This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard
January 17, 2012
During both the 2008 and 2010 elections, the issue of reforming the American healthcare system was the focus of overwhelming amounts of misinformation and disinformation.
Remember the email about Senior Death Panels? It explained that the healthcare reform bill would allow Medicare to save money by refusing to pay for lifesaving treatment for older Americans. Of course, it wasn’t true.
Another email stated that the Muslim belief in dhimmitude (surrender or appeasement) would mean American Muslims would be allowed to opt-out of the mandatory insurance rule. Also untrue.
Both inflammatory statements were horribly upsetting! But it wasn’t a huge leap to figure out who wanted us to believe them.
Now primary season is here again, and some candidates continue to focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform). Whether or not you believe healthcare reform should be the law of the land, you owe it to yourself, and those you influence, to separate facts from fiction.
If someone shares “facts” with you that seem inflammatory, upsetting or don’t make sense, then there may be something askew. It’s possible they are true. Or, they may be only partially true, subjective interpretations of the truth, or even out-and-out lies.
Three websites provide neutral, objective analyses of political statements for our review. The best way to determine the veracity of information about healthcare reform, or any other political statements, is to scrutinize them at one, two or all three sites.
One site is the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com. Its “Truth-o-Meter” scores statements on a range from True, to Flip-Flop, to Pants-on-Fire, along with supporting documentation for how the score was determined.
Factcheck.org is provided by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. One section focuses specifically on email rumors. Another section examines statements made by candidates and their high-profile supporters to establish their accuracy.
Finally, Snopes.com is a great resource, too. While it originally examined only urban legends, in recent years it has expanded into political claims as well.
If you see, hear or read a statement from any organization or individual during the election season or any other time, be sure to review it carefully before you share it with someone else. You don’t want to foolishly believe things that aren’t true, nor do you want to share misinformation or disinformation with others. Using one of these statement-auditing websites will help you sort out the real facts.
Here is more information about reviewing email claims:
Have you confirmed or debunked a political email claim?
Share your findings!
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