The Importance of Due Diligence In A World Littered With Fake News and Half Truths.
In our new social landscape it has never been more difficult to know what is truth or real, and what is now referred to as Fake News. Those who choose to delve into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory take on a bigger task than meets the eye. Those of you who have decided that you want to know the truth, or at least try to search it out, have to be 'tooled up' for the job. When it comes to fact checking the stories you read and see in various media, doing due diligence is key, it must be primary. Until you have done due diligence, you should regard everything you read as, at most, very interesting. It should never be considered as fact, no matter where it comes from, until we have learned how to fact check. If you are someone who does want to search for the truth, but feels confused and overwhelmed with the various contrasting theories going around, then this post is for you.
I have a strong background in the sciences, specifically biology. Doing due diligence is a very scientific approach to fact checking. There is no specific way to fact check, we can check our facts in many ways, such as by corroborating news with other relevant information. It takes a certain Sherlock Holmes like approach to check our facts, and the more cunning and open minded we are, the better we can find ways of discovering the truth!
An Example: 5G
Most of us have heard of the 5G conspiracy theories going around. Some people claim that they are linked to the coronavirus and started in Wuhan China, and there is such a strong movement on this issue that in the UK 5G telephone masts were being burned to the ground! I would like to start by saying that no one, including your self, can find out for sure if something is true. Its important to remember that at any time we may need to reconsider our opinion if new information comes to hand.
So, in the case of 5G and coronavirus, there has been a significant amount of news coverage stating that coronavirus is an illness caused by exposure to radio emissions from the new 5G antennas. When we hear a piece of information we need to start asking questions, and then try to answer them. Asking the right questions is crucial to due diligence, and there lies the real challenge. Once you have asked the right questions, it is USUALLY, but not always, relatively easy to find the answers.
SO, here are some questions I would ask to fact check this news story. Note that my questions are VERY wide ranging, starting from some basic fundamental checks and then going into much more elaborate fact checking.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
1. Was this news site known for spreading fake news? You can google it and also get a site ranking for starters. Some sites specifically publish fake news as a kind of entertainment, so a good first step is to determine if it is just plain old fake news. If the site looks reliable, then you can bear the following points in mind as you re-read the article.
GOING DEEPER: MORE QUESTIONS TO ASK
If you have read the article, and it seems like it is a reputable article, at least as far as you can tell from some basic due diligence, then you can start to really ask questions to help you discover if what is being said is true or not. In the case of 5G, here are a list of questions you could ask to help you in this process:
- Are there any other reasons why coronavirus may have started in Wuhan?
- Are there areas without 5G that have coronavirus hotspots?
- Do most people think it is true or not?
- Is there any scientific evidence to support the story? Can you find an article written online by a scientist who can shed some light on its validity. What is their opinion?
- What do you discover when you search for" 5G Fake News"
- What do you discover when you search for "5G coronavirus scientific evidence"
- Do people who recover from coronavirus in 5G areas stay well after infection?
- What do your guts tell you.
- Does the author of the article, or anyone else have anything to gain or lose from this news? If so who are they and what do they stand to gain or lose?
- Does the article seem to be certain in its tone? More often than not when people sound too sure of themselves and make bold claims or if the story appears to claim a much higher level of certainty in its advice and arguments than other stories, this is questionable.
- Does the article sound very surprising or upsetting? (Fake news will try to grab your attention by being more exaggerated than real stories.)
- What does it say on https://fullfact.org/ about this news?
I hope this gives you some idea of how we can look at one example. Asking the right questions really requires some thought and time. If we are entertaining a new idea as something to become our truth, then we really do have to take the time out to start on this path of questioning and due diligence. If you cannot or do not have the desire to do due diligence, then it is best to disregard it, and not share it. It is very important that we share things that are true and not created specifically to make people money by spreading viral news.
I would like to end by saying, no matter how much due diligence we do, we will NEVER know the truth for sure. That is science. We can only reach more levels of sureness, but we can never be 100%. There is too much misinformation, disinformation, and even covert operations to shift the focus of blame. The bigger the story and the issue, the harder it can be to find that truth, and never before have we had such a global unifying issue as coronavirus! There are some issues that are so big, and involve such huge conspiracy theories, that even if they are true.. we will never find out.
That is why I think it is good to be pragmatic about things and ask yourself, IF it is true, what should i do about it? Maybe you can make small changes to your life that would mitigate the issue. In the case of coronavirus, there are some clear actions we can take.. because no matter where it came from, or how it came to be, it is here, and it is most threatening to people in cities and built up areas. The entire lockdown psychology is bearing down on us, and it will continue for some time to come. Being pragmatic in this case simply means protecting yourselves and your family from starvation, and ensuring your comfort and survival. If I were living in a city, I would be thinking about finding ways to live in a more rural area, where you have some land to grow food, and can have control and access to the resources for living. The economic impacts of this are yet to be felt, that is fact, and worth bearing mind whilst so many people are focused on the virus itself. The knock on effects may well be much worse than the immediate issue, and it is very wise to have the foresights to see something coming.