing. And as my comments tended to the longer side I kept getting sarcastic retorts of “TLDR.”
Which is the origin of the phrase InfoMullet. Like the hairstyle of yore, it’s a well trimmed businesslike affair up top, and then a sprawling mane of context running down the back. TLDR Up Front, Full Context in the Back. It didn’t hurt that in 7th grade and through my senior year of high-school I had one badass mullet myself. Over time several hundred people joined my Facebook feed, interested in not only the posts, but the Community of Letters that followed each post.
The InfoMullet took a sabbatical in 2018-2019. During that time I continued to post on my personal Facebook the same kind of content, but didn’t have the bandwidth to manage the blog in the way I thought necessary. Beginning in 2020 the InfoMullet was revived and posts made originally on FB began to be transitioned over to their proper data in the InfoMullet blog. This is why on some articles 2018-2020 you may see “Original FB Post” with a link in the sources.
So that’s the story of the InfoMullet. Please feel free to read, and I hope you enjoy. But if you wish to contribute and become a part of the Community of Letters, become a Mulleteer; then join the discussion by leaving comments with your thoughts, agreements or disagreements. Remember the rules (found in the FAQ) and when in doubt review the principles above.