Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beyond Frustrated

After the Supreme Court's ruling last week to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act, I allowed myself to be excited for a few minutes.  I should clarify that I don't think that the act is perfect but I do think that is a necessary and right step in health care reform.  My excitement, as it turns out, was a mistake.  One that I doubt I will be making again.  After the ruling, pretty much everyone was taking to Facebook to spread misinformation or to celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling.  Those who were doing the misinforming led me to create my last post which was designed to address the issues I saw people posting about.  Additionally, I commented on people's misinformation in attempt to further guide them to being correct about issues. I should note that I fully support those who disagree with me on issues when their grounds for doing so are based in truth or at least backed up with facts.  It's highly unlikely that you are going to agree with me on every single issue that I support or those that I agree with.  Does that mean that I am going to get angry every single time and ignore facts or reason? I certainly hope not.  I try my hardest not to do that.  If it comes down to an argument and what we're disagreeing over is fundamental ideological differences, then we can leave it at that.  But in your arguments, if it is full of false propositions and we're disagreeing, I'm going to try to correct it.  At this point, I am beyond frustrated with people.  I have tried ignoring people when they post things that are obviously incorrect and I can't do it.  It makes me seem like an arrogant jackass. I try to leave my own comments out of it and merely link them to the sources.  When doing so, I use PolitiFact and FactCheck or link them to actual government documents that they're spreading the misinformation to.  What's standing in the way is confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information that confirms one's preconceptions.  We, as humans, all have this tendency.  It's important to recognize when you're falling victim to it, in order to avoid errors.  Part of the reason, I write on this blog is to get feedback on things that I think I might be misinterpreting.  Confirmation bias gets in the way of a lot of arguments with people.  If you think Barack Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia and not Hawai'i, it doesn't matter what proof I show you otherwise, you are going to interpret the information in a way that proves you right.  If I think that Obama and his campaign are going a bit overboard on their outsourcing claims of Mitt Romney, I am going to interpret information a bit differently then someone who believes otherwise.  Battling confirmation bias is hard to do and the only way to really do it is just provide your knowledge (a word I'm using in the strictest philosophical definition of a justified true belief) and hope that the knowledge is given to another person.  I believe that the truth will eventually conquer the biases of processing (there are others besides confirmation bias) but it's frustrating as hell combatting them.  I'll leave you with a quote from FactCheck's editor Brooks Jackson in an article entitled "Why the Truth Still Matters."

"Consider: If unpleasant truths would get candidates elected, they would state them frankly. But they seldom do that, because so few of us in the public want to hear unpleasant truths. Stating such things is considered a gaffe. Political campaigns are not public-policy seminars. The candidate’s goal is not to inform, but to persuade and motivate. Candidates make false claims, and grossly exaggerate, because they believe that fires up their supporters and triggers the biases of potential supporters.  This has been going on for a long time. Lying to the public was common in the ancient Greek democracy 2,500 years ago...And yet, facts and truth still matter. It’s a fact that federal spending remains at its highest level relative to gross domestic product than at any time since 1946, however much Democrats resist and demonize attempts to restrain the growth of entitlements. It’s also a fact that federal revenues are at their lowest level since 1950, however much Republicans deny that tax cuts have contributed to the unsustainable deficits and growing debt they decry.  Sensible voters can still decide elections – but they shouldn’t expect the unbiased truth from 30-second TV spots, or partisan talking points repeated endlessly on cable networks. But to be sensible, a voter must first ask, 'Does that claim sound too good – or too much like what I want to hear — to be true?' That’s where the search for the sometimes unwelcome truth begins."

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