One of the best things I’ve ever done is ban alleged news stories put out by less than reputable sources from the lively and sometimes heated political discussions that often break out under a column I’ve written and posted to my Facebook page.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do this before.
Don’t misunderstand, I love a good argument. I don’t mind losing one or having my mind changed or my views altered. I don’t even mind insults. I get a lot of those. I’ve written my opinion for a living for 30 years. You can’t call me anything I haven’t been called before. Someone insulting you usually means you’re winning the debate.
In the case of my Facebook feed, winning isn’t the point, of course. To me, the debate itself is the point. Honest debate is a healthy thing. I look at these little Facebook debates – which lately have all been about Trump and the Tea Party, formerly known as the Republican Party – as a way to test my thinking. Weak arguments based on emotion alone are always rightly called out by readers (showing how smart you are) which forces me to either bolster them with facts or morals or abandon them altogether.
Either way, it’s a net positive.
Like everyone else, though, I didn’t recognize how quickly information in America was changing and what an impact it would have. In the past, everyone got their news from the same newspapers, TV or radio. That was a good thing because believe it or not the vast majority of journalists played news down the center, like it should be, the result being news consumers who more or less agreed on the same set of facts.
The Internet – for all the good it has done – changed all that. Suddenly, everyone with an angle to push (including the Russians) realized, hey, I can put out my own set of facts, disguise it as news, and people will swallow it whole.
Which they did. You’ve probably wondered what happened to that friend or relative who suddenly began to believe things that clearly weren’t true. Well, it’s likely they started believing opinions disguised as “facts.” No wonder you can’t agree with them anymore — they’re working from a different set of facts. It’s like trying to play Monopoly where everyone has their own set of rules.
Well, my little rule change is my way to combat that. If you want to share your opinion on my Facebook page or website, by all means do so, even if you’re a crackpot. I won’t squelch you. But if you try to bolster your opinion – as people often do – by posting a link to a news source, it has to come from an established, trusted news source. If not, I hit the delete button.
I realize that’s a bit nebulous. What’s established and trusted? Well, in my mind, it’s an outlet I’ve heard of and can check out – for instance, the networks, newspapers, respectable news websites that don’t mix opinion with news the way CNN does. I don’t care if it supports my views or not. Post away. (For a rough guide, see the chart at top) I also don’t mind if you post links to opinion pieces – as long as it’s clear that’s what it is.
The great danger to America is not that we have differing opinions on the same news. It’s that no one agrees on what the facts are anymore. I submit that the blurring of the line that used to separate news and opinion is to blame.
I’m redrawing it on my little corner of the Interwebs. I encourage you to do the same.