False news! Fake news! Opinion! Celebrity as expert! Forget science! Here’s the latest conspiracy news! Journalists lie! Politicians lie! “I read it on the internet!” “That’s just spin!” China (or Russia) (or Iran) is hacking our news and …….
Yowzah! Finding the truth used to be easy.
“Back in the day” we had Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America.” Later, we thought the internet would make it easy to find the truth because so many people could “fact check.” Wow were we wrong! Seeking truth is harder than ever before because so many people / organizations / governments want to mislead us.
So, for the sake of public welfare I’d like to offer some suggestions to make your work easier. Or, if not easier, maybe a bit more organized.
Maybe you should think like …
Let’s get out of the world of brainiacs and into the world of real people doing practical things to find “the truth.” I suggest that we can learn truth-seeking from some of the following people.
You might want to think like …..
- A research librarian and find primary sources. Retweets and opinion pieces are always filtered news. Believe them at your peril. If you want the truth you will have to work and dig deeper. Otherwise, you will find yourself living in an echo chamber. Think of how you developed your personal stance on global warming. Do you know the facts or are your repeating someone’s filtered view?
- A criminal detective and look for the motive behind what has been presented. A given set of facts will certainly be spun differently by Fox News and CNN. Who has the truth? Probably neither because they have worked to make facts fit their agenda. You need multiple points of view before you can be sure of the real story. Are tariffs good or bad? The answer is “it depends.” The truth is not simple.
- An historian and consider the context within which the “news” is happening. If you don’t consider the larger context you will be subject to your own biases (and all of us have biases). Sorry, but social media almost never provide the big picture. You have to find it yourself. We’ve had troops in Afghanistan for a long time and we won’t know the real impact for decades to come. The history is ongoing.
- A medical diagnostician and prepare a differential diagnosis to consider how facts fit within different potential causes. Few things are as simple as they seem. To quote a phrase from decades ago “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” You will find truth in the causes triggering the events. White nationalism is abhorrent, so why is it on the rise (or is it)?
- An art detective and look for the “style and brushstrokes” of the facts being presented and decide if you are dealing with the truth or not. (This is actually pretty hard because you have to have a level of expertise to even know what to look for.) For example, what do you really know about socialism in the United States in the 21st century? It’s an emotional-laden word. Can you explain it to a ten-year old?
OK, your turn
I’d appreciate your input on how you go about finding the truth in today’s confusing and misleading world. Responses are needed. Thanks.