Finding the Truth in the Time of Alternative Facts and Fake News – It Can Be Done

Wooden blocks forming words "Fact" and "Fake"

We’ve come to live in a complicated, splintered world where not all realities are shared equally anymore. For instance, in this age of Trump, one can choose the option of “alternative facts.” The divisiveness that is happening in this country (and around the world) is like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime. As someone who works hard at being clear and living a spiritual life, this is more than disconcerting.

At least in the US, the generally accepted practice has been that one should neither discuss politics nor religion in polite company. While there’s a problem with that view as well, it wasn’t based on fear; fear of some nutjob threatening to kill you or destroy your reputation or property. And yet, in this time of “no norm is too sacred to be broken,” this behavior is happening at ferocious levels.

Where I live, most people won’t even mention their political views in public anymore because of this fear. According to the facts, hate crimes and violence against an individual or group because of political views, race, religion, gender identity or ethnicity have increased dramatically since Trump took office, reaching a 16-year high in United State. And hate crimes are 90% more likely to be perpetrated by people who lean far-right than any other political persuasion.

The tragedy is that many on the right and far-right don’t seem to care about facts anymore. A lie or conspiracy theory from Trump or Fox News or some other agenda-driven news source is good enough for many of these folks.

And, really, I don’t know what it would take to reach someone like that since even moderate leaning people on both sides don’t seem able to converse civilly regarding politics or what’s going on in this country.

But I’m hoping that those of us who are moderates can find a way to wade through the morass of lies from both politicians and news outlets to try to find the truth. It can be done. We need to do it. And then we need to share these truth/facts with as many others as we can to help stamp out ignorance and political agendas that benefit no one except politicians deliberately trying to mislead for their own personal gain.

It’s simple to get to the truth.

If you’re not already doing these things, I hope you will consider some of them.

No news source is infallible. But some news stations and news hosts have better “Truth” ratings than others.

To get the biggest picture, try to watch at least 3 different news sources with different leanings. For example, I watch CNN, BBC World News and Fox.

Don’t use social media as a reliable anything. Even better— if you can—try unplugging. You’d be far better off going outside and getting some sunshine and fresh air than ingesting depressing or misleading news that you can’t do anything about (but if and when you can do something about it, then taking action is a morale booster for sure).

Do your own fact-checking. Here are some non-partisan outlets with descriptions from their ABOUT pages.

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. They do not take policy positions. 

We bring together Poynter faculty and industry experts to explore the intersection of journalism, technology and the public interest. Poynter specializes in ethics and fact-checking.

Global No.1 Business Data Platform. Insights and facts across 170 industries and 150+ countries.

USAFacts is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan civic initiative providing the most comprehensive and understandable government data. We provide accessible analysis on US spending and outcomes in order to ground public debates in facts.

Read The Righteous Mind.

This book is great for understanding how we’ve become so polarized and how we can work to start undoing that. From the description: Drawing on his twenty-five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, Haidt shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you’re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

And, last but not least, coming at this from a very different angle, read this post on a different way of communicating.


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