Welcome to part one of a ten-part series on coping with disinformation. In this third decade of the 21st century, we badly need dialogue on how to cope with all the misinformation and disinformation that threatens to overwhelm us. I hope you find something useful in it.
Idea #1: Read things you disagree with.
I don’t agree with the editorial slant of Fox News or Breitbart, but I’ll read them because I believe you should read things you disagree with, even ones that make you angry. Doing so keeps you intellectually honest, when you entertain points of view different from — or even add odds with — your own. Restricting yourself to things you agree with diminishes your ability to consider alternatives, and reinforces the idea that your worldview is better than that of others.
That’s dangerous, no matter what end of the political spectrum you’re on. Rest assured that someone with a set of beliefs completely opposite to yours is just as confident as you are that they’re right. If that doesn’t give you pause for thought about the unassailability of your core beliefs, nothing will.
Another reason to read things you disagree with is to walk the walk. If you find yourself judging someone for reading loony left / fascist right-wing material, why should you expect them to read something you think is right, if you won’t return the favour? In the end, trying to argue who’s right and who’s wrong in that situation is a fool’s errand. People don’t make decisions based on logic; they make them based on emotion. If you want to change someone’s opinion, your behaviour will make a much bigger difference than anything you say. The simple act of demonstrating that you’ll read things they value makes it hard for them not to do the same.
That’s how opinions change and that’s how people evolve: when they change their behaviour.