Too many of us live in echo chambers. We surround ourselves with people who share our worldview and consume media that makes us feel better about opinions. There is no doubt we could all benefit from hearing different viewpoints and trying to see things through other perspectives.
I wholeheartedly believe this, which is why I recently decided to venture into unfamiliar territory—Fox News’ Facebook page.
What I found there wasn’t “differing viewpoints,” but something entirely different. Something that left me shaken and disturbed.
Let me explain.
I value quality journalism and try to seek out the most unbiased news sources I can find. I make use of sites like mediabiasfactcheck.com to sift through the countless options and find outlets with minimal bias and high factual reporting. I usually alternate between the left-center Washington Post and right-center Wall Street Journal, along with a handful of other reputable (to people who understand journalism) outlets.
Like most Americans, I also spend a lot of time on Facebook. Though I hate binary liberal/conservative labels, one could describe the majority of my friends as liberal-minded. And I’m well aware of the effect this has on the flow of information coming through my Facebook feed.
Generally, the only time the words “Fox News” come across my feed is when someone is complaining about them. So I decided to check out Fox’s Facebook page to purposefully expose myself to other views.
Seeing as I was in uncharted territory, I thought I should ease in slowly. I clicked on something that seemed light and fairly uncontroversial for most conservative Americans—a video of Melania Trump decorating the White House for Christmas.
I watched the video—lovely decorations—and then read the comments.
I fully expected some liberal/Democrat/leftist bashing, as that happens in reverse on liberal-leaning sites too. I’m no stranger to comment section vitriol from every angle, so no surprises there.
However, I didn’t expect the very first comment to be this:
Huh? Is this person saying that the Obamas removed the nativity from the White House? That seemed fishy to me, so I did a little searching. Sure enough, the White House nativity (officially called The Crèche) has been on display in the East Room of the White House every year since 1967—including every single year of Obama’s presidency. Same nativity. Same place. (You can even see it in the Obama White House in this HGTV tour—slides 13-17.)
I told myself that was just a single, prejudiced, ignorant comment. I mean, it had more than two thousand likes, but . . .
Oh, nope. There’s another one.
And . . . it just kept going.
This isn’t all of them, but you get the idea. I was floored. Why do so many people believe the nativity has been missing from the White House when there is ample, easy-to-find evidence that refutes that notion?
When called on it, one commenter explained, “I read an article that said the Obamas removed the nativity.” No citation. No link. I don’t doubt that she read “an article” that said that, but from where? Some random website on the Internet? From an actual Fake News site?
She clearly wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the sheer number of comments expressing thanks that the nativity was making a great comeback, despite the fact that it had never left.
I also read comment after comment from people soooooo thankful that the words “Merry Christmas” would be uttered by the President again. Christ has returned to the White House! Hallelujah!
Umm, yeah. I watched Obama’s final Christmas address in which he said, “Merry Christmas, everybody!” not once, but twice. I watched as he and Michelle specifically talked about their family’s Christian faith. I watched as he said the words, “we will join our fellow Christians around the world as we rejoice in the birth of our Savior.”
And yet, comment after comment after comment—literally dozens of them—celebrating President Trump saying “Merry Christmas” as if his predecessor had banned the phrase, despite ample video evidence to the contrary. Comment after comment thankful to have a Christian in the White House as if … well, I won’t even go there.
Is this the “different viewpoint” I’m supposed to be listening to? Are these the kinds of beliefs and opinions I’m supposed to keep an open mind about? Because no thank you. I refuse to entertain people’s blatant ignorance of objective truth. I refuse to act as if someone’s thoughts are valid when those thoughts are based on lies, lies, and more lies.
I’m happy to discuss different perspectives on policy, the economy, our health system, our government, or any other topic, as long as your perspective is based in reality. But if you’re coming in believing things that are absolutely, undeniably not true—if you don’t take the two minutes it takes to do a very basic fact check—how are we to have a conversation at all?
Not all truth is black and white, of course. It can take time, diligence, and digging to get to the truth of a matter, and sometimes “truth” is subjective. But that was not the case here. These were easily debunked, blatant falsehoods that person after person perpetuated. Stating that the nativity had been removed from the White House by the Obamas is a documented lie. Asserting that the Obamas weren’t Christian or didn’t say “Merry Christmas” is flat-out, verifiably false.
And yes, some on the other side of the spectrum believe things that aren’t true as well. Truth and facts are important to me, and I call falsehood out wherever I see it. I’ve had to correct several people who shared the meme misquoting Donald Trump saying that he thinks Republican voters are dumb.
But honestly, that one meme is about all I’ve had to correct from my friends. And in the news outlets I follow, I’ve never seen anything like what I saw on Fox News’ Facebook page. Nowhere have I witnessed so many obviously misinformed commenters repeating the same lie over and over again. I was aware of Fox’s unreliability as a news and information source, but I was still shocked by the sheer volume of gullibility and ignorance I found in the comments there.
So please. Don’t come at me with pleas to listen to people who perpetuate actual fake news. Miss me with the call to seek out different perspectives if it means wading through a swamp of lies to find them.
A belief, opinion, or viewpoint based on verifiably false claims is not worth my consideration. Period. Refusing to entertain them doesn’t make a person intolerant, it makes them reasonable and intelligent. Tolerating lies is ridiculous and illogical. And if your opinion is based on lies, it is invalid and it should be called out as such.
I will still seek out different opinions, but I won’t be heading over to Fox News to do it. That was far too scary for me.