Facts, Misinformation & Priorities

  • Fact check before sharing. It makes you more authoritative, and makes the world a better place.
  • Misinformation shared only serves “the opposition.”
  • Focus on what’s truly important.

My morning was derailed by three separate articles that really struck a nerve. The concepts are so simple and important, and yet so often ignored, I’m having a hard time thinking about much else.

The first arrived via Austin Kleon’s newsletter (he’s the author of Steal Like An Artist, among other titles), where this morning he referenced It Can Take As Little As Thirty Seconds, Seriously by educator Mike Caulfield.

Caulfield demonstrates how easy it can be to fact check something you’re considering sharing. Literally. There’s a 36 second (silent) video showing the steps he takes using an example.

I immediately shared it on the Ask Leo! Facebook page, as well as on my own personal timeline. I also passed it on to another newsletter publisher who curates interesting things as a possible addition.

Obviously this topic resonated with me. Disinformation is at crisis levels. People are in too much of a hurry to take the time confirm the information they’re exposed to, particularly if it happens to agree with their preconceived notions. They miss two important facts:

  • The information could be wrong.
  • It could take mere seconds to find out.

As Caulfield points out, fact checking before sharing makes the world a better place.

“Think of it as information hygiene, the metaphorical handwashing you engage in to prevent the spread of misinformation.”

The second attention grabber this morning was an analysis in The Washington Post: No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.

One of the reasons this got my attention is that the Post is often considered politically somewhat left of center, and the higher number, if true, would support stricter gun control, generally considered a leftist issue. What’s significant is that a left-leaning publication would debunk a left-leaning statistic.

As they should.

Misinformation hurts your cause. Spreading misinformation that appears to support your position is as bad as ignoring the problem completely.

When you present misinformation you give your opponents valuable ammunition. Quoting the Post: “Gun rights groups seize on the faults in the data to undermine those arguments and, similarly, present skewed figures of their own.”

It’s depressing that people’s minds aren’t changed by facts. They’re mush more affected by emotion. They’ll remember that you “lied” much longer than they’ll remember whatever the truth may or may not have been. This is particularly true when the underlying issue is emotionally charged.

It’s the truth you must adhere to, lest your credibility suffer.

If your truth doesn’t sufficiently support your position — if you feel the need to embellish it to more strongly make your case — perhaps it’s time for introspection. What does it mean about your position if you have to make stuff up to support it?

Finally, as I do every morning after meditating, I read today’s entry from The Daily Stoic. Today’s was entitled “Don’t Make Things Harder Than They Need To Be”. My take-away highlight from the entry:

“Life (and our job) is difficult enough. Let’s not make it harder by getting emotional about insignificant matters…”

Certainly gun violence is a significant matter, but even then, an overly emotional response — especially if it leads us to embellishing our truths in some attempt to persuade — also makes a difficult, but important, job harder.

2 thoughts on “Facts, Misinformation & Priorities”

  1. Yea for you, Leo. Were I there, I’d definitely slap your back and shake your hands — both.
    I can only voice support for your words of wisdom and thoughtfulness.

  2. well said. encouraging us to participate in reflection and discussion with aquaintances, friends, family. even if they are not interested.

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