The Value of Fact-Checkers

The Value of Fact-Checkers

In their aim to express their anger at many things, sometimes even justified anger, people often rail at the MSM fact-checkers. Just using the MSM tag is an epithet indicating a lack of trust. On social media, especially Facebook, this anger goes against the efforts the company is making to correct false information.

As an aside, fact-checking done by the media is not the same thing as government censorship. The refusal of a media company to espouse or even publish your view is not the same thing as government censorship. In fact, challenging the truthfulness of things said by government agencies or political figures is a service done by the media for us. It is a service even if, after careful review, we decide that the media agency doing the fact-checking was wrong themselves. If you don’t like the platform, go somewhere else.

I have found that fact-checking organizations are a great resource, not because of their ratings, but because of the research they do. Most of them provide references for the information they used in checking that data.

Take, for example, a meme that has been posted repeatedly on Facebook claiming that there are just 133,000,000 registered voters in the United States, and thus that there were more votes, by millions, cast in the 2020 election than registered voters. I haven’t taken time to find out where one might have gotten that 133,000,000 figure. For all I know, someone made it up. But using the World Population Review site, and the page Number of Registered Voters by State 2020, and then putting the state by state data in a spreadsheet and adding it up, I find that the number of registered voters is 213,799,467, a number that makes the meme look rather silly. It also has the advantage of agreeing generally with the total population and the estimated number of eligible voters. The eligible voter population will be less than the population, of course, and in turn, not all eligible voters register.

You may think that took me too much time, though it really took very little, and before I’d take my stand on a set of values, I’d do even more research, but that little bit of work makes it pretty clear that the meme is not even in the range for consideration. It’s garbage.

I have repeatedly found this level of information in fact-checking posts, along with the information necessary to back-track and verify the work of the fact-checkers. When I disagree with fact-checkers, it is much more common that I disagree with their rating of a statement or with their analysis of their data. The greatest value is in the data they provide.

Bluntly, if you can’t take the time to check that far, you really should quit posting memes.

We live in a world of information. I think the MSM earned our distrust. They were often not careful enough with their facts and their presentation. Unfortunately, we then turned to “balanced” presentations, and from that to whatever news source caught our fancy. Reality is rarely a balance between opposing positions. Sometimes one of the extremes are correct.

In addition, many turned to “news” organizations with even less fact-checking than the so-called MSM. You have no business, no matter what your political views are, in claiming “TRUTH” when all you did was glean information from a few unaccountable web sites that happen to agree with your position. If you do that, you’re part of the problem.

People are going to lie. Governments lie. Politicians lie. If you want to have any sort of claim to truth, you need to check, double-check, check again, discern, and then express what you know, or at least have a reasonable claim to know. If that prevents you from posting large numbers of your favorite and most comforting memes, that’s all to the good.

If you only read headlines, or respond to fact-checking after reading only the rating, you’re part of the problem.

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