Truth, Half-truth, and Untruth

It looks as though one of the great challenges of the 2020 U.S. presidential election campaign will be determining what is true. You may cite that last sentence as an example of understatement. We have many candidates making lots of contradictory claims, assurances and promises. How can we trust what we’re hearing and reading?

We constantly deal with new information—one of the blessings (or one of the curses) of our age. And in the thick of the daily onslaught, we may wonder which information is good, which is corrupted in some way, and how to determine the difference between what’s true and what’s not. And it’s getting harder to do.

Just because you saw it on your favorite news network does not make it true. Just because a buddy of yours posted it doesn’t make it right. And then that new menace to clear communication called Deep Fakes, produced by technology said to be so good that you can’t tell the real video from the mash-up.

There are a few questions to consider asking when you have received new information, questions that will help you view the material from a critical thinking perspective.

One of the first questions we need to ask is how can I tell? What signs am I seeing that tell me this claim is true, or signs that it’s false? Can I validate the accuracy easily myself? And if the information is accurate, what then? Will there be implications and consequences, influences and effects? What’s this going to do to me?

And what if the material is wrong? Now what do I do, how do I treat it, what do I say to those who think it’s right? Will the inaccuracies cause a negative result in other parts of the project? Try to help others access their own critical thinking skills.

Finally, consider the source of the information and the value that source itself is receiving by communicating the information to you. How does it help them? Why are they sharing the information? What do they stand to gain?

Ask questions about the things people claim, and protect yourself against false or misleading techniques.

Author: Craig Butcher

Craig Butcher is an award-winning educator who has taught critical thinking skills for more than two decades. In addition, he has worked on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer and has been a top-rated broadcaster.