Pass it on

Published 6:26 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

It’s a big election year. While pundits’ natural state is to sling opinion and insults at candidates and one another, the dirt’s really starting to fly as both sides of the political machine gear up for the coming mudslinging extravaganza. In fact, it’s already started: attack ads are hitting the airwaves as you read.

There are a lot of headshakes and muttered, “Here we go agains” going on about now.

Many of us choose to tune out the TV and radio ads or at a minimum, turn them down, but what happens when an email shows up in your inbox claiming the inadequacies of Candidate A or a Facebook friend posts a snazzy graphic that implies Candidate B is as un-American as crème brulee?

Some of us ignore, some delete, others pass it on.

Ignore and delete at will — the problem is in passing it on. Most times, the “facts” espoused in these missives are, at best, taken out of context. At worst, truth has been twisted, turned and forced in a pretzel-like contortion of its former self — in other words, made into a lie.

One example has been making the rounds lately: Mitt Romney is accused of saying during a recent Alabama press conference that he could “relate to black people” because his ancestors once owned slaves.

The statement is patently false, not to mention that it would be political suicide if it was true. These words were written as a spoof on a political satire website. But they were, however, passed along as Mitt Romney’s actual words.

With as much information as there is at our fingertips, we have the ability — no, the responsibility — to check the facts before we blindly pass blatant falsehoods along to the next unsuspecting and often un-inquiring person.

Before you hit “forward” or “repost” take some time to find out whether what you’re tempted to pass along is truth and not just something someone wants you to believe.

There are ways to get at that information: according to its website, is “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The purpose of the project is to monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major political players in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.

Originally a couple’s research into the veracity of urban legends, is another website where rumors, political or no, can be verified or dismissed.

It’s no fun trying to wade through political propaganda to get to the truth, but there are resources out there.

That’s definitely worth passing on.