In "Barges full of bullshit?" is @shanen0's looks at crud and disinformation in media, and on Ello in particular. I've commented at length to that post, and am elevating that item to a post in its own right.
So, yes, bullshit in media is a problem, and @ello should be thinking about it. I've encountered it multiple times in the @ellogreen community, which disappoints me hugely. Curation without discernment is not curation.
It's hardly new, though online media seem to be exacerbating multiple aspects of it. There are also some countermeasures which can be taken.
Short answer to your immediate problem: if you find someone whose contributions are non-credible, there's very little downside to blocking them. I've found vastly more utility in eliminating provably bad (or just irrelevant) information sources than in casting as wide a net as possible. It's generally possible to find bullshit if you really need to sample it. Finding quality information is tougher.
This includes wholesale blocking of Internet / Web hosts and domains. I've increasingly started adding Weaponized Viral Clickbait sites to my
/etc/hosts file. Show contempt for my intelligence or credibility and be sent to Coventry (more below). I'd really like for tools to manage reputation more generally. Sites such as Sourcewatch address this at macro scale, but still introduce rather more friction into the process. I'd also like to be able to note who's credible....
I'd really like to be able to specifically whitelist and blacklist comments to my own posts (allowing or disallowing from users), while greylisting those which are unclassified.
(Ping @budnitz @dcdoran.)
As with other forms of information abuse (spam, etc.) I advocate both blacklisting (blocks) and whitelisting (highlighting sources which are generally credible). Unclassified authors are greylisted. A more nuanced system would have some sort of reputation control noting accuracy / inaccuracy.
Returning sunken barges to sender
And as for your suggestion that sunken barges (or deleted comments) be returned to sender: there are arguments both ways.
First: your right to control what's commented to your posts should exist. I'm in favor of that. Even where I disagree with how individuals police their own posts. Management implies the right to manage badly. I'll take that into account in my own decisions on how and where I participate.
Second: Some nonpunitive "I don't find this appropriate but you might want to post it elsewhere" feature (or just a "Why don't you edit this for completeness / clarity" could be useful. Far too much online design utterly omits the editorial process. There's "compose, publish", but no "compose, review, revise, iterate, publish". I'd rather like for that to be a thing. It's generally not. Few sites even have a drafts feature (blogs tend to, reddit, Ello, and G+ don't).
Third: Social factors. Some people react poorly to having content removed (I'm not a fan of it myself). Doing that in the least abrasive form possible tends to help. My own remedy is, when I think I'm posting controversial material to someone else's thread, is to keep a copy for myself, sometimes published, sometimes not. (This response, for example, seems likely to end up being an Ello post in its own right.) More than a few of my own more successful posts have started as comments on other threads. Often the toughest trick in moderation systems is how to soften the blow in order to avoid escalating attacks. So you end up with silent deletions, shadowbanning / ghosting / hellbanning, and similar practices.
It's ultimately a form of Send to Coventry, or ostracism.
Literature on media and its faults
Marshal McLuahan, Noam Chomsky, Neil Postman, and Jerry Mander have all written on this at length among others. See Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly. Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television addresses many elements of deception in both news and advertising (Mander himself was an ad exec).
There's a whole lot else on bias and disinformation in the media, going back centuries.
It's quite interesting and enlightening reading.
Ontology of lies
I've touched on that in "Lies, Organic or Otherwise":
The lie of commission: stating a thing that is not true, and which you know is not true.
The lie of omission: where the lie isn't what's stated, but what isn't stated. Withholding information.
The lie of diversion: (or distraction) a statement which serves to draw attention from that which is significant. A/K/A obfuscation.
It's that last: the diversion / distraction lie, that people tend not to recognize. Read your Art of War though. It's in there.
More at RationalWiki on Deceit.
Agnotology, or culturally-induced ignorance, is the deliberate seeding of disinformation on a topic, a term created by Robert N. Proctor. At the dreddit (my subreddit/blog): "Agnotology: Culturally induced ignorance". I've argued that this should not be protected speech: "Shouting 'No Fire' in a Warming World as a Clear and Present Danger.
Recently I was shocked while listening to a lecture by Alex Jones (no, not the conspiracy theory idiot), journalist and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His statement: we may have to consider limitations on free speech to answer (if I'm recalling the context correctly) corporate spending and especially disinformation. A conclusion I'd reached some time back myself, with a considerable level of discomfort. No transcript, but he's got a book out: Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy.
Also of note: in Dante's Inferno, the ranking (and punishment) of sins has always struck me as fascinating. Of the nine circles, the Wrathful, which includes murderers, sink only to the fifth (and are engaged in combat with one another), the violent to the seventh (swimming in a boiling stream of blood). It's seducers, flatterers, diviners, corrupt politicians, hypocrites, thieves, false counselors, schismatics, and falsifiers who are in the eighth circle. To the ninth the worst: betrayers of kin, country, guests, and benefactors. And Brutus, Cassius, and Judas.
On Nonsense and Bullshit
Two dreddit posts in particular address this issue.
"On nonsense: Forms thereof, falsifiability, pseudoscience, bullshit, youth culture, and other craziness". Covers:
- Typology of nonsense
- Quack Watch on Pseudoscience
- Veritasium (Derek Műller) "Seek to Disprove" -- test your hypothesis.
- BBC's "Stupidity" documentary. Barely watchable, but hits some good points.
- Relationship between stupidity and belief systems
- Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit"
- Craig Ferguson on Youth Culture: fetishization and pursuit of youth by advertising leads to an emphasis on inexperience and stupidity.
- "Crazy" vs. "Stupid". The etymologies are similar.
- Carl Sagan's "Fine Art of Baloney Detection"
- Logical Fallacies
- Bullshit as Asymmetric Warfare. Brandolini's Law: "The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it." Incidentally: the primary reason to reject known sources of bullshit entirely.
- Bullshit Jobs / Douglas Adams' "B-Ark"
- Nate Silver and the Bullshitter's Inequality: "The bullshitter's trick is to talk in generalities when questioned about details and to litigate trivia when questioned about principles."
A long dreddit post looking at the general problem of noise. "On bullshit, S/N, craft, respect, and originality". Based on Brad Frost's video of the same title (see below).
I cover issues of media generally at the dreddit under the Media flair.