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Disinformation and misinformation are existential threats to our democracy because they undermine our trust in a shared reality, and we lose our common ground. (Dr. Kate Starbird, University of Washington, Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, "The Weirdest Election 'Night' Ever," webinar, 2020 October 19)
Avoid information bubbles
When you get all of your news from one source, you are getting only one perspective that may be biased. Just as a balanced diet is good for your body, a variety of news sources is good for your mind.
AllSides considers media bias and presents parallel news stories from the left, center, and right.
Media Bias/Fact Check rates news media on their bias; check out their list of least-biased news sources.
According to author David McRaney: "Punditry is an industry built on confirmation bias . . . these people provide fuel for beliefs, they prefilter the world to match existing worldviews. If their filter is like your filter, you love them. If it isn't, you hate them. You watch them not for information, but for confirmation." McRaney also says, "Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions." (Eric Giordano, "Brownies, Brains, and Information Habits, Part II," The Municipality, May 2021, page 30.)
There are facts, and then there is everything else
"Just the facts, ma'am," was a famous quotation attributed to Sergeant Joe Friday on the 1950s television drama Dragnet. But he never actually said that, so even one of our most well-known catchphrases about facts is a myth.
What is a fact? (Merriam-Webster definition)
What is a fabricated fact? (Black's Law Dictionary)
There are a lot of things floating around out there that are not facts. Analyses, interpretations, opinions, predictions, speculation, misinformation, rumors, fake news, myths, conspiracy theories, urban legends, fabrications, hoaxes, and bald-faced lies sometimes smother the facts. Facts can be checked and verified.
Here are some fact-checking tools:
("Dilbert" by Scott Adams, La Crosse Tribune, 2019 March 24)
Fact-checking Biden's statements on Afghanistan
Biden's flip flops on Afghanistan
Chaos at Kabul airport was not staged
A deliberate attempt to bring in more refugees?
Where is the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau?
Trump's withdrawal from Afghanistan
Comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam
Taliban did not hang a man from a helicopter
Military equipment and weapons left for the Taliban
Money spent on military contracts in Afghanistan
Questions about U.S. credibility
How many Americans and allies were left behind
Feature: Report on the 2020 Election
The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election
(PDF of the report)
Feature: Critical Race Theory
Feature: Voting laws
Feature: What is QAnon?
"Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain, argues that our brains naturally look for and find patterns, and then infuse those patterns with meaning. As a result, simple coincidences can become key explanatory facts. The internet exacerbates these tendencies by putting together random facts, making them readily available and spreading them virally." (Eric Giordano, "Brownies, Brains, and Information Habits, Part II," The Municipality, May 2021, page 31.)
Short primers on information literacy
Is this story share-worthy? (Note: The Newseum is defunct)
Reading & Resource List on Information Literacy (updated regularly)
The Political realm
(Joel Heller, La Crosse Tribune, 2021 August 8, page A8)
Coronavirus fact-checks (Politifact)
Just For Fun