Fact of the Day: Manufacturing as a % of the Workforce, 1985-2020

Margaret Sullivan notes today that fact-checking has outlived its usefulness:

As scholars have observed, calling out falsehoods forcefully may actually cause people to hold tighter to their beliefs. That’s the “backfire effect” that academics Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler wrote about in their study “When Corrections Fail” about the persistence of political misperceptions: “Direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual beliefs.”

Fact-checking has always been a mug’s game. Politicians discovered long ago that they could say anything they wanted no matter how obviously wrong it was and it would do them no harm. Any fact-checking would be seen by a tiny fraction of the audience that saw the original claim, so lies were net positives no matter how upset fact-checkers got about them.

Donald Trump has taken this to its logical conclusion, where he practically invents a whole different reality, but fact-checking has little impact even on this. At this point, virtually everyone already believes that either (a) Trump lies all the time, or (b) the media hates Trump and calls everything he says a lie.

This is why I favor a sort of “Fact of the Day” approach to this. That is, short blurbs that simply display something in the news without reference to anything Trump has said. Like this:

Sure, the motivation for showing this is Trump’s claim that he’s been great for manufacturing. But there’s no need to say that, which immediately loses half your audience. Just show the facts with minimal comment. Manufacturing’s share of the workforce has been declining since 1946 and it continues to decline to this day. Then let people draw their own conclusions.

THE TRUTH...

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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