How to Fact-Check Gary Matthews (or Anyone Else)

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One thing I love about today’s Internet is how easily you can fact-check anything I say.

Don’t believe me about something? Fine! Fire up Google (or any other search engine). Type in the topic. Seconds later you’re studying it in Wikipedia, watching it on YouTube, reading all about it in respected news outlets and academic journals.

Case in point: Last week I mentioned that we’ve just elected a new President committed to abolishing net neutrality. And not everyone (I’m learning) believes me!

A reader named Shannon writes:

“Where is this pledge you are referring to from Trump? He just said that ISIS needs to be monitored more carefully on the Internet, I’ve never heard him say ‘we have to shut down the internet.’ George Soros who funds the Democrats pushed for legislation to ban ‘fake’ news from the internet; that was a real story that should worry you. Also, if it wasn’t for the internet and ‘social’ media, Trump never would’ve been elected. He uses it to talk directly to the people. You need to cite your sources, I’m just sayin’.”

Shannon, I do cite sources when I need to. In this case, it wasn’t necessary. Why? Because:

✦ You can look it up yourself in far less time than I could link to it.

✦ Any text you highlight in an email or web page automatically becomes a search engine hot-link. (In other words, the link is already there! I’ll explain below.)

✦ Even if I gave you a link (or a whole raft of links), you’d still need to do your own web-search to make sure I wasn’t just parroting those fake-news outlets you mention.

Regarding my first point – as to how easily you can look it up: Please open your browser and type “trump on net neutrality” into its search bar. Press <Enter>.

Search results change every day, but here’s what I’m seeing right now (November 26, 2016):

Trump on net neutrality

As you see, the top three results read: “Trump picks strike fear into net neutrality backers”; “Wolverton: Trump election threatens net neutrality”; and “Trump Just Put ‘Net Neutrality’ on Death Row”. (None of these headlines are from fake-news sources.)

Among the things we’ll learn from these and hundreds of other linked articles: (1) Donald Trump in 2014 used Twitter to call net neutrality as an “attack on the Internet” and a “top-down power grab” that will “target conservative media”. (2) As President-elect, he’s appointed an FCC transition team consisting of three outspoken net neutrality opponents.

I could, of course, give you their names and provide links to their resumes. But why should I? Like Trump’s public position, these details are matters of record, universally accessible to anyone willing to type one short phrase into a search engine.

But what if even that’s too much trouble? No problem!

Instead, simply highlight “net neutrality” in my blog post or email, and right-click it. One option that pops up will be “Search for ‘net neutrality’” – or something similar. (This context-menu exact wording varies among browsers, but the feature is standard.)

Choose that line, and your result should look pretty similar to the page pictured above. (Search results change, of course, moment by moment, so your exact mileage may vary.)

This works for anything. Every mainstream web browser treats every word and phrase of every web-page as a search link. Just highlight the one that interests you, and right-click. Chrome, Firefox, and Edge all offer this convenience. With Opera, even the right-click is needless: It pops up the search option instantly.

This frees me of any need to clutter up my articles with redundant links. They’re already there!

We’ve been discussing the candidate’s long-standing attitude toward net neutrality. What about his other, much-lampooned proposal to simply “shut down” the Internet as a way to combat ISIS?

Well, you’re technically right: He never said “shut down” the Internet; his actual wording was “close up” the Internet. Most major news outlets paraphrased him as proposing to shut it down, but that was, indeed, a paraphrase.

You can find these articles by typing either version into your browser: “trump shut down the internet” or “trump close up the internet”. (He offered that suggestion in the third presidential debate.)

Now granted, he specified closing it down (or up) only “in certain areas”. That’s indeed feasible, but only in areas controlled by our government – that is, in the United States. Taking him literally, that would mean making our country like North Korea (which has no public Internet worth mentioning).

Now we all know he didn’t mean it literally. That would cost him his beloved Twitter account! For all I know, there may be a (non-literal) way to block Internet access for IP addresses associated with ISIS. I’m skeptical, given the availability of  anonymous proxy services. But maybe it’s possible – let’s hope so!

My point remains: The ensuing laughter shut down (closed up?) any discussion of his far more serious, far-reaching opposition to net neutrality.

Like so many other weighty issues, we simply ignored it! We preferred to obsess over whether Miss Universe, having starved herself to win the crown, was entitled to relax afterward and regain a few pounds.

Still, deciding not to decide is itself a decision. We chose not to discuss, or even think about, net neutrality. By making that choice, we in effect chose to give it up.

Time will tell whether we chose wisely.


Comments

How to Fact-Check Gary Matthews (or Anyone Else) — 3 Comments

  1. Several sequential comments from Shannon — grouped here for convenience:

    On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 8:29 AM, Shannon wrote:
    You expect someone, who is a professional person, to read your article, then go and parse out a phrase from your article and google it?

    That’s not realistic, no one I work with would do that.

    On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 7:15 AM, Shannon wrote:
    …and if it’s so easy to type in the link, why didn’t you just do it? that’s just some advice for the future. because your readers might actually be busy with other stuff going on in their lives.

    On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 7:07 AM, Shannon wrote:
    … That said, I did look up the article and there’s a strong argument against net neutrality too, so I am looking into the matter.

  2. ​On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 7:29 PM, Jackie Stratton wrote:
    Gary: I’m just amazed … how do you keep track of all this ? … not a real question (rhetorical question), J

    (now don’t do an article on rhetorical questions….aaaaaarghhhh!)

    hahaha J

    • But Jackie — an article on rhetorical questions is a terrific idea! Maybe I should do one.

      But since you just defined and illustrated that concept, let’s agree that you just wrote and posted the article, so I don’t need to. ≧◔◡◔≦ Thanks so much, in any case. You rock!

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