The problem with mindsets is that, once we adopt one, or a label – e.g., conservative, liberal, doctor, pastor, whatever – we tend to seek out mindsets similar to our own. We seek out information that supports our mindset. That makes us extremely manipulable. We tend to not like information that contradicts our mindset, so we ignore that. And then we don’t know when we’re being lied to or manipulated. To me, this is one of the scariest things with politics.
The February issue of The Rotarian magazine had an excellent article, titled “How to Tell Fact from Fiction and Trust the News Again” by Kim Lisagor Bisheff. The article asked the following question: “Do we trust what we read because it is the truth? Because it is fair to all concerned? Or because it validates our existing worldview?” The author explained that “when we see something that makes us feel anger or fear, or something that validates an existing bias, we tend to respond to it without thinking.” She added that “information and data from sources such as political advocacy organizations and partisan think tanks should be regarded with skepticism.”
There are several fact-checking sites available on the internet. In addition to individual fact-checking sites, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) is a forum for fact-checkers worldwide hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. These organizations fact-check statements by public figures, major institutions and other widely circulated claims of interest to society. Institutions that join this organization pledge to follow IFCN practices that include a commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness, transparency of sources, transparency of funding and organization, transparency of methodology, and a commitment to an open and honest corrections policy. U.S. organizations who are members of IFCN include www.checkyourfact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.leadstories.com, www.politifact.com, www.reutersagency.com/en/, www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/, www.ap.org/enus/, www.snopes.com and www.weeklystandard.com.
So, the bottom-line question is this: Are you committed to your beliefs, even if they are based on untruth? Or are you committed to the truth, no matter how badly it upsets your fondest beliefs? I sure hope it’s the latter.