How To Separate Fact From Political Nonsense

If I never hear the term “fake news” again, it’ll be too soon. The line between fact and myth grows blurrier every day, especially in politics. We don’t have to accept it, though. If everybody actually took the time to tear truth away from downright nonsense, the world would be a better place. Here are four tips for divorcing fact from fiction in the media.

1. Read the Entire Article

Newspaper headlines and internet article headlines are two separate beasts. The former is
typically written to convey information in a straightforward way. The latter is frequently bait.
Political titles are often designed to provoke instead of impart information, and more and more readers these days react to those incendiary titles without reading the article that follows.
According to a recent Columbia University study, less than 2/3rds of the articles that get shared on Twitter are ever read by anyone.

Don't contribute to this problem. Read, then react.

2. Investigate the Author

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take health advice from my physician than my mechanic. That doesn’t stop my mechanic from having a lot of opinions about diabetes, though. If you want to separate the factual wheat from the political chaff, pay attention to who’s issuing the opinion. When you read a dubious political article online, look the writer up. Find what else he’s written and who’s publishing him. See where she earned her degree. Remember: Just because somebody has a strong belief doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate one. Feelings aren't facts.

3. Identify and Verify Sources

When my sons were in school, they absolutely loathed writing research papers. It wasn’t the act of writing so much as it was the need to incorporate reputable sources into their essays and use cold, hard facts as the basis for their reports instead of bluffing their way through eight pages about symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird the night before the assignment was due. Authors should always back up their claims with reputable sources: well-known publications without any sociopolitical ties.

As a responsible reader, you should actually check out those sources, too — particularly when you come across something that seems suspicious. Context matters, and, in the wrong hands, words can get awfully twisted on their route from source to article.
Cross-checking sources is a valuable tool as well. For example, claims that World War II and 9/11 memorials were vandalized during protests recently started clogging up corners of my Facebook last week. People were getting all worked up. It took me roughly 90 seconds to search for that topic online and find that those claims were 100% false. That’s the thing: As easy as the internet makes it for rabble-rousers to act in bad faith, it’s just as easy to look something up, get to the truth and get on with your life.

4. Read the “About Us” Section

Authors and sources are only two-thirds of your homework as a fact finder. You should also
inspect websites themselves, and here’s why: You can name a website virtually anything.
One particularly insidious trend in the dissemination of political nonsense is people creating
websites that sound like newspapers but aren’t actually newspapers. Take this article I read on the Tallahassee Star-Tribune’s website yesterday. It said that — well, it didn’t say anything
because there is no Tallahassee Star-Tribune. Tallahassee’s newspaper is called the Democrat, but unless you live near the magnolia trees and college football fans in Florida’s state capital, you probably don’t know that. Before you take a website’s information as fact, take the initiative to learn about that site and remember that literally anybody can start a “news” website.

Listen, I’m old enough to know that the good old days weren’t always that good, but at least
people behaved semi-rationally. Facts matter. When you come across an opinion that seems
absurd, put in the work to investigate it, and don’t be afraid to call its bluff.

Jonathan - August 1, 2020

Thank you for insight.

Glenn Harrison - August 2, 2020

Good day! It is quite a logical and sensible approach you have described in your presentation. I learned one day from an Angel regarding politics. He told me what ‘politicking’ means. Not ‘politics’, not ‘political’, NO! ‘politicking’. Briefly He said ‘politicking’ means:- being shrewd, unscrupulous, deceitful, deceptive, untruthful, dishonest, untrustworthy, devious, diabolical, insidious, sly,…etc. etc. etc.
Therefore, when a politician is asked why he/she does such and such, they answer that they are just doing their job. Well when you look at their job description,…they are telling the truth!

fran - August 9, 2020

thumbs up! too many people react emotionally first and stir up unnecessary chaos and destruction.

Jennifer Winchester - August 11, 2020

I liked what you wrote. It sounds like a lot of work but at least it is a way to get started. There is a lot of “news” out there that is not news. I don’t care what channel you watch. I don’t like to get peoples opinions. I would rather just get the facts. and I like it when someone tells me what they said is based on.

Frank Steffel - August 15, 2020

I am good about checking out sources. How would you respond when the sender forwards the false information to 40, 50 people?

Ilanka Cunningham - August 17, 2020

Thank you!

Nancy Faber - August 19, 2020

Thank you so much😁

Josephine Morgan - August 24, 2020

Thanks, it takes courage to swim upstream, the truth always comes out but often too late, when damage is done. Thanks for the tools

Anne Z. - August 24, 2020

Good advice. I don’t believe everything I read for many of those suggestions. Also if it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, it’s unkind, deceitful etc., I am not interested.
Blessings Bill.

Anne Z.

Lanie Pocock - August 25, 2020

Thanks for the info.

Dorothy Tullmann - August 25, 2020

Thank you. This was a very helpful and timely article! Yes, it will take time—but time well spent and so very necessary.

Andy - August 26, 2020

I do feel much of today’s news is mostly a few facts embellished by the presenters personal beliefs which, to a degree alters ones perception of the real meaning of the article.

JLF - August 26, 2020

Great advice well presented. Thank you for the reminder that it’s really not that hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Norma - August 26, 2020

Wow! If people would follow your facts, there would be so much less confusion, agitation and lies. Excellent article. Greatly needed at this time. Can you post this to a wider audience? We all need it.

Elizabeth - August 27, 2020

Sometimes authors are villiainised because the fake media undermines them.

Penny Patterson - August 27, 2020

Thank you for your information on how to “fact check”!

Judi Milin - August 28, 2020

I am guiltier than I want to admit. Thank you for this sound advise.

Mry - August 28, 2020

Many fact checking sources (ie. Snopes) are left leaning. Do you recommend a fair and balanced fact checker?

John Hasse - August 28, 2020

The basic question: “To whose benefit?” helps sort out the biases of the presenter. I believe I would rather have medical advice from my mechanic. He likely would have first hand experience, and not be bought and paid for by the drug industry.

Mary - August 30, 2020

What you have said is quite good, other then to check facts one also needs truthful fact checkers. Ex: Snopes is a farce,as well as many other so called fact checkers. One has to go to the direct source then DIG among countless pages to find the generally “hidden” truths. People react in a Knee Jerk way instead of actually learning the truth. I may also say, many truly don’t want to find out the real truth. Why? It would upset their mind set, make them uncomfortable, so they stay an ostrich with their head stuck in the ground. I’ve seen it far too many times through out my 75 years of life.
FaceBook censors to have only what they want read, as well as Twitter, the Media completely, and forget the politicians it is all like one reviewer said – politicking.
Those who Trumpet the Truth are crucified first.

Ellie Banda - August 31, 2020

Thank you from me especially, I have a feuding family and perhaps your advice is far better than arguing!

Julia Lyda - August 31, 2020

You make good common sense! It is so much easier to just react and the information is true. Keep up the good work. I appreciate it!

Robert Urlich - September 1, 2020

Thank you. I agree to some extent. However there is a rule about three blind persons, each describing an elephant.
The first holds the elephants trunk, the second holds the elephants ear while the third holds the elephants tail.
Taken together we gain a composite picture but not enough to give a complete description of the elephant because of our limitations.

timothy st john - September 1, 2020

I like the information that you post, keep it up!

Cathy Martin - September 1, 2020

And there u have it.

Michael Cassidy - September 2, 2020

Great article!

A.Russell - September 3, 2020

Thanks for the insight and reminding us to check resources. Don’t take it for gospel just because it is in print.

Coco Thompson - September 7, 2020

Excellent insight and just plain old common sense.

Comments are closed