It’s not an easy thing to do. To begin with, we want to believe those with whom we share kinship in some wise, will be the reasonable and proper-acting among those in society at large.
Unfortunately, to begin with, even if people generally believe as we do, that doesn’t mean we’ll share all things common. The truth is, attitudes and perspectives are spectral. Two people who’re largely in agreement will still have points of contention—some of them possibly quite intense.
Then there’re people who claim to support a given position, yet when you look at what they actually believe, you find they’re by no means in line with what would be expected out of people who do so.
Obviously, there are also those one disagrees with—whether the thing we find problematic be serious, or seemingly unimportant.
The further the persons in question are from what we hold, the more likely we’ll count them less worthy of our respect and accordingly, we may be less inclined to work to understand their motivation.
It doesn’t get any easier as we age. Having had the time to work out in one’s head, the ends of various positions and philosophical perspectives, one tends to be less interested in hearing the reasons others have for attempting to support things we’ve long since decided were untenable.
Here’s the thing though. Regardless where someone stands on issues or considerations, it’s incumbent on each of us to determine the truth where each person is concerned.
It should matter almost none at all what they support.
If you hear, for example, that this person said this or that thing, instead of parroting that line for all the world to hear, you ought to do all you can to confirm the veracity of that told you.
You may intensely dislike, or even hate the person about whom a given allegation was made. When you choose to record the thing supposedly said or done without confirming it, you may do them damage, but any honest person, doing his or her due diligence, is likely to decide your credibility is questionable, as well.
So in the process of potentially pushing a false narrative, you can also cause your own character to be called into question.
I should note this is equally true for doing things like using edited text, and audio and video clips that take what a person has said or done out of context. And sadly, with certain individuals, this is a common thing.
This brings a second consideration to light. As with the potential misrepresentation of words and deeds of others, in my mind, you’re equally responsible when you use the work of third parties to make your case. It doesn’t matter if those sources are “usually reliable,” anyone can be mistaken. Take the time to do the work as best you can, of ensuring that which you’re presenting—regardless the source—is used in the spirit in which it was said or done.
I’m not against the idea of presenting something for comment. You can always say something like, “I found this video or audio clip, or this excerpt of writing attributed to this individual. I’m not sure it’s really attributable to that person, or I question the context. Can anyone confirm this is accurate?”
If you do that though, be willing to openly hear any defense that makes the “evidence” likely invalid. You can even do your own research afterwards, to ensure somebody isn’t shining you on.
If you find though, that there’s reason to believe the thing you’ve put out there is wrong. There are a three things you can do to put the situation right:
- Remove the offending material – This is not always useful, since content can travel across the world in record time in the modern day. Though that’s true, you can still potentially remove the thing published, so at least you’re not continuing to spread disinformation.
- Provide additional data – If you find that there’s additional context that can be provided through some means, tacking on information indicating such is the case, may be better even than removing it. You may be able to clarify and use the situation as a teachable moment. You can say something like, “This is why you research to confirm things like this are correct.”
- Admit you made an error – Being wrong isn’t fun, but it’s always possible. If you want people to count you reliable, ‘fess up when you mess up. And if you find the person’s actions or statements in this particular case, to be worthy of applause or innocuous, act appropriately.
In these days, too many people are puffed up, and I have to acknowledge, that happens to all of us. What I mean by that is, I go there too at times. I too can be proud, even arrogant now and then.
If you’ve witnessed that, allow me to generally apologize here and now. I’m sorry, and will try to do better.
If you can cite a specific case, I’ll humbly consider it. If I find I was in error, I’ll do what I’m able to correct my wrong. On the other hand, don’t count on my always taking that course.
Simply stated, if I find I was correct, though I’ll try not to be big-headed about it, you’re going to know that’s the case.
One way or another though, if you, I, or those you or I use as sources, prove to regularly be inaccurate, or worse yet, intentionally work to damage others through misrepresentation, that cannot be considered a good thing. If it’s me, I’ll try to be open to correction, and I hope you’ll do likewise.
If it’s those used to get information external to ourselves, you might consider not employing them for that purpose. That applies to me as well, as a matter of course. That’s particularly true if the outside informant regularly acts in ways that show they’re likely to be a repeat offender.
Summing up, if you want people to consider you a useful, truthful source of information, you need to understand being even-handed—treating people with fairness, no matter their perspective or identity—will go a long way toward that end. That includes making sure those from whom you get additional information take the same approach. If you fail act impartially where facts are concerned, count on people not being willing to trust what you say, barring corrective action on your part.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.