Will Democratic Presidential Candidates Be Truthful?

(photo credit: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures)

Should the US President be able to lie with impunity to the American people?

If you say “NO!” the time to act is now! Help make sure the next US President is accountable to the standard of truthfulness described in the simple 12 truth-oriented behaviors of the Pro-Truth Pledge.

It’s not an impossible goal. After all, several members of the US Congress, dozens of state legislators, and hundreds of other politicians have committed publicly to being truthful by taking the Pro-Truth Pledge. This list includes many Republican and Democratic politicians in the US, as well as members of third parties in the US and other politicians around the globe.

They did so because readers like you approached them to encourage them to take the pledge. That includes in person at candidate forums in town halls, or virtually through phone calls, email, social media, website contact pages, and other means. We have clear guidelines for you to use on how to pitch politicians on the pledge, as well as public figures in general, and you can do so on your own anytime.

All the politicians who took the pledge are now being held accountable to their commitment by the many private citizens who took the pledge. Their reputations will suffer significantly if they’re caught making false statements and aren’t willing to admit they’re wrong. Research shows that reputational penalties for lying are effective in making politicians more truthful. Indeed, we know that the

The key is to approach politicians about the pledge when it can make the biggest difference to their political career: during highly competitive election campaigns. After all, taking the pledge is valuable for a politician as a sign of a strong public commitment to truthfulness. Politicians get the most benefits from making this commitment when their potential constituents are paying attention during elections. It’s especially helpful for politicians to take the pledge when other candidates in the race haven’t taken it, since the pledge-taking candidate can then differentiate themselves as the one publicly committed to truthfulness.

That’s why it’s a particularly good time to approach the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination to run for US President. There are over 20 candidates as of the time of publication. Each is struggling to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Only one has taken the pledge so far, one of the front-runners – Beto O’Rourke. Wisely, he did so on video, as you can see below.

While you can approach Democratic candidates individually, you can also be part of a team effort to get them to take the pledge. If you’d like to be part of this team effort, fill out the volunteering survey below. We’ll also be contacting any Republican candidates, though because the primary campaign among Republicans is very unlikely to be competitive, we will be focusing the vast majority of our time on the competitive Democratic presidential primary.

By encouraging Democratic presidential candidates to take the Pro-Truth Pledge, you will maximize the chance that the next US President will speak the truth to the American people. Help roll back the “Post-Truth” era of lies and deception!

Calling All Conservatives Dedicated to the Truth

Calling all conservative signers in America!

The media often stereotype conservatives as lacking integrity, and being unconcerned about facts. They’re wrong, though—conservatives have a great deal of integrity, and now it’s time for us to prove it together.

How, you ask? By getting more conservatives to take the Pro-Truth Pledge.

You can help by joining a project dedicated to getting all truth-oriented conservatives to take the pledge. Fill out the form for this project at this link.

You don’t have to wait for the project to get started, though! Reach out to your friends to tell them about the Pledge and how you feel about it. If you know someone who would tell all their other friends about the Pro-Truth Pledge, you can do a lot of good by letting them know.

When you took the Pledge, you showed that you have the courage and integrity to stand up for the truth. You joined a supportive community which shares that courage and integrity. There’s a lot more honest, hard-working folks out there who are looking for a community like this one. Let’s bring them on board!

Image credit: Truth by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Their Lips Are Moving But They’re Not Lying!

Caption: Photo of surprised boy. (Credit: Ben White on Unsplash)

Celebrating politicians who are bucking the post-truth trend and winning.

This year, many of us watched with pride as Beto O’Rourke, a Pro-Truth Pledge taker, nearly upset Ted Cruz in a race previously considered safe for Cruz. However, the Pro-Truth movement is much bigger than this one notable race. By our count, there are 78 Pledge takers who won elections in 2018!

Let’s take a moment to celebrate all of the successful politicians who are willing to go on record as supporting the Pro-Truth Pledge and commit themselves to the accountability that entails.

Click on this link to view a spreadsheet (sorted by state) listing these political winners.

Has the Pro-Truth Pledge helped these candidates, or is it just that great candidates are the kind of people who don’t hesitate to embrace the truth? We’d all like to think that the Pro-Truth Pledge helps, but having taken the pledge ourselves, we’ve got to be careful about making unfounded claims, so let’s think about this together…

During the O’Rourke/Cruz race, several newspapers took the time to publish editorials mocking O’Rourke for taking the Pro-Truth Pledge. That alone demonstrates that people involved in the media and politics are beginning to notice the Pro-Truth Pledge and it creates added publicity for candidates.

There’s a marketing adage that all publicity is good publicity… However, is honoring truth actually a popular position with typical constituents? The mocking editorials indicate that several right-leaning Texas newspaper editors thought otherwise. Backing their opinion, an NBC news survey found that within the significant (22%) group of Republicans who think the President regularly lies, 56% still approve of him.

