Reality Should be the Ground Rule for Debate

We need the news media to be a more reliable filter, not merely a megaphone and to clear up the pollution by distinguishing fact from fiction.

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There has been a growing list of fake facts dominating the news over the past year. Already on the list are death panels, a foreign-born president, the hoax of global warming, and rampant discrimination against white people. Now we can add a new fake fact: President Obama is a Muslim. Despite the obvious truth that there is nothing wrong with having a Muslim president, the reality is that Obama is a Christian. Most Americans know this, but over the past year a growing minority seem to have misremembered his religion.

In order to have a healthy democracy, we need to know what is factually true and what isn’t. Reality needs to be a ground rule for debate. Otherwise, everything is up for grabs. The news media bears measurable blame for spreading—and not correcting—misinformation, distortions, and lies. From blogs and tweets to websites and videos, the Internet supports many silly and dangerous views. We need the news media to be a reliable filter, not merely a megaphone. It’s their job to clear up the pollution by distinguishing fact from fiction. This goes beyond partisan debate. It’s in the self-interest of conservatives, liberals, and progressives to do so. Otherwise, we are on shaky ground.

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The Latest Fake Fact by Sally Steenland

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