I don’t know about you, but in this highly political season our email boxes have been filling up with emails extolling/deriding the character of this or that politician and skewering/supporting this issue or that. We get them from friends and family who see us as sympathetic to their point of view and from friends and family who hope to win us over. Heck, I have sent a few links out myself.

Clearly, people feel passionately about their points of view. I get that. What concerns me more than anything is how people are arriving at their points of view. As thousands of bloggers, viral email, polls, YouTube, special-interest Internet sites, the TV, magazines and print media weigh in on this politician or that issue, we’re dealing with a Category 5 Content Hurricane! While it’s wonderful to have a plethora of diverse information sources, the whirling and contrary debate can make it extremely difficult to separate the fiction from fact. It’s frequently daunting to determine whether the information is rumor and innuendo or if it is what really happened. And we can't become informed, thoughtful citizens without accurate information.

When 81 percent of U.S. citizens say that they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country (USA Today/Gallup Poll. Aug. 21-23, 2008), the stakes in this election are in the stratosphere. It’s not enough to rely on a blogger saying that Sarah Palin cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent (she didn’t) or an email that claims Barak Obama is a Muslim (he isn’t.) It isn’t enough to rely on one news source, whether it’s Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or the network news. If your relying solely on your hometown newspaper or the New York Times, it’s not sufficient. You won’t get a balanced, well-rounded picture by listening only to Rush Limbaugh or Ed Schultz. 

We can’t have authentic conversations about politics unless we listen to each other and tell each other the truth. And we can’t tell each other the truth if we haven’t done any investigation into the information we hear or read. It is dangerous and counterproductive to rely on chain emails, convention speeches, something your coworker heard from a neighbor or political ads. Winning is what counts with political campaigns, not telling the truth.

OK, so I am one more blogger adding to the public discourse with this plea: Please, pretty please with sugar on top, inform yourself! Here are two non-partisan websites, staffed by experienced researchers, that I highly recommend. Their mission is to thoroughly investigate the claims made in interviews, speeches and political ads.

www.factcheck.org (Be sure to read the article about chain emails in the left-hand column.)


If you know of others, I’d love to hear from you.