Garbage In, Truth Out

Facts: 360BC-AD2012” on 19 April 2012One of the main reasons our founding fathers established the electoral college was the belief that the average citizen didn’t necessarily possess access to or the ability to understand information necessary to make an informed decision about who should be president and so they didn’t want to entrust that choice to the general population. Given today’s political climate of professional politicians and “spin” selling of the “truth” by all parties, our forefathers were clairvoyant.

Chicago Tribune reporter Rex Huppke wrote a wickedly satirical but salient obit for “Facts: 360BC-AD2012” on 19 April 2012 — which should be mandatory reading for all voters.

Huppke cites Professor Mary Poovey, who says, “Anybody can express any opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there’s no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It’s just kind of a bizarre world in which one person’s opinion counts as much as anybody else’s.”

Huppke’s last line cuts to the quick — “In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.”

Rem Reider in the current American Journalism Review (Fall 2012, p. 2) takes the media to task for not rigorously fact-checking of advertising and allegations in the presidential election.

He cites the Republican claim that President Obama was “gutting welfare reform” which was found “without merit” when checked by FactCheck.org and others.

And an ad by Priorities USA Action which suggested that “a woman died of cancer because her husband lost her health insurance after Romney’s Bain Capital closed the steel plant where he worked.” FactCheck.org, Reider notes, found that the woman died five years after the plant closed and after she lost health coverage at the company at which she worked.

Both stories unfortunately have become “fact.”

For our grandparents, if it was on the radio, it must be true. For our parents, if it was in the newspaper or Walter Cronkite said it on TV, it must be true.

For the current generation, if it’s on the internet or a social network or in political ads, it must be true. My children – a 25-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter – aren’t fact-checkers. They’re part of the new GIGO generation – instead of Garbage In, Garbage Out, they blindly follow the GITO principle – Garbage In, Truth Out.

Facebook and other social networking sites is a social petri dish for the study of this phenomenon.

Hamilton explained the basis for the electoral college in The Federalist Papers: “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election (of the president) should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.

As voters dedicated to any political affiliation, we can’t possibly consider “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which (are) proper to govern (our choices)” when we succumb to, as Huppke notes, “Rumor and Innuendo” without diligent fact-checking.

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Dr. Nick De Bonis

Dr. Nick De Bonis

Nick De Bonis has been a college instructor or professor one score and six, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in marketing, advertising, management, broadcasting and communications. A marketing lecturer at Georgia Southern, he's also taught at Savannah (GA) State, Macon State, the Goizueta Business School at Emory, California State-Fullerton, Texas A&M, LSU and Pepperdine. His professional career includes both newspapers and radio, as a reporter, editor, DJ and salesman. He's also the co-author of three professional trade books for McGraw-Hill. An Air Force Vietnam vet who served on active duty in both the Air Force and the Army, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Masters from Troy (State) University and undergraduate degree from Flagler College in St. Augustine. He's lived from coast to coast and, although he's been in the South for more than 20 years, his Southern-born wife says he'll never be "one of us."