In today’s 24/7 cycle of internet, television, radio and other forms of information messaging, often used by people as sources of “news”, it can become overwhelming. The fact is, most of these forms of media are considered entertainment, and owned by for profit entities. With the plethora of information assaulting people, how does one filter fact from fiction?
First, find your motivation to seek the facts. Lazy brains rarely engage in critical thinking and until you are seasoned at this, keep a dictionary close by.
Next, ask yourself if the content makes sense, is it logical, can it be corroborated by external sources, and is it using correctly defined words and terms.
DEFINE THE WORDS
One of the most difficult styles of content deliver to discern fact from fiction, is when the communicator is using false or incorrect meanings of words and terms from which to base an argument or present an interpretation of an event. A current example is the use of the words, “terrorism-terrorist”. If the content is making false claims about a person based on “guilt by association”, the entire argument or premise will be false. If you go to the defining source and you find that the article is making judgements without the evidence fitting the definitions of the words, then the article is not an authoritative source.
LOOK FOR THE CLUES
Phrases such as “it could mean…”, “it probably means..”, “a source says that..”, “even though there is no evidence…”, without rendering links to evidence based fact sources, will give the reader a clue that the article is based on assumptions, speculations, opinions, or out right fiction.
- A document of record: (See sample links at end of this article)
- The official copy of the bill being debated in congress vs. a story or opinion about what the bills says or is proposing.
- A transcript of a testimony, recording, video, or for a “quote” being rendered.
- An official spreadsheet of the data from which figures are being analyzed.
- A web address that ends in dot gov (if the topic is about government)
- Authoritative journals – academic, professional associations (AMA), trade, business, investing, etc.
Common authoritative sources include .gov, .edu
LEARN YOUR LOGIC TOOLS
Pairing facts with fiction is often found in political articles, but is most dramatically represented in the movie “Forrest Gump”, and other movies like “Alien Nation”. in which the movies contained factual events and footage of presidents and events, yet the stories were fictional. This means of transposing fact to make fiction look factual, is a widely used tool by current politics writers and radio jocks, and television talk entertainment.
Deduction vs Induction
Induction -a line of false logic which depends on intuition rather than tested facts – often false assumptions come from induction. It is often a false conclusion arrived at from facts or truths. Example: A person says, “The only people on welfare that I see, are black folks.” Then the person draws a false conclusion: “Black people are on welfare.”
Next, this person may expand the false logic to include others and increase the failed logic volume: “Blacks vote for Democrats, blacks are on welfare and thus, President Obama (Democrat), is creating a “welfare state” in order to attract black voters.” Since the original conclusion was false, it creates an inductive assumption-not accurate, and not based on facts.
Deduction is a line of logic which depends on tested data or evidence from which a conclusion is drawn. This requires critical analysis. A person might say, “The only people I ever see on welfare are blacks.”
This person begins to question the observation by considering possible factors such as, where the person is making the observation, are there other areas of living where other people of other races or ethnicity are also are welfare, what are the situations which can lead to requiring welfare, what role does welfare play in the larger economy of the nation, and so on.
Research will be conducted to answer the questions.
The person will then draw a conclusion which reflects the factual information without including an intuitive bias or assumption.
Fact finding can be tedious, time consuming and requires a motivation to learn.
Federal Register All the President’s documents, current and past, and much more. Several addresses for this large collection.
Thomas Library of Congress Congressional documents such as bills, transcripts, daily digests, and other evidence based facts pertaining to their roles, duties, daily activities and votes.
Bureau of Economic Analysis National Economics – personal, corporate, GDP, includes spreadsheets and source data for the current and past economic profile of the nation.
Federal Financial Management Federal Government financial status, past and present – spending and revenues, trade accounts, spreadsheets.
Government Oversight Government oversight and accountability – text documents covering Executive decisions, federal financial management and accounting with audits. Also, topics such as Sequester are documented for the current and past administration.
National Security Documents National Security Archives contains a large library of source documents for security issues from past and d-classified current situations, including 911, and other foreign terror subjects. Also links to Presidential orders.
U.S National Archives The entire source location of documents covering the history of the U.S, up to current day. Massive volume of historical documents, including immigration records.
Census Demographics for the U.S. by location including business data.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor and business data including unemployment and jobs numbers.
Department of Justice
FBI – Everything about crime in the U.S including a large file cabinet on gun legislation past and present, NICS back ground checks, etc. Also a large library of spreadsheets on crime profiles and statistics.
CDC, National Institutes of Health, Health and Human Services,
Obamacare NOTE: THIS is the OFFICIAL site, and there are other NON official sites for the Patient Privacy and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Do not be fooled. If a site ends in .com, it will not be an authoritative source for Obamacare.