Thursday, May 31, 2012

FactCheck.Org as an Asset to Patriotism and Free Thought

The most universal and surefire answer to the question "How do I make a good choice" is "Inform yourself." Since who and what you vote for is a choice, making a good decision in that direction means you have to find the relevant and true facts about the people/issues in question. But there's a big problem: Political discussions and even news reports are all-too-often factually incorrect or say things that leave people with a false understanding of what a candidate said/did/is proposing, such as the one I covered in my previous post "Bill O'Reilly is Full of Bullshit."

That's why I recommend FactCheck.Org. Fact Check seems to me to be a very thorough, honest, fact-focused resource that exposes the falsehoods told about the candidates from both political parties. This is a resource that all of us need to turn to when we are trying to investigate whether our TV commercials or radio show hosts are telling us the truth.

Finding out what the real facts are, though, is only half the battle. The other half of the battle is finding out what the facts mean. This is harder than most people think. Case in point: A paramedic once told me about how he was called to testify in court and an attorney attempted to cast doubt on his credibility by pointing out that he had misspelled a couple of words on a piece of documentation. It's totally possible to be a good paramedic and a mediocre speller at the same time. Hence, the attorney's observations were irrelevant. Why would a smart, college-educated person say something like this? It's part of what goes on in court systems. Lawyers are skilled at rhetoric, and know all-too-well that perception is reality. Real facts, if reported in the right tone of voice, if suggestively presented together, if brought to light in a certain context, plant seeds in the mind of the listener that quickly grow into tall trees of falsehood in the manure of cognitive errors and biases that human brains are prone to make. Politicians, who are often themselves trained in law (and in any case are experts at controlling public perception), use the same cheap tricks that lawyers do. The only thing to do is to learn how to fight this type of nonsense. FlackCheck, a sister site of FactCheck, provides a great headstart. The site hosts:

Patterns of Deception - A lucid series of short videos pointing out the factual errors and logical fallacies going around in current campaign ads.

Could Lincoln Be Elected Today? A Set of Mock Political Ads against the election of Abraham Lincoln that use the same political tactics used today.

I've always had the feeling that CNN was the most moderate and fair news network, and that's why I tend to watch it more than other news networks. Well, confirmation bias time: Flack Check found that CNN devotes equal time to exposing extreme and false statements of both democrats and repubs. I was right. Watch CNN.

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