A BLOG BY SHANNON FISHER
To make sure we are ingesting truth, and not propaganda with a strong political slant, it is important for everyone to independently verify information gathered through social media and many news sources with a known political persuasion before presenting it to others as fact. Unfortunately, few people do this research.
Just this morning, I was forwarded a meme by a family member with a completely fabricated quote attributed to Senator Elizabeth Warren. My relative believed it was true immediately, without having done research, and was sharing the meme to spread “news.”
He believed it was true because it supported his already-formed negative opinion of her. Confirmation bias perpetuates misinformation, and when incorrect information bounces around through an echo chamber, it leaves a mark every place it hits. Even is something we read is disproven, we can’t un-see incorrect information.
Michael Wolff , author of Fire and Fury, the bombshell book about the first year of the Trump White House, said in an MSNBC interview of the stories in the book, “If it feels true, it’s true.” Essentially, he was telling people to believe their feelings more than their minds, with no empirical evidence to either confirm or debunk the passages that seemed (to each individual reader) like something Donald Trump would do.
That is the crux of the problem: we are now a feeling-based society. If we don’t like facts, we don’t believe them. If we DO like something presented to us as fact, even if it is false, we tend to believe it. This is why disinformation campaigns targeting people on both sides of the political spectrum are so effective. They can fire up opposing online posses and watch sparks fly between them!
Conspiracy theories like the ones frequently espoused by the website Infowarsare fed to a hungry political base looking for another reason to be angry at the opposing side. Once an echo chamber is formed, just about anything can be believed as “news” if it disparages a political enemy.
To expose oneself to opposing viewpoints is tricky. If we digest information from a news source geared toward an angry base whose views differ from ours, we’ll get even angrier at the “lies” they are spreading. If we go to a neutral news source, we will read/watch/listen with our own ideas in mind and our confirmation bias will cause us to hear what we want to hear within the information.
Reading rational commentary from both sides of the aisle in the Editorial section of major (and local) newspapers is a good way to see both sides of an issue without being overloaded with propaganda.
But, most importantly, read everything presented to us as being fact with a discerning eye. Do the research. Google it. Examine the story elements. Does it add up?
Even it feels true, it might not be true.
Written by Shannon Fisher