By Craig Funston
We’re reading a lot about so-called fake news these days. And the fake news reports (about them and from them) are coming from once-trusted media, news agencies, the Internet, and people in position of news power.
Said “people” would include politicians and preachers, teachers and tinkerers—all persons of influence. On the one hand, if we can’t trust these sorts of people, who can we trust? But on the other hand, is it possible we’re trusting these types just a little too much? Have we allowed them to do our investigating and thinking for us?
It’s really messy and confusing, because so many of the above sources are intertwined with each other (ie., they get their information from each other, and truth then becomes a vicious circle—like a dog chasing its tail). If you’re like me (and that may or may not be a good thing) you will likely want to be sure that your news source is giving you the unadulterated truth.
In other words, make certain they’re not lying to you by twisting the facts. Please note that there are two tracks here, namely, news and information. While I am focusing on the fake news aspect, I will comment a little on fake information throughout the next two columns. However, I promise a column dedicated to fake information some other time.
In the meantime, I am going to give you some tips—a free clinic, if you will—on how to discern fake news from true news.
Thinking critically. This comes first because it is, well, number one on my list. The other tip (in next week’s column) is also important, but this is the most important.
Critical thinking of course, is a lost art today. I think I have ranted enough about this troubling trend in our society, mostly among young people. The education system, electronic toys, and a plethora of information out there at the click of a button (which minimizes the need to investigate) are three significant contributors to the lazy mind of the current generation.
“News and information at our fingertips” has often been seen as a positive thing; I suggest otherwise.
Gathering all the facts, thoroughly examining them, then drawing objective conclusions are really the keys here. In other words, we need to re-train our minds to accumulate, assess, and analyze. We all may have a different response to the news if we applied these principles.
My genuine fear is that any generation that is unable (even incapable) of thinking critically will fall for anything, something we’re seeing these days. It is alarming beyond words what many are thinking (if thinking at all) about a variety of foundational matters. And now we’re seeing these days how these same people make political choices. So you see, critical thinking becomes a much larger issue than simply how they process news.
Critical thinking involves getting the big picture, looking at things from different angles, being objective about history, economics, and law (developing a balanced worldview in how they assess the information). Is it that simple? Not quite, but that’s a good start.
Thinking critically goes well beyond analyzing the news. It affects how we gather information on every possibly subject, how we make decisions, how we make significant purchases, how we react with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye with, and so on.
The following questions could be applied to any of the above challenges. And in the context of today’s column, they could be asked by anyone who wants to get beneath the usual mumbo-jumbo of today’s news and everyday rumours:
Do you know the difference between objectivity and subjectivity? Between fact and opinion? Are you aware of the great divide between a conservative worldview and a liberal worldview? Is there such a thing an absolute truth or is truth all relative? Is the pursuit of true news (versus fake news) even important?
If you can get a grasp of these questions, and then apply them, I humbly suggest you are well on your way to not being duped by fake news.