I'm going to do something that will surprise some of you: I'm going to defend Donald Trump. There was a video circulating online several days ago, and it appeared to show the president ignoring or intentionally refusing to acknowledge a little child in a wheelchair who wanted to shake his hand. Many well-known critics of the president tweeted and re-tweeted the video, labeling the president's actions cruel but typical-- after all, this is a man who mocked a disabled reporter during the campaign, and here he was snubbing a little handicapped child.
But as we often find with online memes and videos, there was much more to the story. Mr. Trump had not ignored him; he had already gone over to the boy and greeted him before the speech he was about to give, and yes, there is video to document that. At the end, it's true he was looking beyond the child, shaking a few hands and-- as often happens when any speaker is leaving the stage-- focusing on making an exit. Yes, the portion of the video that circulated did make the president look callous, but it was taken out of context. Fact-checkers caught it immediately and even took several of the people forwarding it to task, including author J. K. Rowling. http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/jul/31/jk-rowling/jk-rowling-falsely-accuses-trump-not-shaking-disab/
Now, I know what some of my conservative friends are thinking: SEE? The internet is biased, everyone is against Mr. Trump, liberal media, fake news, blah-blah-blah. And if that's what they are thinking, they are not being entirely honest. Truth be told, there are just as many taken-out-of-context videos and just as many fake quotes/memes about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Bernie Sanders. I've refuted hundreds of them-- not because I'm (gasp) a liberal, but because I believe in accuracy. I have NO problem with folks who disagree with Mrs. Clinton or any other Democrat. I have a big problem with putting false statements in their mouth or doctoring videos to make a partisan point. That's why I thought it was important to be fact-based in discussing the anti-Trump video. I only wish my conservative friends (who are OUTRAGED whenever they believe Mr. Trump is being unfairly attacked) would be equally outraged when they see fake quotes or distorted videos that unfairly malign Democrats.
But above all, I wish both sides would avoid forwarding false claims and distortions about the folks they dislike. Retweeting or re-posting fake quotes just because it makes you feel good has become a huge problem with our political discourse. It's also hurting our ability to communicate-- on social media, we're often talking past each other, throwing talking points and memes rather than having an actual conversation. It's largely due to confirmation bias-- seeking out sources that reinforce what you already believe, and only trusting folks who tell you that you're right to believe it.
It's easy to get into that mindset: for those who already believe Donald Trump is cruel and heartless, a video that seems to show him snubbing a helpless kid in a wheelchair fits perfectly with their belief about him. And for those who believe Hillary Clinton is a crook or Barack Obama is a secret Muslim or Bernie Sanders is a Commie, there are numerous online "proofs" for you to choose from, even if what they seem to show is utterly false.
So I have a favor to ask of those who read this blog post, whatever their politics or their ideology. Please consider the importance of critical thinking: before you retweet or re-post, take a minute to find out if it's actually true. In other words, don't just rely on sources that are nothing but opinion, or sources that tell you your side is perfect and the other side is evil. Be skeptical whenever you are sent something that has been widely retweeted: there may be more to the story. Don't be afraid to use fact-checking sites (no, they're not all "liberal"-- there are many reputable sources that will tell you if some event actually occurred, or if someone actually made that controversial quote).
In the end, there's plenty to criticize about Mr. Trump (or any political figure from either side) that is based on actual facts. Don't be one more person who thinks it's okay to spread misinformation just because it fits your own beliefs. And if you can, find out what "the other side" actually does believe-- not to start an argument, but just because it's good to be informed. Who knows-- you may end up defending someone you never expected to...