So within the GOP, acknowledged lying is not a barrier to political success. Among Democrats, it is clear that of the 94% who believe the president lies, none approve of him. However, there is no clear evidence that lying is the primary cause of the low approval in that group.

Bottom line: Truth isn’t a clear winner on the right, and we can’t legitimately claim to know it is important for the left. This may seem disappointing, but there is no need for our organization to exist if there is no need to change attitudes. This is our motivation.

The important takeaway from polls like this is that they underscore the need to reach out to our friends, particularly those on the right. Make connections, find common ground, and celebrate truth in the places where it matters most.

A Sage Decision by SAGE Publishing to Support the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Logo of SAGE Publishing

The Pro-Truth Pledge is glad to announce the first institutional funder supporting this project, SAGE Publishing!

The pledge has already made a notable public impact, with a series of public figures, including high-profile ones such as members of US Congress and state legislatures as well as prominent organizations and globally-known intellectuals taking the plunge. However, to make a truly profound impact beyond the circle of initial supporters requires getting funding to promote the Pro-Truth Pledge to a broad audience, both from individual donors and from institutional donors.

The innovative nature of the Pro-Truth Pledge – an approach informed by combining extensive behavioral science research with crowdsourcing – means that traditional institutional donors who support initiatives to fight misinformation and protect democracy have chosen not to fund it. This decision is unfortunate, as we have research showing the effectiveness of the pledge in changing people’s behaviors to be more truthful.

Fortunately, SAGE Publishing – a global independent publisher committed to social science – was inspired by the pledge’s use of behavioral science to overcome problems of misinformation. SAGE is a non-traditional funder of such efforts, and its commitment to social science research, combined with its flexibility and dedication to choosing the most effective strategies, caused it to extend sponsorship to the pledge.

This investment is part of a broader portfolio, as SAGE has been involved with a number of recent efforts to promote truth-oriented behavior including. This includes publishing new resources that promote critical thinking, such as: Tom Chatfield’s Critical Thinking: Your Guide to Effective Argument, Successful Analysis and Independent Study; supporting MisinfoCon DC, which brought together a group of people to identify policy and regulatory methods of fighting misinformation; and sponsoring Public Editor, a high-scale content analysis tool that involves digital volunteers in multi-layered, simultaneous assessments of news articles.

The Pro-Truth Pledge is glad to have our first institutional funder, and applauds the sage decision by SAGE!

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to Polish

Przysięgam dołożyć wszelkich starań, aby:

Głosić prawdę

  • Weryfikować: Weryfikować czy informacje są zgodne z prawdą, przed ich zaakceptowaniem i udostępnianiem.
  • Równoważyć: Dzielić się całością prawdy, nawet jeśli nie wspiera moich poglądów
  • Cytować: Dzielić się źródłami informacji, aby inni mogli zweryfikować podane przeze mnie informacje
  • Wyjaśniać: Rozróżniać fakty od moich osobistych opinii

Szanować prawdę

  • Uznawać: uznawać prawdziwe informacje udostępnianie przez innych, nawet jeśli nie zgadzam się z nimi w innych obszarach.
  • Ponownie oceniać: sprawdzać ponownie moje informacje jeśli są przedmiotem dyskusji, wycofywać je w momencie kiedy nie mogę ich zweryfikować.
  • Bronić: bronić ludzi którzy są przedmiotem ataku za dzielenie się zweryfikowanymi informacjami, nawet jeśli się z nimi nie zgadzam.
  • Dostosowywać: dostosować moje opinie i działania, zgodnie ze zweryfikowanymi informacjami.

Wspierać prawdę

  • Naprawiać: prosić o wycofanie informacji zweryfikowanych negatywnie przez sprawdzone źródła. Nawet jeśli osoby, które o to proszę to moi znajomi.
  • Edukować: prosić otaczających mnie ludzi o zaprzestanie korzystania z nierzetelnych źródeł informacji, nawet jeśli te źródła wspierają moje opinie.
  • Ustępować: Zauważać, że w momencie dyskusji, eksperci w danej dziedzinie mają najpewniej dokładniejsze informacje.
  • Honorować: Honorować tych ludzi, którzy wycofali nieprawdziwe informacje i dostosowali swoje poglądy do prawdy.

Did Any Particularly Influential People Take the Pro-Truth Pledge?

Caption: Meme saying “So you mean to tell me influential people signed the pledge?” (Created by blog author)

Did any particularly influential people sign the Pro-Truth Pledge? You bet!

