When competing claims of truth exist, how is one to sort through it? I’ll tell you what I do.
First, I listen to all sides of a story and take note of the foundational facts that no one disputes. Are they even talking about the same story? These facts I assume to be true until someone calls them into question.
Second, I listen to the chain of logic people use to support their conclusions. I cannot tell when someone lies to me outright, but I can spot half-truth and spin miles away. Any conclusion not supported by the evidence is discarded and any speaker using faulty logic is rejected as unreliable. I may even begin to question their reported facts. So many people’s words are filled with non-sequiturs, circular reasoning, straw men, and other logical fallacies that it is impossible to take what they say as anything other than comedy.
Third, I check every claim against my personal experience and common sense. While it is theoretically possible for my experience to be atypical and for common sense to be wrong, it should still be reliable most of the time. The burden of proof is on those claiming otherwise. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Those who make no effort to support claims they should know are dubious are ignored.
Fourth, anyone who conspicuously leaves out an important part of the story I deem less reliable than one who includes it. So often, I find one news outlet telling only half the story and another filling me in on the rest. While I do not accept everything the second outlet tells me uncritically, if I cannot find anyone countering their claims, I tend to believe them.
Fifth, those sources consistently proven right by the first four methods are accepted as reliable while those caught in lies are viewed with increasing skepticism. It is at this step that feedback bias can manifest, causing me to accept lies if coming from someone shown truthful in the past. Because I am aware of this phenomenon, I purposely keep an open mind.
It is always best to check multiple sources, but often I can tell just from reading one source that they are lying to me about something:
I once read a story about how Trump was giving citizens of El Salvador one year to go home. The article made it sound as if they could stay indefinitely if not for Trump. Only by reading the entire article very carefully did I understand that, because an earthquake had wrecked their country, many Salvadorians were allowed to come here by George W. Bush, who kept extending the deadline of when they had to leave. Obama further extended the deadline. Now Trump was giving them one year. In other words, Trump wasn’t sending them home; he was extending the deadline just as previous presidents had. So, Trump wasn’t sending anyone home. Gotcha!
I once read a story of how a change to the tax code by Trump and the congressional Republicans was likely to cause charitable giving to plummet, since people could no longer write-off all their donations. Carefully reading the entire article, I see that all they did was raise the standard deduction. This means that donations normally itemized and deducted separately were covered by the standard deduction so long as their sum fell below the new threshold. The donations were still covered; the taxpayers were simply spared a little bit of work. So, there was no reason for charitable giving to drop. Gotcha!
When the paper first announced that a whistleblower had accused Trump of asking Ukraine to help dig up dirt on Biden’s family for no valid reason, I read the transcript of the call and saw that Trump did no such thing. He had actually asked President Zelensky to look into claims Biden had been making about stopping a prosecutor. What claims? None of the news I was hearing even mentioned it. They conspicuously left out a very important part of the story. I had to do my own research. That’s how I found a YouTube video of Biden bragging about getting a prosecutor fired. This prosecutor was at that very same time investigating a company on the board of which was Biden’s son. So, there was a valid reason to look into it. Gotcha!
When someone shared a photo on FaceBook purporting to show rich and poor neighborhoods side by side, showing how unequal things had become, I clicked on it. There were several photographs, the top one from Brazil and the rest from the United States. Only in Brazil was there a large difference. The American neighborhoods were hard to tell apart. So, what’s the point? Were they trying to trick me, hoping that I wouldn’t read the captions or scroll past the first photo? Gotcha!
When I heard that it was revealed the Pentagon had invasion plans of Iraq long before 9/11, implying that Bush and his cronies were just looking for any excuse they could find for war, I immediately thought: Doesn’t the Pentagon have invasion plans ready for every country just in case – especially countries we’ve had trouble with for over a decade? Why is that surprising? They should have plans. Gotcha!
We need to start listening to each other and stop believing whatever our favorite politician/pundit tells us unquestioningly. The fate of the world rides on this.