Get your facts straight

Photo by Ludovica Dri on Unsplash

This paraphrased quote comes from a Gershwin number in their opera, “Porgy and Bess”, in 1935.

The things that you’re liable
To read in the Bible
It ain’t necessarily so
.

It’s not just the Bible that got things wrong at times; we are fed misinformation every day of our lives.

How many times have you been present at a newsworthy event, either locally or nationally, and read about it in the press the next day? Only to think that the reporter must have been at a different place at another time because it just didn’t happen like that.

How can we be expected to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Social media commentators are not only responsible for the various conspiracy theories surround the Covid vaccines, but their contributors often get the facts wrong. Photographs of a field filled with dozens of abandoned electric cars were posted on Facebook. They were apparently abandoned because their batteries were too expensive to replace.

Yet again, the report was inaccurate. The cars were the property of a French car hire company that had ceased trading and were awaiting buyers looking for a bargain.

With the mountain of information produced by the media every day, how can we be expected to separate the wheat from the chaff?

The answer is, “I can’t, but I know several unbiased organizations than can.” They are called Fact-Checkers, and they do an invaluable job at keeping published information accurate. So who are these fact-checkers?

There are the independent ones run as not-for-profit charities which rely upon donations for support. There are also fact-checkers for the large news outlets such as Reuters, the BBC through its Reality Check, and the oldest international news agency, AFP, based in Paris. The responsible media outlets employ their own in-house fact-checkers as well as independent organizations that hold no allegiance to the news companies.

“Who watches the watchers?”

The age-old question still remains. Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? — which translates as “Who watches the watchers?”

However, with the tsunamis of news produced every day, it is impossible for all but a small percentage of that output to be checked thoroughly. And we are left to rely upon our own common sense. The fullfact.org website is the largest independent fact-checker in the UK and repays any visit with many corrections to the day’s news. American readers will find a similar service at politifact.com. Beyond these sources, I would advise sticking to another old rule — “If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.”

You can only rely on your best judgment

But then, there are exceptions to every rule. The following unbelievable facts have proven to be true –

· China used more cement in 3 years than the US did in the entire 20th century — 4.5 gigatons for the US and 6.6 gigatons for China.

· A typical fluffy cumulus cloud weighs about 550 US tons — an average cumulus cloud contains 500 million grams of water or about 1.1 million pounds.

· Nintendo was founded in 1889 — as a small Japanese card game company.

Having done your own research, you can only rely on your best judgment so long as you recognize its innate fallibility.

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Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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Adrian Arnold

Adrian Arnold

Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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