Check It Before You Spread It

While the relevance of any particular rumor can be debated all day long, there’s no doubt that some of the rumors flying around about our presidential tickets are playing a huge role in people’s perception of the candidates.  Because of that, the rumors are the first thing that we need to get straight in order to be informed voters and to speak with our neighbors in an informed manner.  When we spread rumors, no matter which candidate we’re talking about and even if it helps us bring someone over to our way of thinking, we aren’t behaving like the adults we are and certainly not in the best interest of the country that we all love enough to feel so passionately about.  On top of that, as soon as someone reads the truth about the rumor, we’re more likely to get folks to vote the opposite way we’d hoped because if you can’t believe one thing, why should you believe another? 

 

In the email era, rumors fly even faster than they do in a middle school classroom.  Truth be told, most of the chain emails we receive that are meant to influence our political opinion one way or another are absolutely false (I’m betting this is also true of the ‘inspirational’ stories we receive as well, but I have no solid information to back that up).  Worse, these emails are designed not only to influence our vote, but to play on our fears and prejudices in such a way that we no longer care about the actual issues or know where the candidates really stand.  And many times, it works—and ends up all over the Internet and in general conversation. 

 

Originally, I planned to outline some of the most common rumors and source material regarding them.  I discovered after numerous hours of research that there are just too dang many rumors out there to list them all!  So I’m opting for some very basic advice instead.

 

Where Not To Get Your Information

 

*The comments section of any blog or media outlet, or on any web forum, unless the comment is backed up with a direct link to a reputable source.

*Any chain email.

*A notably partisan media outlet unless the information can be backed up by a less partisan source.  Not sure which media outlets are partisan?  Many of them actually tell you with words like “conservative” or “liberal.”  If they don’t and you still aren’t sure, read through the comments.  If it seems like most of them are a conversation among like-minded individuals with the occasional “You all suck” comment thrown in for good measure, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a partisan publication pushing a particular point-of-view.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth in these publications.  Remember, even the National Enquirer gets it right some of the time.   Also, many media outlets lean one direction or another, but aren’t necessarily partisan.  You can usually tell what information to trust by looking closely at their sources (Hint: If they are citing op-ed pieces, they’re probably pushing a particular point-of-view).

*Someone talking to you that can’t site the source for their information, or that cites any of the aforementioned kinds of sources.

*A candidate talking about their opponent.  There’s a pretty good chance that they are at minimum stretching the truth.  Fact check any information you’re curious about spoken about one candidate by another (see two great sources for this below).

*A candidate talking about their history or record.  There’s a pretty good chance that they are at minimum stretching the truth.  Fact check any information you’re curious about spoken by a candidate about their record or experience.

 

Good Places to Get Information

*Use multiple news sources.  Don’t rely on just one.  When several news sources agree on something, it’s probably pretty close to the truth.

*Links in the comment sections of blogs or media outlets that go to reputable sources.  Remember, the key word here is “reputable.” 

*The candidates web site.  It is absolutely amazing how many people say, “I don’t want to go through all that information on their web site” and then complain that the candidates don’t tell them what they actually plan to do.  It’s faulty logic.  We can ask a candidate to explain where they stand and briefly summarize their plan, but topics like “the economy” are complex issues that probably won’t be “summed up” in a fifteen or thirty minute speech—especially when they are also touching on other issues like “the war” or “poverty” or “education.”  Not sure how to decipher their plans?   Check out nonpartisan analysis organizations like the Tax Policy Center and read article in the two sources named below.

*Candidate speeches.  You can usually learn the basics of a candidate’s policy ideas by listening to their speeches.  Yes, it’s time consuming, but to be an informed voter, you need this information.

*Candidate debates.  Presidential debates will happen on September 26, October 7, and October 15.  The vice presidential debate will happen on October 2.  They all begin at 9pm EST/6pm PST.

 

Two Fact Checking Sources

I’ve mentioned before how thankful I am for FactCheck.org.  More recently I found a second nonpartisan web site that is even more detailed—PolitiFact. 

 

Some final words of advice: If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it probably is.  If the person saying it keep coming back to one issue that’s very important to them as support for their argument, they are probably digging at straws to justify their own agenda (yes, this happens from all sides).   And if it REALLY bothers you, make sure it’s true before you cast your vote.

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