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"In the current, digitized world, trivial information is being accumulated every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible... Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander...  All this junk data, preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate... What we propose to do is not to control content, but to create context... The digital society furthers human flaws and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths... The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems... Everyone withdraws into their own, small gated community, afraid of a larger forum... Just as in genetics, unnecessary information and memory must be filtered out to stimulate the evolution of the species."

When Metal Gear Solid 2 was released in 2001, there was a lot I didn't like about the game. It was too preachy, too talky, too much like a movie and not enough like an actual game. In retrospect though, despite its absurd plotlines and twists, one of the large points the game made has actually stuck with me.

The evolution of the internet is an interesting thing. At the same time that it gives us access to infinite numbers of resources and data, it also introduces us to an infinite amount of 'noise'. Pornography, gossip, humor, conspiracy mongering, it's all right there for anyone to lay hold of. They are two heads to the same beast. Unfortunately, for a large segment of the population, that's daunting. Some of us are capable, and even trained, to sort through data and verify claims against further and further resources.

When I hear claims on Mother Jones or Daily Kos about the superiority of organic vegetables, it's all mumbo jumbo until I see the data to back it up. I don't want the claim or anecdotal evidence, I want to see the claims verified against a number of other sources. In the same way, when I see claims from energy companies saying their studies show fracking is safe, I want to see a number of independent claims verifying the same thing. I'm not a liberal because I think liberal claims are innately superior, I'm a liberal because I believe that the data leads me to side with them on issues like economic and the environment. When I see people like Nate Silver knocking the ball out the park, and falling in line with several other stat predictors, I see the superiority of their methods to, say, Unskewed Polls.

What I also recognize, though, is that many people are unprepared to do this, whether because of background, age, etc. So I can't expect them to reach the same conclusions I do. Instead, what I expect them to do is to find a source of information they're comfortable with and, as the above quote states, withdraw into their own "small gated community". That's what I see when people utilize only one news station for information, or one website for data. I can't innately trust Daily Kos or Mother Jones, even if I trust the intentions of many of the writers are benign. Hell, many of the writers on Red State, whom I vehemently disagree with, probably have at least decent intentions.

I'm not trying to argue I'm always unbiased. I'm not. I check against other sources in order to asses my own bias and hopefully reach sensible conclusions. What I'm arguing is that many people don't and, in the face of a vast and sometimes overwhelming amount of information, I understand why people retreat to what they consider reliable sources. This may be a holdover from older times when major news sources were trusted as more reliable than I consider them to be now. Or, it could simply be the innate nature to appeal to an authority.

It's damaging though, and I couldn't have realized, when I was in my teens, how prophetic Metal Gear Solid 2 was going to be in an era of one-source internet surfers and news watchers. I never realized a station like Fox News would be relied upon solely to provide information. I remember watching that station in 2003 and, at the time, being a defender of it. Then I watched more, and checked other sources, and slowly realized I couldn't trust them. Not fully, and it was a conclusion that I've confirmed over the years.

Metal Gear Solid 2's proposed conclusion, from the perspective of its antagonists, was to force a context on the infinite amount of data people were becoming victim to. Ironically, such an option would have placed them into the same threat they were fighting against, that of a small gated community. Imposed context is a community created, where information is channeled, and it will be to the liking of those doing the channeling. That's no different than if a person chose that community. It's the difference between government sponsored propaganda news stations and Fox News, one of source but one that also leads to the same conclusion, in which the stream of data is contoured to a certain end.

Neither option is good. In the end, the antagonists of Metal Gear Solid 2 weren't able to pull off their plan. In reality, it seems at least half the population would back them though, even if they didn't realize it. I know that just by looking at the ratings for Fox news.

Originally posted to DAISHI on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:02 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos Gamers.

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