Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Respond to “Facts” That Aren’t?

Several times over the last few weeks, I’ve heard someone tell me a “fact” about President Obama’s policies that I know to be false. For example, I was reminded that President Obama signed a UN treaty that will eliminate the Second Amendment. False. Another person complained to me about how much their taxes had gone up because President Obama raised their taxes. False. Someone else said that they didn’t think it was right that President Obama wanted to force churches to recognize gay marriages. False. Those are just some highlights.

So here’s the question: What is the best way to respond to these people? I can explain that UN treaty has to do with arms trafficking and has nothing to do with domestic US gun laws (or that a treaty cannot trump the Constitution). I can talk about tax policy and how taxes have been lowered and are at their lowest rates in 50 years (give or take). And I can talk about same-sex marriage until I’m literally blue in the face.

But the people who cite these “facts” don’t appear to be willing to listen. They head it on Faux News or read it in a chain email that they received from a “trusted” source or even in a mailer from their legislator (and a politician would never lie, right?). And so when these people go into the polls, they are making their choices on policy decisions based on lies. As I’ve said over and over, if that person has a different view than I do, that’s fine (though I’d like to convince them and bring them around to the side of light and good). But if that person’s honest viewpoint is based on dishonest, fraudulent, false information, then of what value is that viewpoint? People don’t want to believe that they’ve been lied to or manipulated, but they often seem unwilling to trust contrary information. The chain email is more reliable than The New York Times because “the mainstream media is biased in favor of liberals” or something similar. And if they heard it on Faux News, then it must be true!

Thus, I’m curious to know how others confront this sort of situation. And please don’t say that you just ignore it or walk away. Allowing a lie to stand just helps make it true to those who repeat it over and over again. But what strategies work to get people to take a realistic look at the false information that they’ve been fed? Which sources of information are deemed reliable enough to justify a reconsideration of “facts”? What styles of argument or explanation work to help debunk the lies that people have latched onto and taken as truth?

Maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic, but I think that the solution to this problem is central to the stability of our political process because we cannot make good decisions on complicated issues if our reasoning is based on fraud and lies.

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At Friday, May 25, 2012 2:45:00 PM , Blogger JUDI M. said...

Had this SAME exact conversation yesterday with my Right Wing Repub aunt...a FOX watcher and believer. (In the beginning....4 years ago..she said everybody in TN "loved" Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama hated white people, Obama was a Muslim...) Now: if Obama is elected again the country is doomed, he's forcing insurance companies to give contraception, she heard on Greta that people are going to WI to make sure Scott Walker is elected "this time," and had not heard about Paul Ryan's plan to give vouchers for Medicare and eliminate SS.

When I said "you need to get facts and stop believing all these lies" and mentioned the group-think in the GOP about making Mr. Obama a one-term president and a failure, she was a little off-base. "Well, I just can't keep up with all this, I'm not that into it, maybe I just won't vote. I really don't like Romney, but....." I presented facts that I know, but she really didn't care. I said EXACTLY what you did: if you don't like Obama's politics, if you don't like him because he's black, if you think he's to blame for the economy and can show me reasons...fine. BUT if you're basing your thoughts on LIES and SMEARS and're doing the wrong thing for yourself and the country.

This is what we're up against..especially here in Knoxville. We do have a liberal showing in downtown areas, but it's not pretty everywhere else. All my relatives are died -In-the wool Repubs..Fox watchers...Baptists...AND COLLEGE EDUCATED AND WELL-TO-DO. And you CANNOT reason with Right's their circular thinking and avoidance of factual reasoning. I think it's a gene they have that they are only satisfied (and happy) when they have the other person in the debate ready to pull their hair out. To them, that's a win!

At Friday, June 15, 2012 3:05:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean to intrude on your blog site but after reading some of the stuff you have here, I admit it's very entertaining. I had some difficulty deciding if it was parody or you're being serious. When I realized you're serious, the entertainment quality actually went up by leaps and bounds! Keep up the good work.

At Friday, June 15, 2012 4:00:00 PM , Blogger MSWallack said...

It would appear (and perhaps I misread your comment) that you find what I have to say funny. I'm curious, what is it precisely that you find funny or disagree with?


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