September 13, 2008 in Opinion

Our View: Two sites help separate political fact from fiction

 

If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Ancient journalism proverb

The mixture of politics and cyberspace has spawned a volatile elixir that bubbles with fact, fiction and felonious half-truths. With Web sites, blogs and e-mail, there are more opportunities to mislead, but fewer excuses to be misled.

The race for president is a prime target for deception, because so much is at stake. Every election cycle produces its share of junk, but this year there appears to be an inordinate amount of trash behind the “send” button. That’s probably due to the fact that two relative newcomers have captured the most attention. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama aren’t as well known as U.S. Sens. John McCain and Joe Biden, so it’s easier for prevaricators to fill in the blanks.

And, boy, have they.

Bogus e-mails clutter in-boxes across America. Nefarious Photoshoppers cut and paste their deceptions. Shameless bloggers sift the wheat from the chaff and post the chaff. And politicians themselves disseminate questionable information.

For the reader who merely wants the facts, logging on can be daunting. But there is help out there. Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan watchdog, provides an invaluable service by scrutinizing the claims and counterclaims of politicians. Snopes.com looks behind the rumors, gossip and innuendoes. Polifact.com links readers to sources of information so they can do their own detective work.

If you bookmark those sites and others like them, you won’t fall for the rampant falsehoods and half-truths.

You’ll find that Palin did not ban books, slash funding for special needs kids, join the Alaskan Independence Party, endorse Pat Buchanan and push for the teaching of creationism in public schools. Oh, and she really is the mother of her son, Trig.

You’ll find that Obama is not Muslim (radical or otherwise), did not help a corrupt developer get $14 million in taxpayer funds, was born in the United States, does not plan to raise taxes on the middle class and does not refuse to put his hand over his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance.

You’ll find that while candidates are often the victims of falsehoods, they – and their campaign teams – are not above stretching the truth.

In this conspiratorial age where claims gain credence because the media won’t report them, it’s nice to have online watchdogs to set the record straight.


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