This works better in a campaign than in governing. Reality bites in the real world. Running hard up against reality -- families broken by deportation, lost health insurance coverage, shuttered food stamp offices -- makes for painful encounters with undisguised truth.
Still, we can work not to play along with the disinformation environment. Let's leave the false stories to the other guys and strive to be sure that we are aren't buying into tales that just aren't so.
- If a headline grabs your attention -- and particularly if it is something that feeds your political assumptions -- CHECK around a little. Do you know the publication/site that it came from? Is any other well known source also reporting the story? The big newspapers and CNN have lots of faults, but they don't (usually, though occasionally they'll print a conspiracy fable-maker) run with completely unverified rumors. If something seems just too juicy, or too prejudicial, or too satisfying, to be true, it might be false, even in the age of Trump.
- When you make yourself a source of information (say you write a blog), think hard about how you "know" what you "know." The American Press Institute describes an instructive, easily understood, "hierarchy of accuracy" that journalists can use before deciding to spread something around.
- Get help. Check out media reporter Craig Silverman's reports on fake news at Buzzfeed. For example, A Trump Official Did Not Say “It’s Better For Our Budget If Cancer Patients Die More Quickly.” Silverman writes a newsletter about this topic. Subscribe here.
- Learn from others who are wrestling with evaluating stories for accuracy. Amnesty International has launched an international Digital Verification Corps working to
This is an inspiring project.
- Even more inspiring, given the hard circumstances under which they work, is Stop Fake, a Ukrainian NGO striving to combat a deluge of disinformation from nearby, hostile Russia. Their catalogue of tools includes such articles as How to Spot Visualization Lies (misleading statistical presentations and infographics) and How to Save Online Evidence and Why It Matters.