In the last few weeks, and arguably all of the past year, the media has been saturated with political rhetoric. From the State of the Union Address, to the many debates, to the individual speeches along the Campaign trail, we have heard plenty of conflicting information from our country’s leaders.
That information has been routinely monitored by fact-checking organizations such as factcheck.org, set up by the Annenberg Public Policy Foundation. These organizations work hard in the hours after an important political event to double check the accuracy of every statement each politician makes.
Unfortunately, the hard work of these people is often ignored by the populace for various reasons. Sometimes that’s because these organizations do not have a large following, but likely the most significant reason for their lack of popularity is that they seem rather politically charged themselves.
Most people don’t want to think that their favorite politician would lie to them. In fact, it is common practice to blame the fact checkers of bias rather than admit to being lied to by one’s preferred politician.
The mission statement of factcheck.org disagrees, saying, “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in US politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major US 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.”
Another well known organization, PolitiFact, “checks claims by elected officials, candidates, leaders of political parties, and political activists. We examine officials at all levels of government, from county commissioners to US senators, from city council members to the president.”
Even if you look at the parent company behind fact-checking organizations, you will find that most are backed by nonpartisan groups.
Despite these facts and the hard work these people put into researching the statements each politician makes, they are still not given much credit in the world of politics. The problem surrounding the distrust of these organizations is surprisingly not one of political corruption, but of the voluntary ignorance of voters.
It is crucial that those claiming to be well-informed citizens must be willing to challenge what they are told by politicians, even those who you honestly believe have the best ideals for the country. Blindly believing what you are told by anyone is a bad practice, and one that is not conducive to being a good college student or American citizen.
If we want to call ourselves educated voters, then we need to put more emphasis on the often neglected form of truth available to us.