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.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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