www.snopes.com

http://www.snopes.com (Photo credit: biggraham)

Recently, I came across a blog that quoted and commented on an article that has been widely circulated, mostly in email, but is full of misinformation.  I know bloggers aren’t professional journalists and do not belong to any ethical society.  However, discovering that a blogger may not realize the power of their words available online disappointed me.  That at least one reader questioned the report’s validity pleased me, though.  In my comment, I provided a link to the Snopes article referring to the report.

Snopes is one of a few online resources known to research without bias whether a reported fact is indeed the truth.   Most often, such services focus on the distribution of emails and the online publication of materials that are distributed en mass and have the ability to significantly sway person’s opinions and therefore behavior.  Sadly, when it comes to some very important matters such as the interpretation of research statistics, language, and literary work, the complexity of the necessary investigation and of the detail needed to accurately present results is far too involved for a service like Snopes to undertake.   In fact, often times, such is the topic of countless volumes and only the most dedicated and discerning reader can come close to an accurate assessment of the truth in what s/he is examining.

I respected the blog reader’s willingness to read what others write with a spirit of discernment.  Hopefully she does the same with what she hears.  If we are to be seekers, ministers and bearers of Truth, one important ingredient is doubt.  We are not to doubt the Truth, but rather what is presented to us as Truth until we can discern validity to the best of our ability through careful consideration of the motives of majority opinion, well-rounded study, dialogue with experts in their field, reasoned argument, and earnest prayer. God gave us brains and the Spirit to guide us for a reason.  Even well-intentioned persons are capable of great folly, whether by accident, lack of discipline in spiritual stewardship, or the misguided ignorance of spiritual immaturity.  We all have room to grow and we can best do so by exercising the “muscle” of our brain and practicing virtues for the development of our souls.

Aside from personal responsibility in such situations, I’ve been wondering as blogging becomes more popular, what if any measures should be in place to encourage accuracy in the report of “facts”?  How can we do so without infringing upon free speech?  Who would be responsible for regulating such?  I think we can all recognize the difference between slant versus lie.  Even if one source says, “General Smith strode to the mic,” another says, “walked to”, and a third says, “ambled up to,” they all agree on the fact that the General moved towards (apparently on his feet) and arrived at a specific microphone.  Mass dissemination of misinformation has the potential to create or prevent change in ways that have significant negative impact.  What responsibility do I have to help prevent such?

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading the following related post on this blog,  On Blind Faith.  Your comments on one or both are greatly appreciated.