We’ve described how fake news-sharing is the way many people signal their partisan identities. For them it is commonplace to claim they know, even when they don’t.
For contemporary Americans, ultimately this comes down to public courage to say “I don’t know” in situations where one is merely a believer.
Ultra-conservatives in a recent Princeton study passed on phony narratives at a rate almost seven times the norm. Harvard researcher Matthew Baum describes this group as politically extreme. They take their lead he says, from a president who advocates, supports, shares and produces fake news on a regular basis.
According to opinion research organization More in Common, the damage created by political strategies such as these includes damage to our collective civic virtue and damage to countless personal and family relationships with others who do not share the same beliefs.
Acknowledging we are believers, like so many different from us, should help us to become more empathetic toward a plethora of others who do not subscribe to our particular beliefs about how we think the world should work.
Ultra-conservatives described by Baum are called to make a crucial change along with everyone. It is to acknowledge publicly we don’t know, when indeed one merely believes.
How to start, whether one chooses the political extremes or tacks closer to the center? Try this. If you are doing it now, stop passing on fake news and false realities. Live with integrity. Stop advocating personal belief as though it is public knowledge.
Next, we’ll describe a straightforward process for distinguishing between what is known and what is merely believed. For this sterling contribution we’re indebted to philosopher of science Professor Karl Popper.