Just go to the webpage for “Public Figures and Organizations” who signed the pledge, and click on the “particularly influential” checkbox. If you want to see only particularly influential officials, you can select “Elected/Appointed Officials and Candidates” in the drop-down menu; if you want other public figures who are particularly influential, select “Public Figures” in the same menu; if you want organizations, well – I’m guessing you know what to do by now.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s our criteria for “particularly influential” public figures and organizations? Included in that category are all elected or appointed officials at the state (regional) level or above, and other public figures and organizations with at least 100,000 combined followers on social media profiles and email lists, or other demonstrable ways of easily influencing 100,000 people.

Since the ability to influence easily 100,000 people is not always obvious, we welcome you to let us know if you think any existing public figure or organization should be in that category. Simply use the contact form to provide clear evidence of how that public figure or organization can easily influence 100,000 people – for example, as the head of an organization with over 100,000 followers – and we will either update the information or ask you for further evidence if needed.

Questions and comments welcomed!

Why Conservatives Should Sign the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Image saying “Unfakery,” from the organization founded by the author (Courtesy of the author)

Have you encountered fast food chains where they promise that if you don’t get a receipt for your order that your food is free? Or noticed those signs on the back of company vehicles asking “How’s My Driving? Call 888-DRIVERY To Report”? Why do they do those things? Accountability.

In the case of the restaurant, the completed receipt is a part of procedures that prevent employees from pretending to perform a transaction, but actually pocketing the money. And that sign on the truck provides a mechanism for other drivers to report reckless driving by company drivers. These procedures broadcast to the public (and to the employees) that management holds its people accountable for honesty and safety. It reminds them that someone is monitoring their behavior, and also provides the mechanism for doing so.

As a conservative, I’m very interested in accountability. I want my elected leaders to be accountable; I have elections to help with that. I want corporations and businesses to be accountable; the market and (some) government regulations perform that function. I want government programs to be accountable; oversight and elections help make that possible.

And I also want individuals to be accountable, especially for the information they pass around. The only mechanism we really have to do that is social pressure, and that’s difficult to employ these days.

I deal with fighting fakery online every day, fakery that specifically targets conservatives, and sometimes it really does feel that we’re in a post-truth society.There is plenty of outright fakery for political and financial gain, and that’s bad enough. But there also seems to be an increasing number of people who are willing to interpret information only in the light most favorable to their causes. They spin and deflect and move the goalposts in discussions, with the goal of scoring points against the other side. They frequently and aggressively hold out opinion and supposition as fact. And yet if you asked them, most would probably declare themselves to be honest people.

Part of the problem is that a lot of people are more interested in “winning” than in promoting the truth. You probably recognize this in some of the people you encounter online; it’s a hazard of an increasingly partisan culture. Some of the symptoms might be:

  • Labeling opinions as facts
  • Sharing unverified information as true
  • Only telling the part of a story that’s most favorable to their view
  • Refusing to retract or correct false information they’ve shared
  • Using excuses like “it’s true enough” or “it’s real even if it isn’t exactly true”
  • Failing to challenge the slander of someone with opposing views

Just about everyone has done one of these things, or done something like them. It’s easy to hit the share button on a headline that resonates with us, without reading the article. It’s a pain to get into a fight with an ally over a slanderous story about a political opponent. It’s hard to be fair to the other side of an argument when you’re trying to win that argument.

We can all agree, though, that those behaviors are not at all truth-oriented, and we probably feel a little dirty when we employ them. We might appreciate the short-cut in the short term, but we still know we aren’t upholding truth in those moments.

But what if we could hack our brains towards more accountability? What if we could do what those business owners did? What if we broadcast to the world that we want to hold ourselves accountable, that we’re enlisting the help of others to do it, and providing them a mechanism to do so?

We can. That’s exactly what the Pro-Truth Pledge is – a social hack to hold ourselves more accountable. It’s a public promise that we intend to share, honor, and encourage truth, and that we expect the people we interact with to help us uphold that pledge. And so far, the research says that it works.

And there’s an added benefit for conservatives like me who appreciate accountability: it provides the solid platform from which to hold others accountable. It says to the world “I’m trying to live up to these values myself – I’m not asking you to do anything more than I’m willing to do myself.” There’s a moral authority there that elevates the discussion above the partisan hypocrisy that’s running rampant these days.

I’m absolutely a passionate conservative, eager to advocate for my beliefs and views, and hoping to persuade more people to hear those views and agree with them. I also deal in debunking fakery of all kinds, and my reputation depends on accurately seeking out and defending truth. I’m working to be an even more effective advocate by recommitting myself to an orientation to the truth with the Pro-Truth Pledge. I’m aiming for a reputation as:

  • An honest information broker
  • A credible and dependable source
  • An accountable conservative
  • A truth-seeker
  • A person who puts the truth over any agenda
  • A source people can trust

I believe that people who build accountability into their lives have a better chance of staying on the path they’ve set for themselves. Dieters do better when they are monitored with regular progress checks. Kids do homework when it’s checked, or clean their rooms when they are inspected. We know this, and we behave this way in other aspects of our lives. So read over the behaviors underlined in the pledge, and ask yourself whether you’re willing to put that kind of accountability in writing, whether you’re ready to put that sticker on your social media vehicle. Invite the world to be your accountability partner, and invite others to take the pledge with you.

