Presumably, we want honesty and respect in our elected officials. We want them to be civil when they talk to each other. So why do we tolerate the falsehoods, distortions and name-calling that permeate politics today? Is their behavior as much our fault as theirs?
Let’s look at the debates as an example. Independent fact-checking organizations found many detours from the truth in all three debates held to date. Yet does the mainstream media devote enough time to finding the facts?
Some TV and radio media do make an effort to check candidates’ statements for accuracy. But do we care about what they find? Not enough, we believe.
We seem to have developed the attitude that they all distort the truth so we look at other factors when making our decisions. Some of us pay more attention to the campaigns than others. Some listen to only one side of the debate. That means that when we get into the voting booths, many of us are not making informed choices.
We think the media have to make a more concerted effort to hold politicians accountable for their misstatements. Perhaps the first step is to make sure fact-checking is a serious part of all coverage of campaigns. Ideally, there should be a pooling of fact-checking resources, meaning that one large credible group is responsible for finding inaccuracies. All major news media would have to report the results.
Even that wouldn’t be enough, in our opinion. The candidates would have to be confronted about their statements and why they are inaccurate. Perhaps that would reduce the incidence of false statements.
We have to care about the truth. Those running for office need to take responsibility for their mistakes. That’s why we provide contact information when we find incivility or disrespect, including disrespecting the facts.
If we don’t get involved, nothing will change. That is not acceptable if we want a better world for our children.