A Site To Check Political Facts

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - April 02, 2008
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Take heed, those of you who are confused by the rhetoric tossed around by the presidential candidates. There’s a web-site that can help you separate the facts from the fictions that are part of the inevitable baggage of a hard-fought political campaign.

FactCheck.org is an antidote to the “controversy of the day” mentality that plagues us. It describes itself this way: “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”

It’s a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and is funded by the Annenberg Foundation, meaning it accepts no money from labor, businesses, political parties or individuals.

Part of the problem with politics today is that we have too much information thrown at us from so many sources - newspapers, radio, e-mails, blogs, YouTube and television - and yet we have so little understanding. A lot of what we see and hear is wrong or misleading or taken out of context. Too much is driven by emotion rather than reason. Instead of dialogue or even thoughtful criticism, we’re more likely to get outrage, argument and righteous indignation, usually delivered in very loud voices. Sometimes we feel like clapping our hands over our ears and yelling, “shut up already!”

That was why Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race was dazzling to so many. It was a long, thoughtful speech that did not assume that Americans are hard of hearing, shallow simpletons who cannot appreciate or understand nuance. He spoke to us as adults. How refreshing.

However, the reality is that all the candidates or their surrogates have at some point in the race been guilty of exaggerations, half truths or outright lies. We, the voting public, can sit back and believe whatever rhetoric is thrown our way, making judgments based on the “he said, she said” kerfuffle of the daily news cycle. The politicians understand that cycle all too well. They use it. They have to, because they know the other side wins if they don’t.

We, however, can choose not to be manipulated in this way. We can choose to be truly informed. We can dig a little deeper. I’m recommending FactCheck.org not because it’s the answer to all our questions, but because it’s a good place to start.

That’s our job, isn’t it? To do the homework. It’s what we demand of our kids. We should expect no less of ourselves.

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