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Milne: Facts matter

Milne: Facts matter

An RCMP Staff Sergeant once told me that the most important lesson he learned in policing was, “consider the source.”  This is even more important in the digital age where it seems everyone and anyone can broadcast a message.

Do you believe everything you read on social media? It is difficult not to. Research has shown that reading text or seeing something on a video increases our perception that the content is factual and true.  Language is actually structured in ways that make every statement seem valid and true – even when the content is far from believable. That’s why lying works.

One recent example is the issue of water metering in Sechelt. Do you know how much your SCRD taxes and utility fees will increase just to install water meters? Zero. Nada. Not a cent. The entire cost of borrowing funds and installing meters is already factored into the 2017 and 2018 charges.  Surprised?  So was I. But that shows why facts are important and truth actually matters. The SCRD’s long term financing plan has fully accounted for implementing the Comprehensive Regional Water Plan including installing meters throughout the system.

Another example emerged on the new development in Selma Park. Letters to the papers and to my office all claimed that the development was being marketed overseas on Chinese language sites. Not so says the developer – I asked the question, point blank. Once the servicing agreement is in place the property will be listed with a local realtor. Still we get people venting and inventing, changing the facts to suit their prejudices.

During a recent community meeting about our community forest, one of the participants commented, “I learned so much here by being able to sit down next to people who work in forestry and just talk.” Yes, going straight to the source and asking questions and listening to each other contributes to the understanding of the real issues and all viewpoints.

Once upon a time, we called this misinformation, propaganda, manipulation or simply, lying. Now we call it fake news. A related feature of social media is the widespread use of gossip. Gossip can actually be true but not appropriate to share. In the case of gossip, ask yourself why the information is being shared? What purpose does it serve? Some people just like to be the first to know and so they share it so everyone knows they are first. But what are you getting out of it? Is it just to be negative?

So, let me ask again, when you read something on social media do you assume it’s true? When you talk to someone who always seems to be in the know, do you assume they are sharing facts? Do you assume they have permission to share the information?

Consider your source. And listen to learn – not just to respond.

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