Remember When Lying had Penalties?

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Amazingly, it seems, that as adults we’re being re-introduced into the notion that lying, misleading or misinforming should come with consequences. Craig Silverman recently shared his experiences at the CUNY event that was focused on the fact-checking movement. In one of Craig’s final points he had this thought:

That said, the concept of exacting a cost for lying is appealing, and perhaps a good way to increase the impact of fact checking. One researcher at the event said “there is research that suggests people abandon behaviors and beliefs when there is a very large social cost associated with them.

It’s as if once we become adults, we regress in our understanding of the need to be truthful and accurate, or that it’s somehow unacceptable to say “I don’t know” for fear of appearing uninformed. Perhaps it’s in our human nature to need a consequence to remind us that speaking about matters with which we know little to nothing about, in a manner that leads others to believe we know everything about what we are saying, is dishonest at its core.

In a later piece, Silverman refers to AP moving their fact-checking efforts beyond just politics (really, fact-checking was just focused on politics?) and mentions that the AP didn’t begin fact checking political ads until 1992. The immediate question that comes to mind is “what was anyone doing before this?” But the more disturbing consequence of this (if indeed true and accurate) is that means we’ve had less than 2 decades worth of fact-checking in our news, information and journalism. This is not to say that corroboration is meaningless, but until we grapple with the problem of holding people accountable to the veracity of their statements, we won’t see improvements in the general accuracy of our discourse.

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