A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, August 28, 2015

How About a Little Fact-Checking Before Posting that Facebook Meme?

The second President of the United States, John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things." He was certainly right when it comes to politics. As I have said often on this blog, the first casualty in politics is the truth. That is true not only because there are partisan voters who are willing to outright lie if it furthers their agenda, but also there are those who are more than willing to spread such lies without bothering to check and discover whether or not the propaganda they are promoting is in actuality the truth. For both kinds of persons, I submit that nation-state politics has become their religion.

Nowhere is this more blatantly obvious than on social media, where anyone can create a meme that is simply untrue so that partisan minions on both sides of the political aisle will mindless spread the falsehoods on the social media wall.

Politifact, a website dedicated to truth in politics writes of such memes:

At PolitiFact, one of our most frequent sources of checkable claims is our readers' social media feeds. And in this regard, 2014 did not disappoint. We checked chain emails, shareable Facebook memes and other Internet detritus, often submitted by readers who ask us: "Is this really true?"
Most of the time the answer is no: Since PolitiFact began in 2007, we've rated 47 percent of shareable Facebook memes as either False or Pants on Fire, compared to just 20 percent that were either True or Mostly True. The track record of chain emails is even more dismal. A full 83 percent of chain emails have been False or Pants on Fire, compared to just 7 percent that were either True or Mostly True.
Let's take a look at just a few examples:

Example #1:

Of this Politifact writes, "Several readers asked us to look into whether Bachmann actually made the comments. We obliged and found no evidence backing the claim."

Example #2:
The Library at Mount Vernon responds to this supposed quote: "The quote is frequently misattributed to Washington, particularly in regards to his farewell address of 1796. The origin of the misquote is, perhaps, a mention of a similar statement in a biography of Washington first published in 1835. However, the quote that appeared in the biography has never been proven to have come from Washington."

Example #3:

Politifact responds to this meme, "This claim is problematic on several levels. It presents a time frame cherry-picked to boost Reagan’s record. It flat-out misrepresents the statistics during Obama’s first five years, when black unemployment actually fell. And it ignores several other measures that show that black unemployment was better in absolute terms under Obama than Reagan. We rate the claim Pants on Fire."

Example #4

This meme was posted by Occupy Democrats. Politifact gives it a "Pants on Fire" rating. They write,

"Occupy Democrats said Bobby Jindal’s parents used his birthright citizenship to become Americans. We reviewed the law and spoke to two experts in immigration law. The only way Jindal might have been able to help his parents become citizens is if he had been 21. He was 5 when his mother became a citizen and 15 when his father took the same step."

"The experts we reached told us Jindal's citizenship was irrelevant, bringing Occupy Democrats' claim into the realm of ridiculous. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!"

As can be seen by these four examples (and there are plenty more) both sides of the political aisle are guilty of such deception. For such folks having their people in power is more important than telling the truth. And for those partisans who mindlessly repost such memes without bothering to fact-check, I must conclude that they too have set the truth off to the side of the road... either that or they are just really, really gullible.

A little fact-checking not only can raise the political and moral discourse in the country, but it can also keep people from looking stupid for posting such nonsense.

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, such falsehoods will continue to be posted... stupid is as stupid does.

No comments: