Happy to live in a facts bubble

I live in a bubble. I admit it. My bubble is mostly made of folks who engage in sincere debate, develop better arguments with passion, and then reconsider when the evidence leads the other way. In my bubble, scientists, journalists and leaders retract articles or statements that turned out to be incorrect or even simply misleading.

Yesterday, I was alerted to the paper by Richman et al (2014) in Electoral Studies, claiming that many noncitizens vote in US elections. This paper was convincingly rebutted in the same journal (Ansolabehere et al. 2015), so an author of the original study reconsidered and concluded that ‘the number of noncitizens voting is close to zero’.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop Rowan Scarborough from headlining that “Clinton received 800,000 votes from noncitizens, bolsters Trump’s argument, study finds”, later adapted to “Clinton could have received 800,000 votes from noncitizens” (The Washington Times – Thursday, January 26, 2017) and dishonest people spreading such fake news on social media. When confronted with reasonable questions and with the rebuttal article, they don’t engage but simply ban the question askers and delete all their comments from the group, afraid their followers will see it. Later, they laugh with the request to retract their fake news, claiming doing so would be unmanly. Cowardly instead was their decision to delete the opposition.

 

This is how the Trump administration works. This is how authoritarians work all around the globe. Yes, for the sake of democracy, we have to step out of our bubble to confront fake news. But we should also support each other to keep our bubble alive and live up to the ideal of the forceless force of the stronger argument.

 

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