You can find anything to support your position on the internet – Abraham Lincoln
No, really. I read it on Facebook. He must really have said it, right?
Obviously he didn’t. I did, however, read it there. I’m sure many of us have. We can read many things on the internet. I try very hard not to be taken in by what I see on the internet. I try to verify the facts prior to sharing them with people. I despise gossip and innuendo. I do that before posting here, I do it in my private online life, and I do it in my private offline life. And, still, I got taken this week in my personal online life.
I shared a link from Project.Nsearch which reported that Mitt Romney had said (my emphasis added):
That’s a good question, young man, and I would be happy to answer it. The Vietnam War came at a time in my life when I had other plans. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would one day serve my nation. That I would one day hold an office that would help not only our nation, but also the world. So I did what I could to make sure that I would be around to serve my nation, as well as serving God by teaching very important religious principles to a broader audience overseas. My father did not want me serving, and he convinced me that yes, I was too important to go to Vietnam. I had a greater purpose in life. I wasn’t neglecting my nation, but rather preparing myself for a future of service.
I was outraged! I should have checked further and it was brought to my attention that this story actually originated on the Freewood Post. Project.Nsearch should have checked better, and so should I have! Sadly, it really does sound much like a typical Romney quote.
We have to be better than that! We have to not spread false information. It is one thing to enjoy humor and satire, and it is fantastic to share these, but we should never share them as purported factual stories. We have to be as close to 100% accurate with information as possible. And, when we make a mistake, then we have to own up to it, and quickly. As soon as this was made known to me, I posted to my friends in an attempt to undo the damage. Why? I am not a large news organization. I did it, because my word is important, and because the people I talk to, talk to others, and they talk to others, and so on. We all have an impact. It was important to let them know that what I had said turned out to be wrong.
Facts matter! We have to be willing to get past the hyperbole and the rhetoric and deal with actual, real information. This, too, is an old topic, but it is one that really needs to be driven home repeatedly. We have to get past any desire or hardheadedness to see our own positions as unassailable or unchangeable. That is one of the primary differences between a Liberal and a conservative.
And, while that is important and it is something that we need to be aware of, it is not precisely what I actually wanted to talk to you all about today. Today, I wanted to talk about responsibility. In a way that is a part of it, because it is the responsibility we each carry for the words we say and the information that we share. We are responsible for the information that we accept as true. As adults, we are responsible for making sure that the information that we receive is valid. Sadly, we cannot trust we are being given accurate information from media sources, from our friends, online, etc. We must validate and cross-check it. It is a lot of work to be actually informed. I have written on this before. As parents, it is even more important that we do this work for our children!
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