Support truthiness

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.

The two major fact-check­ing sites are FactCheck and Poli­ti­fact. Of these I like and trust Poli­ti­fact more, but I applaud both and read both.

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

That link again: send ’em a buck3

  1. And I do so enjoy cit­ing ref­er­ences
  2. From the mon­ey-where-my-mouth-is depart­ment, yes I kicked in
  3. This post is about the Poli­ti­fact cam­paign, but it seems sort of unfair not to men­tion that FactCheck accepts dona­tions as well. 

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