factcheck.org, snopes.com – Where Are the Facts?

Anyone who has scoured the Net for information these days knows full-well that it can be a place of good information and bad.  It seems that as quickly as you find what you are looking for, you also find information that disputes whatever you are looking into.  The Web has been called many things, but the best parallel I have heard is a comparison to a city.  There are places you can go to have fun, learn, and be safe.  Then there are places you can go that are just the opposite.  So, if you are trying to research a subject important to you, where do you go to check the information you have come across to see if it is accurate and pertinent?  Well, there are quite a few sites out there that are available to help you – or not.

Several come to mind, but the two most prevalent seem to be factcheck.org and snopes.com, the latter of which unequivocally states that it is “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends”.  When you have a closer look at these sites, you may find that they are simply a lazy man’s way out of doing proper research.  After all, how can a site claim to be “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends” when the source of information that it uses is the general public and there is no actual research done by any reputable sources?  Answer is that it is a false claim.  It should be in quotes on their site, as it is most certainly the opinion of the site owners, and not proven to be so.  But let’s start with factcheck.org, as this site seems to be in vogue with the juveniles these days.  Not that juveniles are prone to laziness in their research, but one would hope that when you reach adulthood you would have learned that there are more accurate ways of researching a matter than reading what someone else is telling you to think.

Factcheck.org is a site that is registered to Annenberg Public Policy Center, which is connected with the University of Pennsylvania.  Although at first glance this might sound reputable, like a think-tank of sorts, it always pays to follow the money.  Universities are notorious for taking grant money from the government.  They will never bite the hand that feeds, and will therefore always take sides on an issue based on their financial best interest.  This has proven itself to be true over and over.  Greed trumps intellect with these entities. Universities are also largely Liberal in their beliefs.  This isn’t the sort of bias that I would use while researching an issue to report or editorialize on.  A simple perusal of their website shows this bias in spades.  Also note that academic entities and colleges are proven to be left-leaning in most all cases.  For many decades the colleges have suffered from an academic mindset that does not allow for thinking beyond their box.  The academic community is the most intellectually bigoted community that you will find, and might only be trumped by the scientific community.  The inability, or unwillingness, to think beyond the narrow confines if their limited intellectual scope has proven to hurt these two controlled entities time and again.

Onward to the more established mecca of disinformation – snopes.com.  There have long-been rumors of government involvement with Snopes.  Although it is supposedly owned and run by Barbara and David Mikkelson, and they may have in fact started the site, one would be hard-pressed to believe that a husband and wife actually run this site from their basement in Pennsylvania.  Interesting to note that both of the sites are Pennsylvania-based.  When you actually go to the site and have a look at the content, it more-appears to be compiled by a mishmash of people from all walks of life.  Most of the responses seem to be the nasty, aggressive, responses that you could expect from a group that either has no idea what they are talking about and no facts, hence the attacking, or they are plants for disinformation.  Take your choice, but another place where someone of even average intelligence would avoid while doing any bonafide research.

Look, all I’m really saying here is that you need to do your own research.  As a research professional that has practiced in both the legal world, doing research for attorneys, and the communications world, doing research for engineering projects, it has become painfully apparent that people have become really lazy when they should be researching a subject before they comment on it.  It is much easier to label, call names, and rudely dismiss in a debate, than it is to research and issue and come back to the debate with hard-hitting facts to support your argument. And by facts, I don’t mean what “brandi1995” told you on Snopes.  It is much easier to go to these entertainment-based sites, snopes.com and factcheck.org, than it is to research a subject, look into the PhDs that studied it, read what they have published, and decide for yourself.  To the lazy among us that cop out by relying on these disinformation sites to tell them what to think; shame on you.  You become part of the problem, and if these sites are in fact run by, or influenced by, the government then you are an active participant in a much larger problem.