The internet has spotlighted the degradation of evidence, fact and truth as polestars of forming and manipulating people in the 2016 election in a way not seen before. Critical thinking, source-checking, reason, and even date-checking are road-kill in this so-called information age, in my opinion. I believe it is dangerous ground, this instantaneous transmission of so-called “news,” and we must go to bedrock to protect ourselves from absurdity and nonsense. But the fact is, there are reliable ways to distinguish between Truth and Shinola. If you want to live with truth, you must befriend facts!
What follows are definitions, a link to a wonderful how-to on critical thinking, the legal definition of evidence, types and rank of sources, and three on-line fact-checking services which I find reliable.
Bookmark this article. When you believe something you found on the internet (or in life), examine it with these tools in mind. It will become a habit. And it will serve you.
Evidence: anything that helps to prove that something is or is not true.
Fact: something that is known to have happened or to exist, especially something for which proof exists, or about which there is information.
Innuendo: a remark that suggests something but does not refer to it directly, or this type of remark in general.
Lie: to say something that is not true in order to deceive.
Misrepresentation: something that misrepresents an idea, situation, or opinion, or the fact of something being misrepresented.
Opinion: a thought or belief about something or someone.
Rumor: an unofficial, interesting story or piece of news that might be true or invented, and that is communicated quickly from person to person.
Source: something or someone that causes or produces something, or is the origin of it. A source is also someone or something from which you obtain information.
Theory: something suggested as a reasonable explanation for facts, a condition, or an event, esp. a systematic or scientific explanation.
Truth: the actual fact or facts about a matter.
Witness: a person who sees an event happening, esp. a crime or an accident.
Follow the link to a fair and reasonable outline of what critical thinking is, and an exposition of its elements: rationality, self-awareness, honestly, open-mindedness, discipline, and judgment. http://www.criticalreading.com/critical_thinking.htm
Legal Rules of Evidence: There are four general types of evidence:
- Real evidence (tangible things, such as a weapon)
- Demonstrative (a model of what likely happened at a given time and place)
- Documentary (a letter, blog post, or other document)
- Testimonial (witness testimony)
Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that tends to prove a factual matter by proving other events or circumstances from which the occurrence of the matter can be reasonably inferred.
Corroborating Evidence: Evidence that is independent of and different from but that supplements and strengthens evidence already presented as proof of a factual matter.
Hearsay: A statement made out of court and not under oath which is offered as proof that what is stated is true (usually deemed inadmissible).
Exclusionary Rule: A rule of evidence that excludes or suppresses evidence obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights.
A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources.
Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else’s original research.
(Author note: At best, in my opinion, the internet is always a secondary source.)
On-Line Fact-Checking Services: