For me, the most intense battle of 2020 has been trying to figure what is true and what is not. What we know has happened in 2029 has pushed the limits of what I ever thought would be true. I never would have imagined that we would all be quarantined because of a worldwide pandemic, or witness protests after a person died on camera, or countless other moments in history that have happened in this decade long(;-) ) year. What has helped me the most is stripping away all of the shouting and chaos, and looking for the actual facts. That has led me to a deep-seated righteous, albeit carefully reined in, anger at authority figures that seem to have no respect for truth. Because so many people are taking advantage of their authority, it is important to discuss how to figure out what are the actual facts.
Note: There are a ton of ways to do this, but here are a few that I have lived by this year.
#1: Prayer: For those of you who are Christian or believe in some way in God, the most important thing I do is to pray for wisdom and help. God is outside of the fray and craziness and He knows what is best, so I rely on Him, and follow what I get from Him to the best of my human ability.
#2: Go to the Source: When I hear or read something that makes me feel something, I go straight to where it came from to check whether it is true, and what is the context. If someone quotes something Trump or Pope Francis or Biden said. I will look up their exact words, and where they said it and why.
#3: Check the Bias: There are several ways you can check the bias of a resource. The first thing I do is just observing the way the author speaks.
A. Often the headline itself will clue you in to a site’s bias, when they make someone sound worse than they are, and then once you read the article that’s not even what happened. They know people will read that and assume things.
B. It is also important to note manipulative language. Often in biased sites, the author’s choice of words is deliberately extreme in order to direct the audience to make a certain choice. If an article or video has an extreme amount of this language, that tells me their bias is compromising their commitment to the truth.
C. Ad Hominem attacks: If an author is attacking the people they are arguing about, it tells me that they are not willing to see both sides as people worthy of respect, and if that is the case then I cannot rely on them to be fair to both sides.
D. Straw man attacks: Often articles will present their enemies argument in an exaggerated and twisted way, which makes it impossible for anyone reading the work to disagree with them. This makes the author’s argument sound really good when you are reading it, but it is incredibly one-sided and dishonest and shows that the author is not committed to the truth and fairness to both sides.
#4: Get to know your subjects: When it comes to public figures especially in the presidential election, there are rumors flying around the cyber sphere about them. However, the best way to get to know them is their own words. I like to observe recordings of them speaking, their most used media presence(Trump is Twitter, Biden is Facebook), and if available, their books. In this way, you can get to know what they actually think, feel, and believe. Try to set aside your own bias when observing them so that you can get to know who they believe they are and what their intentions are. This is extremely helpful for when you are reading other rumors about them because you will know if it sounds like something they would do.
5 Exercise Empathy: Take some time to understand the other side. What is their motivation, and why are they pursuing it the way they are? It will help you navigate bias as well as help you to be fair when you are speaking.
This is just a few of the ways I check my sources and stay grounded in truth as we go through 2020 and I hope it is helpful to you as you vote tomorrow!