Bob: Representative NotMyguy should be impeached! He’s committing fraud!And so on. It slowly turns into a personal battle, heated argument and eventually a nasty flame war with absolutely ZERO information (other than Bob and Bill are jerks).
Bill: Is he?
Bob: Sure, everyone knows that!
Bill: But he does great stuff
Bob: No he doesn’t!
Bill: You suck
Now imagine if Bill responded differently:
Bob: Representative NotMyguy should be impeached! He’s committing fraud!Okay. It’s still a heated argument and it doesn’t mean that Bob and Bill aren’t jerks, but at least if you’re subjected to their comments in your newsfeed on Facebook you at least know who’s playing with facts and who isn’t.
Bill: Could you point me to a news article or wiki with the details? I tried Googling it but couldn’t find anything
Bill: That’s Sally’s opinion
Bob: Are you calling Sally a liar?
Bill: These sources say it’s a hoax. He didn’t commit fraud: http://snopes.com/NotMyguy-rumor and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NotMyguy
Bob: you suck.
Of course not all arguments are easily settled with a basic fact-check. Sometimes there are valid, differing opinions, but digging into those opinions and knowing what motivates those opinions is equally important.
Then there are times I’m about to respond to someone’s comment with, “Actually, that’s a myth” only to quickly google it and find out it’s NOT a myth. Knowledge changes and new information comes along that disproves old information.
If you’re posting something or responding to someone’s tirade online and you really want to get to the bottom of it, add a link to something reputable like Wikipedia or a mainstream news source (yes, even Fox). Of course, you need to be ready for people to dismiss your links if they are Opinion columns, blogs or the only article on the subject buried in the New Omaha Review or some other non-descript paper.
And even if your point is just to vent and engage in an angry argument, it’s still a better argument when you come to the table with referenceable facts.