Helen Alvare: Discerning the Facts in the Age of Fake News

Helen Alvare: Discerning the Facts in the Age of Fake News

Q: So often in conversations and arguments I don’t have the real facts and I have a hard time discerning what’s true in the media and what sources are accurate. Can you give me some places where I can turn to form my conscience as a Catholic woman trying to understand political issues?

A: Ah, a great question in this time of hyper-awareness of fake news! Several responses:

First. Often you really won’t be able to become an expert in a particular topic in short order. You’re going to want to figure out what you really want to know… the areas in which you really want to serve the truth and the people affected by it!  But there are simply too many controverted topics for you to become expert in each and every one.  It’s ok. You need to save some time for daily life. And people will admire a person who doesn’t have an adamant opinion about every little thing, and admits “that’s not my expertise.”  It might also be the case that the person you’re conversing with is likewise not an expert and you might gently probe: “Is this your expertise?” along with: “Could you please tell me where your facts come from so that I can take a look?”

So figure out what you care deeply about …deeply enough to work for! And know that your dialogue partners are regularly not experts, and be ready to probe their sources if you wish.

Second. Here’s the bad news: once you commit to know something, you are going to have to invest a bit of time reading, and a bit of time reflecting. And add to this the energy you’ll need in order to remain “copacetic” (“peaceful”) whilst in dispute with another person!

Third. The very best sources of information are the primary sources involved in any dispute. If people are freaking out over a Trump executive order, go read it. These are at whitehouse.gov, from the press secretary’s office. Like so. If they’re freaking out over a study with results they don’t want to hear, read the study. The National Institutes of Health has enormous quantities of free studies online. For example, here’s the big one linking contraception and depression.  Sometimes, though not always, the online source Politifact will have the accurate political analysis you need, though it leans a little left. If you want to be sure to read articles on both sides of any political issue, go read realclearpolitics.com. You’ll get each sides sets of prior commitments and arguments.

But really….to be better than almost every commentator on the planet…read the original material!

Fourth. The most accurate and current materials about women, about sex and about the family are found on two websites: first, the Institute for Family Studies. Their articles are crazy good… perfectly sourced. Second, Women Speak for Themselves, my own website and Facebook page, only uses original sourced material and keeps up with daily news and controversies.

Fifth. Try to shed light and not heat when you enter a debate. If you can agree with some of the points of your opponent, do so. If they have made factual mistakes, point them out charitably. And have your own facts and argument neatly and simply phrased on 2 to 3 points, max.



A Night with Endow

We are now offering a Night with Endow in California! If you don’t have time to join a small group, want to get a taste of what Endow has to offer before committing, or just need a night to be refueled on your faith – this is for you.

You gather the group, we host a dynamic, thoughtful speaker at your parish. We ask you to just come, sit and be with us as we take care of the rest providing a thoughtful reflection and understanding of where our faith and culture intersect to fuel your light as busy women in this world. See steps below for learning more and setting a date!

Steps for Inquiry

Contact Katherine at:

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  1. Tell us your parish & what date you are thinking
  2. Which topic? (Catholic Feminism or The Christian Meaning of Suffering)
  3. Endow will coordinate with our speakers and match the date and topic with you
  4. Invite women & advertise
  5. Step back and let us take care of the rest!
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Women in the pew are experiencing unexpected pregnancies – Care Net‘s survey says 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended a pregnancy. Unfortunately, most women don’t turn to the Church for help because 65% say church members judge single women who are pregnant.

These women are among us, they are our daughters and our sisters. They need support and love as they accept the unexpected gift from God and the difficult journey that can come from choosing life.

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Endow’s mission is to help all women, especially those most marginalized, recognize the origin of their own dignity and embrace the freedom found in that knowledge.

Endow’s mission includes the important work of outreach to those in need. And in a particular way, we desire to serve the needs of those women in homeless shelters, pregnancy centers, women’s clinics, and jails.

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