I hate it when politicians lie. I hate it when everyone else lies, too, but politicians are a special case. Lies usurp power by channeling people’s actions in the wrong direction. Some kinds of misinformation are more dangerous than others, but none are more frightening to me than those used to manipulate people into giving over political power. Abusing power to gain power simply can’t end well.
This is why I love the fact-checking websites. As with any other sources of information, one must read them with appropriate skepticism, but it is a relief that there are people out there holding politicians accountable for the things they say. It’s important too to have convenient sources for fact-checks because there are so many convenient opportunities for well-intentioned people to spread misinformation. Memes fly around Facebook and Twitter passing from friend to friend of friend and so on. Clicking «like» or «retweet» is easy. Researching claims is hard. When the claims in a particular meme support the narrative in an individual already have, they get reshared without much thought.
I’ve passed along articles and images, and I’ve had the good fortune to have people call me out on my claims. From my own experience, in the moment «sharing» a post or image with factual claims feels the same as citing a reference.1 It’s a way to say, «see? it’s right there on the Internet, just like I’ve been saying all along.»
Fact-checking sites help us in two ways: they provide an opportunity to easily look at assertions before resharing or writing a new post on a topic, and they also provide convenient links to a page with analysis and source material to confirm or debunk those assertions. The latter makes it almost as convenient to gently correct a friend or relative who has reshared something inaccurate on social media as it was for them to reshare it in the first place.
As of this writing, Politifact is doing a fundraiser to support their work. I don’t like passing along requests for donations, but there is a special circumstance. Politifact has reached their dollar-amount target ($15,000), but their matching donor’s condition is to match the $15,000 if they receive that money from 1000 individual donors. Apparently people have been generous, and they have reached their goal with only about 500 donors.
To reach that thousand-donor mark, Politifact is asking for donations of as little as one dollar.
I don’t doubt that the minimum donor count is a tactic used to get more people to send in a little rather than not at all. I suspect that it hasn’t escaped notice that someone who appreciates Politifact and is willing to put the time in to give a dollar will probably be inclined to give more. Inertia is probably a bigger barrier to individual donations than price point.
That said, it would be a shame for them to miss out on the matching funds because they didn’t get enough people to kick in a buck. I like what they are doing and I want them to keep doing it. So I’m asking: if you like what they’re doing, send ’em a buck.2