Incorrect or even made-up information about the world around has grown to be a real problem. In our household we routinely have to sift through what’s real and what’s either satire or otherwise not reality-based.
But that’s a matter of fact versus fiction. In a sense, that’s not too hard to deal with; most of the time you can (if you’re willing to keep your mind open to do the work of sorting) work through to what’s real and what’s not. Inevitably, if you do that, sometimes you’ll find data that supports your world view, and sometimes you’ll find something that undermines it. The latter is useful, if you’re into thinking: It means you may get to add another level of sophistication to the way you interpret things.
Then on the other hand, there’s this from the just-released survey American Views: Trust. Media and Democracy, from Gallup and the Knight Foundation:
Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.”
The study noted that “The research community often defines ‘fake news’ as misinformation with the appearance of legitimately produced news but without the underlying organizational journalistic processes or mission. However, some political and opinion leaders, including Trump, commonly label news stories they disagree with or that portray them in a negative light as ‘fake news.’”
If that kind attitude becomes commonplace – data isn’t real if it runs counter to the way I want the world to look – then we really are lost. I don’t think we’re there yet. But consider this a serious warning signal.
Addendum: See also Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s floor speech on Wednesday, well worth the read.