Fact-Checkers: A Result of the Fall?

For the first time this year, candidates from opposing political parties took to the stage to debate ‘the issues.’ It is said that 84 million people worldwide tuned into those debates. A look at headlines around the globe is indicative of just how big of an event this was. Moments after the debate ended, press outlets from around the world were ready to weigh in on who won the debate. So who won? Headlines make it clear that you can only come to one conclusion: if you’re a democrat, the debate was won by Hilary Clinton and if you’re a republican, the debate was won by Donald Trump. In other words, it’s not about fair reporting, it was about promoting an agenda. This bias of reporting is not only prevalent in the United States, but a look at papers in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy all hold to this very premise. Even antagonist countries tended to weigh in with Russians papers showing favor towards Trump while the Iranian press showed favoritism towards Clinton. It is clear that the world is fascinated by this election cycle.
Thanks to the use of technology and the use of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter I was able to tune in despite being overseas (although I turned it off after about 40 minutes) along with many others abroad. I am inclined to think though, that the ‘issues’ that viewers were more interested in had less to do with economic development or political/religious oppression. Instead the focus was more about personality and watching two people who, have routinely stood behind the partition of Twitter to ridicule one another, finally come face to face with no barriers in between except that of self-control (of which the only person who seemed to have any self-control was moderator Lester Holt). Yet bias of the press is to be expected. For months now, we have seen domineering personalities be the force that carried the two candidates. None of this is new and bears little value in repeating what we all know. Instead, I want to draw our attention to the role of fact-checking.
Fact-checking has become a mainstream function. No political debate is complete without the follow-up analysis from pundits explaining whether candidates remarks were truth or tale. Such a staple is this discipline that on debate night Hilary Clinton’s staff turned her website into a real-time checker against Donald Trump. Fact-checkers have found more day-to-day inclusion into everyday life by not only analyzing political candidates, but also current incumbents, published media, and online claims.
While nothing new, advances in media sources has made fact-checking both more relevant and more accessible. I would suggest that historically the fact-checkers used to be the voters (readers, etc.) themselves. Yet, truth be told we have become lazy and would much rather have someone tell us what the truth is. This became all the more necessary when the internet no longer became a reliable source of truth, but instead required sifting and analysis to determine what was truth, what was false, and what was opinion.
It’s interesting to think about the evolution of the role of a fact-checker. It’s primary focus was to serve the public by checking the truth or tale of any given political candidate. However, today we find ourselves needing not only to fact-check candidates, but also to fact-check the fact-checkers. It has become apparent that the fact-checkers themselves often come with pre-established biases and motives and therefore we find ourselves not trusting them.
A lack of trustworthiness is a negative characteristic and our immediate response is to lament such a state of affairs. In many ways, we should lament that the state of our society is one that needs not only primary fact-checking, but secondary fact-checking as well. However it is not to be unexpected because what this reveals far more than just sorriness, it reveals sinfulness. We should not be surprised at the circumstances that we are faced with, because they are after all, impacted by the great fall of Genesis 3. The ability of people to conform the truth to fit one’s personal need and agenda is simply a product of the fall that is manifested in two ways:
  • Desire: First, the fact that people even desire to distort truth to a personal agenda demonstrates the self-orientation of our culture.
  • Dexterity: Second, even the demonstration of ability that people possess such an ability says much about the effects of sin.
Truly, both the necessity and the activity of fact-checkers says much about the impact of sin.
In light of what can be seen then, we must ask ourselves, “How do we respond?” Simply put, we respond both in truth and with truth. We respond being cemented in the truth of God. That is we walk in accordance with the gospel message everyday by ensuring that we are aligned with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). If we are walking in truth, then responding with the truth should immediately follow.
Our goal is to act and respond to the world around us with a biblical worldview, but to do so requires that we are steeped in the truth continuously. Rather than let others (i.e. fact-checkers) do the thinking for us, we must be forced to analyze, research, and reach conclusions with aid of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God. Certainly this would lead to being transformed and not conformed.