Just the facts, ma’am

Published 9:05 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

To the Editor:

Recently I was having an interesting and reasonable conversation with a conservative friend. Not surprisingly, a factual question came up that we disagreed on. In this day and age, no big deal — Google it. As I typically do when such factual political disputes arise (usually after getting a chain email from either a conservative or liberal friend — most of which are false), or when I hear something that just doesn’t ring true (and usually is not, regardless of ideology), I asked snopes.com. My friend responded by saying that you can’t rely on “liberal” fact checkers like Snopes or Politi-Fact.

Okay, I said — let’s get to the bottom of this. I asked him to give me the name of any other “fact checker” that he might rely on so that we could compare opinions. My friend responded by saying that all fact checkers are “unreliable.”

Think about that.

For anyone to say that there are no fact checkers that are reliable is astonishing. How do you get the truth? How do you have a meaningful discussion if there is no real concern for truth? The bottom line is, you won’t. You will either believe what you want to believe (which too often seems to be the case), or you would have to do the basic research yourself (which very few people do or even have the ability to do).

You can always spot a reliable fact checker — they actually provide documentation for their opinions. They do the research and explain why something is true, false or something in-between. Since the election, the issue of fake news stories has been in the news. I don’t know if the myriad of “fake” news stories had any impact on the election, but I do know that such stories (and particularly the “sharing” of such stories) do nothing to either improve our character or get us any closer to reasonable solutions. They are, in fact, divisive.

We need to be more vigilant. Something is not true just because you want to believe it; it is not true just because some political pundit that you like said so; it is not true because you read it in a Tweet or on Facebook. It is only true if it is, in fact, true. I would urge everyone to find a favorite fact checker site that actually provides supporting “documentation” for its opinions, and use it. In this day and age, that only takes a minute or so. I guarantee that it will be much more reliable than the opinions you get on MSNBC or Fox News, and it is kind of fun and empowering to be able to construct your discussions based upon true “facts.” And I have found that when liberals and conservatives have discussions based upon true facts, they tend to be a lot closer in their opinions than they might have believed. That is really a good thing, and it might actually bring us closer together.


Tom Walker