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FACT CHECKING

Once again I will suggest that readers check facts that are presented in political opinion columns. I was moved to do this after reading last week’s Republican column, which quoted several “facts” about US dependency on oil from Russia that didn’t match a lot of other information I had been reading since the war in Ukraine began.

My first stop was to search for the Heartland Institute, which was cited several times in the column as a source of data. The search results led me to Wikipedia, which I view as an objective describer of things rather than offering opinions one way or the other. If it mentions opinions it usually includes pros and cons and doesn’t take a judgmental position.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines the Heartland Institute: “an American conservative and libertarian public policy think tank known for its rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change and the negative health impacts of smoking.” That’s a strong set of opinions!

All I’m saying is that you can actually find public policy think tanks that are considered nonpartisan, if you truly want an unbiased assessment of a situation. But think tanks that are labeled “left-leaning”, “conservative”, or any variations on those terms, are giving you an interpretation of the facts, not the unvarnished facts.

Both sides do it, and many people want the shortcut of having their opinions created for them. But that doesn’t put either side on the side of the angels! Make your own effort and use the amazing search tools we hold in our hands. Check the facts you tend to take for granted and then decide what you think.

Susan Hull

Bandera, Texas