Staying Informed in the “Post-Truth” Era (If You Want To)
Welcome to October of a major election year. The big day is only about a month away. Get ready for robocalls, attack ads, rallies, and everything else that comes with the dog and pony show. Regardless of your personal political affiliations, this particular election season is likely to be bigger than most. Let me say right off the bat, I am not here to sway your vote one way or the other, that’s not what we do here. However, as people who have to share this country with you, we would like to provide you with ways to make the most well-informed decision you can.
Fact Checking Sites
It has been said that we live in an era of Post-Truth politics. An era where feelings and personal beliefs outweigh provable facts and actual occurrences. It’s an assertion that is as ridiculous as it is terrifying. However, it’s less that people don’t care about the truth, and more that they misinformed about the truth; and it’s not entirely their fault.
The internet, for all the good it does, is a tidal wave of information; some of it true, a lot of it not. It can be difficult to separate the two. Websites like Snopes, Fact Check.org, Politifact.com, Open Secrets.org, Truth or Fiction.com, and Hoax Slayer.com make it their mission to provide facts with as little bias as possible. They also provide credible evidence to support their conclusions.
These sites are not only useful for political purposes, but can also let you know about scams and internet fraud. If something seems suspicious, they may be able to let you know the real story. The onus is on you to check it out.
Search for Balance
We are more receptive to information that supports what we already believe, that’s just science. Part of the reason the political landscape has become so divisive over the past 20 years is that we have created these ‘echo chambers’ where our own beliefs are fortified and any contrary information is ignored.
This is the effect of getting your information from singular sources. The same story can have quite a bit of spin depending on who is telling it. If you hear a piece of information, try to find that same information from a source you don’t usually listen to. You’ll find more often than you care to believe, the truth is somewhere in the middle of competing biases.
Notice that I said debate and not angrily spew your opinion on others? Discourse is healthy. It is one of the best ways of understanding other point of views and looking at a situation through someone else’s eyes. These days, there’s less discourse and more anger and insults. If you can find the unicorn of someone who disagrees with you but is willing to have a civil conversation about it, take advantage of the opportunity. Odds are, you aren’t going to change their mind any more than they will change yours. However, hashing out your differences can give you a deeper understanding of your own point of view and may even lead you to discover that you don’t exactly think the way you thought you did.
Stay Up on Current Events
This one can be difficult and you don’t have to know everything about everything. A lot of the news of late isn’t even really news. The advent of click-based profit and the 24-hour news cycle have diluted journalism, perhaps irreparably. All the same, do you know who the Vice President is? The Speaker of the House? Your Governor? The U.S. Representative from your district? Citizens only get to vote every couple of years. The rest of the time, we are left to deal with the results of our decisions. Staying current on the happenings of the world gives you an informed look at the stakes.
On the other hand, there’s no rule that says you have to care about any of this. It is entirely up to you. If you are interested in the truth, finding it is going to take a little work.
It’s worth it.