investigating the nature of fact in the digital age

Archive for the ‘Misinformation’ Category

Issues of fact and the new US President

In Facts and opinion, Journalism practice, Misinformation, Quotes, Uncategorized on January 27, 2017 at 12:34 pm’s This Week discussion re Trump and fact

Highlights from’s This Week discussion of the Trump Administration’s approach to “facts”(see link to video, above)

3:01: “[We need to ask:] what’s the larger truth here?  We miss that a lot.” (Alex Castellanos, Republican strategist)

3:48: “[Traditionally,] the three ‘sisters of spin’ are: misrepresent, mislead, mis-state. We now see Mr Lie, Mr Lying…” (Matthew Dowd, ABC news analyst)

4:09: “[Donald Trump and media spokesman Shaun Spicer say:] “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” (Matthew Dowd, ABC news analyst)

4:50: When questioned, [Trump] says the people questioning him are not telling the truth and everything that is a question is fake news.” (George Stephanopoulos, ABC commentator and news host)

6:09: “[Trump] seems to be betting on the idea that he can define reality by denying it.” (George Stephanopoulos, ABC commentator and news host)

Fact fight: Aly vs Price

In Facts and opinion, Misinformation on August 23, 2015 at 4:39 pm
Waleed Aly on the set of The Project.

Waleed Aly on the set of The Project.

WALEED Aly’s clash with Steve Price over the Adani mine on The Project this week got pulses racing among armchair devotees of the #idosohatethosenastyshockjocks and #iluvsorstraya hashtags everywhere. 

Depending on the cut of your ideological jib, Price was either the right-wing shock jock deservedly “shut down” by Aly or the righteous upholder of all things Team Australia who stuck it to the lefties.

As television, it was enthralling because it was real. There was genuine contempt in Aly’s eyes during the exchange, fury in Price’s. It was death stares at 10 paces — or via satellite, actually, Price was being beamed in on the night, possibly from another planet. He usually sits a couple of chairs down from Aly. Who knows what might have happened if they’d been in spitting distance of each other. Dry cleaning bills, possibly. 

The mood of the discussion was already dark as they talked about the government’s proposal to strengthen legislation to prevent green groups from “sabotaging” (the government’s word) major mining projects by challenging them in the courts. 

Price was in favour of the mine going ahead at just about any cost; Aly wanted to dissect the argument that favours additional legislative curbs. But it was when Aly insisted on correcting Price’s version of how many jobs Adani would create that the mood turned toxic.  Read the rest of this entry »

Why people persist in believing untrue things

In Facts and opinion, Interesting research, Misinformation on May 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

YOUR POLITICAL orientation determines where you fall on important social issues, right? And it’s the strength of your partisanship that determines how easily you “correct” mis-held opinions when presented with corrective information … isn’t it? We used to think that. It turns out that facts are mostly useless in combatting misinformation and misperceptions. It’s not your political beliefs that make you more or less likely to believe/dismiss facts that don’t fit your world view – it’s your sense of self worth. So suggests current psychological research by the likes of Brendan Nyhan and Stephen Lewandowsky – with huge implications for the efforts and effectiveness of fact-checkers and the news media in general. Maria Konnikova distilled what’s known in this post for The New Yorker.

Should opinions be based on facts?

In Academic reflection, Facts and opinion, Interesting research, Misinformation, Neuroscience on March 30, 2014 at 7:00 am

“I think people should be able to express political opinion even if they get their facts wrong. This is a country in which people have a pretty robust sense of their right to their own opinion … Are we going to say that if you get your facts wrong that should be a prohibition on your right to express your political opinion?”

– Australian Attorney-General George Brandis speaking to Rafael Epstein on ABC Radio 774 Melbourne’s Drive show, March 27, 2014 (Listen here. Starts at about 8:07)

GEORGE BRANDIS MADE THIS COMMENT during a discussion about his government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Critics of the proposed changes say the amendments are not really designed to protect free speech – which the government argues has been hobbled by certain sections of the laws as they have stood for nearly 20 years – but are in fact designed to allow (even encourage) bigoted attitudes to flourish.

This, the critics say, is typical of political conservatives’ view that curbing “offensive” discussions about minority groups is a form of political correctness, which in their eyes is an inherently evil practice.
Read the rest of this entry »

We care whether it’s true

In Facts and opinion, Journalism practice, Misinformation on March 24, 2014 at 9:53 am

The “old media” mantra of “if in doubt, leave it out” has been replaced in the online journalism age by “if it’s wrong, it won’t be for long”.

But despite the promise that the internet delivers a kind of self-correcting crowd-sourced “truth” that can match the efforts of traditional media, even some pop culture newsrooms such as BuzzFeed are finding that it makes business sense to get your facts right.

This piece, from the Columbia Journalism Review, suggests that authority, credibility and the trustworthiness of information still have currency. The question “Who cares if it’s true?” has been answered. We all care.

Journalists still decide what matters

In Facts and opinion, Journalism practice, Misinformation on March 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Social media and citizen journalism might mean that the public gets there first with “the news” but trained journalists are increasingly crucial as gatekeepers of what is worth knowing and what is accurate, and to highlight issues that might otherwise evade scrutiny. Time, judgement and the skills to report accurately will never go out of fashion.

Vincent Hendricks from the University of Copenhagen put it well in a recent piece for The Conversation:

True information and false information travel at the same speed online. That means there is still a vital role to be played by the more traditional press and media even if they stand to lose the race for breaking and short-lived spectacular news tsunamis and #infostorms, like when a giraffe named #marius is killed at a Danish zoo.

Read the original article by Vincent F Hendricks at The Conversation.


Facts: dead and buried?

In Facts and opinion, Interesting research, Journalism practice, Misinformation on March 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

In April 2012, Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune wrote an obituary for Facts prompted by a US Republican’s claim that 81 of his fellow members of the House of Representatives were Communists. The piece was a novel way to air the thoughts of Mary Poovey (A History of the Modern Fact) about how, in the internet age, opinion is given the same – if not greater – weight as fact:

“Opinion has become the new truth,” Poovey told Huppke. “And many people who already have opinions see in the ‘news’ an affirmation of the opinion they already had, and that confirms their opinion as fact.”

Huppke’s piece is worth revisiting.

For more of Poovey expounding on the same issues, see the transcript of (or listen to) this episode of Radio National’s Future Tense program: Fact and Fiction. (Fact aficionados Brendan Nyhan, Bill Adair and Ullrich Ecker also get a look-in.)