Fact Checkers are needed more than ever

Donald Trump is exactly right when he says there is a lot of “fake news” out there.   I prefer to use the term, incorrect information or misleading statements, so I don’t make any claims that the sources are fabricating stories.    This is completely different from honest mistakes, which seems to be what the 10 of the 11 fakies award, handed out by Donald Trump, about a week ago.  Trump is the last person to be handing out the fakies, as he is most deserving of one.

Fact checkers don’t go after mistakes.  If Trump tweets something in the morning, and later in the day, he corrects himself, it’s not worth evaluating the original tweet.  It is the establishment of a collection of misleading information through repetition in various forums, particularly in non-critical settings, without any acknowledgement of facts to the contrary,  that is  most dangerous.    It also takes an audience that is willing to accept convenient misleading and typically oversimplified information over the truth.   I think John Kennedy had it right, when he said at the Yale commencement speech  of 1962,

“The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebearers.  We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretation.  We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Trump has created many collections of myths and if it were not for the fact checking websites, we might never know about them.   PolitiFact’s 2017 Lie of the Year award is given to Donald Trump, for claiming Russian election interference is a “made-up story.”  According to the Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump also made !many misleading claims about the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, claiming 44 times a variation of the statement that it was a hoax perpetuated by Democrats.

According to the Washington Post Fact Checkers, “One year after taking the oath of office, President Trump has made 2,140 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that an alyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That’s an average of nearly 5.9 claims a day.”  Pretty mind blowing!

Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its word of the year and defined it as the state of affairs when “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

I guess a post-truth society would be one where the truth is smothered by an overload of myths from various sources.   If this is where we stand, I guess that’s about  it for democracy.   I hope not.  The post-truth marketers have a lot of money on their side.

No true journalist works for a strictly social media company.  They work for news organizations.  Subscribers to the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, etc pay good money to get reliable information.  Obtaining the truth   takes some time and effort.

I like the following sites for fact checking.

Politifact.com

Snopes.com 

Washington Post – Fact Checkers

Factcheck.org

I subscribe to the digital Washington Post access now just $100 per year, which I consider to be a real bargain.  I think the Washington Post more recent discussion of the “themed myths” such as the Russian interference witch hunt,  the Obastmacare collapse,  or economic achievements which Trump has falsely taken credit for, when they really occurred or were in progress during Obama’s term.

Washington Post made a great summary of the misleading or false statements made during 2017.    They count

As I was compiling this fact checker list,  I did a general Google search and uncovered an organization helping to keep the fact checkers honest and open through full disclosure and a vetting process.  The organization is called  Poynter Institute (poynter.org).   It was amazing how many websites are involved in fact checking throughout the world.  All of the above sites are listed by Poynter Institute as passing their vetting process.  In addition, the weekly standard fact checker (www.weeklystandard.com) and the AP fact checker (https://apnews.com/tag/APFactCheck) passed the vetting process.   There are others on their list, with most of them based outside the US.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  Just as I was about to hit that “Publish Icon”  Trump declared that Mexico was the most dangerous country in the world.  Politifact considers this mostly false, but  Mexico leads the world in the number of journalists murdered.  See link below:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/jan/24/donald-trump/mexico-isnt-deadliest-country-world-trump-said/

 

 

 

 

 

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