August 16, 2016 Editor

Three Fact-Checking Websites of Note

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Image above: from Politifact: I’ll highlight the All Pants-On-Fire assertions by Donald Trump – there are of course so many such by other politicians too! But PolitiFact did award Trump “2015 Lie of the Year“.

I’m sitting back not a little dumbfounded by a recent exchange I had about Obama and the US elections candidates. Several claims were repeated by this person in the exchange:

  • Obama is not a “natural born” citizen despite overt statements to the contrary by Hawaii officialdom, etc. In fact, the Wikipedia article adduced goes on to describe the ad nauseum endless conspiracy theories circulating on the Internet and elsewhere to this day – and their many rebuttals.
  • Obama founded, along with Hilary Clinton, ISIS. This, despite readily available, well researched, articles like this that one can access to the contrary. This person’s response?: Who’s checking the fact checkers?
  • Sharia Law is invariably agitated for by diaspora Muslims around the world, once they reach about 20% of the population. There are in fact many examples in many countries of this. The reality is so much more complex and nuanced, as this scholarly article, for example, indicates. There is also no instance of this anywhere in North America or Europe, for example, as this fact-checking article indicates.
  • Donald Trump (obviously an uncannily brilliant and scholarly researcher of “nothing but the facts”), is to be implicitly trusted as telling the truth in his many assertions and claims. The Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact begs rather seriously to differ.

I thought of a joke, a story, and an oft-repeated assertion.

Joke: One day a man went to a doctor’s appointment indicating his firm conviction that he was dead. The doctor over the next while tried to dissuade him through various medical tests he ran, all to no avail.

Eventually, in exasperation, the doctor asked: “Do you believe that dead men bleed?” “No sir, I do not believe that!”, came the reply.

The doctor quickly took a large pin from his drawer, thrust it into the man’s arm, and as the blood spurted out, the man exclaimed: “Dead men do bleed after all!

Story: Two men walking in the deep jungle come upon a clearing. One says to another: “Look! Someone has planted a natural garden here! Isn’t it beautiful?”

The other replies: “I see absolutely no evidence of this at all. It is all just natural to a jungle clearing.”

But the other keeps insisting. The contrarian suggests calling in some guard dogs to warn if there is such a gardener. When no alarm by the dogs is sounded, the man says the gardener obviously is without a scent that dogs pick up.

The other then suggests building a fence, and alarming it, to catch the unscented gardener trying to scale it. When no alarm bell sounds, the other suggests that the gardener no doubt digs under the fence, smooths out the evidence of the dig, does not touch the fence, and continues tending the garden.

And so it went, back and forth, the one suggesting time and again an explanation to the other about why all the proposed verification tests did not work.

Finally, in utter frustration, the contrarian cries: “But my friend, whatever became of your initial claim?! It has died the death of a thousand qualifications!

(The obvious moral of the first two, if you missed it, is: never trust a man’s opinion!)

Assertion: “My mind is made up. Don’t bother me with the facts!

There is a Latin expression, petitio principii, that describes a move of “logic” thus: a fallacy in which a conclusion is taken for granted in the premises; otherwise known as “begging the question” or “circular reasoning”. If the premise is that each of the four bulletted assertions above is bottom-line truth, no amount of contrary evidence, challenging of the assertions, etc., will shake the person I know from believing in these “truths”.

The three websites highlighted are worth checking out – for any whose minds hopefully are not already made up!

Please click on: Snopes

Please click on: FactCheck

Please click on: PolitiFact


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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.