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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.

Tagged – but I can Break the Rules

Tagged – but I can Break the Rules

Just to be honest, I probably would have in any case.

Tony from Thoughts from the Heart on the Left tagged me with the meme created by L. L. Barkat, so here goes, as I break rules.

I’m going to copy the rules from Tony’s post rather than the original, just to be a bit perverse. They are:

  • Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
  • Link back to the person who tagged you
  • Link back to this parent post
  • Tag a few friends or five, or none at all
  • Post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

I would have not posted them, but there was that pesky permission not to do so, and then also how would you know in what ways I break them? Indeed, the permission to break the rules is the main reason I responded, as I generally dislike memes and getting tagged, and all that goes with it.

So as for five specific ways blogging has affected me positively or negatively, allow me to provide any number but five.

I think I was created to blog. I was merely waiting for the idea of blogging to come along so that I could fulfill my destiny by writing long blog posts that very few people read. I have opinions about everything, and a relatively high opinion of my own opinions (funny how that works), so I like to talk about them, and quite frankly there aren’t that many people who want to sit around an listen as much as I want to talk.

Enter blogging. It doesn’t matter any more! I can imagine the legions of readers of my blog checking and rechecking their readers to see if I have let more wisdom flow so that they might take it in.

If someone tells me that I have few readers, and cites my SiteMeter report as evidence, I can simply point out that SiteMeter doesn’t get all those folks who have subscribed via Bloglines, Google Reader, or some other service. In addition, who knows how many people, overwhelmed with appreciation for my prose, e-mail pages to their friends or share them via some of the aforementioned readers or aggregators.

Consider that I used to regard it as a good day when a Sunday School class of a dozen people wanted to listen to me talk. Now I can just go to the computer, pour out my thoughts, and make them available to an audience of millions. Admittedly, most of those millions will fail entirely to read my stuff or even know that it exists. But they won’t tell me they didn’t read it, and if nobody tells me, it’s an inconvenient fact that I can conveniently ignore.

If one has discovered a technology that provides a tool that allows one to become completely fulfilled in one’s calling in life, what possible need can there be for other reasons? Thus, reasons 2-5 have been superseded by the awesome and sublime power of reason #1.

As for tagging, think of it this way. If you read this, and felt that you just can’t resist saying something about what blogging means to you, then consider yourself tagged. If not, well, not so much.

PS: If you didn’t read this, please don’t tell me. It will disillusion me, and I really like my illusions. I’m planning on keeping them.