A Radical Turn: From Post-Truth to Pro-Truth

Caption: Turn sign (Wikimedia Commons)

What would our society be like if we made a radical turn to the truth? What if we moved away from our current post-truth environment, where appeals to emotions and personal beliefs triumph over facts and reason, and instead relied on evidence and logic to determine what we believe and what we do in our public policy?

Sounds impossible, right? A pleasant dream, and nothing but? Let’s stay grounded, you might say, and work with what we got.

Well, the only ways that major change occurred in the past were through dreams about a better future. What kind of things might we expect in this pro-truth future?

Here are three examples of what we can expect.

1) We would see media figures identifying publicly their own biases, examining all aspects of an issue before commenting, and avoiding demonizing those with whom they disagree.

2) We would see ordinary people getting their friends to change their behaviors to fact-check posts before they share them.

3) We would see politicians retracting statements shown to be incorrect.

Dream on, you might say! That’ll never happen.

Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s already happening through the Pro-Truth Pledge, a research-based intervention shown to be effective by a peer-reviewed study in promoting truth and facts.

For an example of #1 above, consider Brent Hatley, a media professional as senior producer of “The Howard Stern Show” with a verified Twitter account and over 45K followers. He tweeted that the “ProTruthPledge has helped me with my own confirmation bias & it’s really caused me to examine all aspects of an issue before commenting. Last, it’s helped me not demonize those with whom I disagree.”

Caption: Screenshot of Brent Hartley’s tweet

What about #2? Blogger Brian Charles Fleming writes about how he has a friend who posted a falsehood, which he pointed out and asked her to take down. She did, but then she posted it again later, and he reminded her that it was false, and she took it down again. He found the Pro-Truth Pledge, and got her to take it. According to Fleming, “now she makes sure what she posts is true and it has become a discussion topic between us.” Here’s the actual exchange:

Caption: Screenshot of Brian Fleming’s blog post

Let’s round it out with #3, and with two examples this time. A candidate for Congress, Michael Smith, took the Pro-Truth Pledge. He later posted on his Facebook wall a screenshot of a tweet by Donald Trump criticizing minority and disabled children. As he is a congressional candidate, it got a number of shares. However, after being called out on it, he could not find the original tweet in Trump’s feed, and while Trump may have deleted that tweet, the candidate edited his own Facebook post to say that “Due to a Truth Pledge I have taken I have to say I have not been able to verify this post.” He indicated that he would be more careful with future postings:

Caption: Screenshot of Michael Smith’s Facebook post with retraction.

A candidate running for the state house in Arizona, Johny Martin, also took the pledge. He made a misstatement during a public rally, and later posted on Facebook about the misstatement, retracting it and citing the pledge:

Caption: Screenshot of Johny Martin’s Facebook post with retraction.

The pro-truth future is here and now, at least among those making effective use of the Pro-Truth Pledge. While far from all pledge-takers are perfect – witness mistakes made by Smith and Martin – they made a public commitment and are being held accountable.

Clearly, the pledge is helping bring about a pro-truth future and steering us away from our post-truth present. As both research and real life experience shows, it’s an effective intervention, and if we can get many more people to make a true commitment to it, imagine what the future might hold.

Imagine what our public discourse would be like if media professionals admitted their biases, considered all sides, and avoided demonizing their opponents. Imagine what our political system would be like if politicians dedicated themselves to following the 12 behaviors of the pledge and quickly retracted any false statements. Imagine what your life would be like if you could get those friends who keep sharing falsehoods to make a strong promise to avoid such behaviors, and actually carry out their oath.

You can make these dreams a reality by joining the movement to spread the Pro-Truth Pledge far and wide!

Pro-Truth Pledge Revocation: Journalism Reclamation Project

Caption: Red cross indicating removal (OpenClipart-Vectors / 27440 images)

The Pro-Truth Pledge Central Coordination Committee (PTP CCC) has revoked the Journalism Reclamation Project’s membership in the Pro-Truth Pledge.

Here’s the scoop. We got a complaint that the Journalism Reclamation Project misled their employees and other organizations in public statements about both JRP’s financial stability and plans in promoting public trust in journalism. We sent an an email to the JRP leader and general address, and the email bounced. We investigated, and found that their website no longer works. Their last LinkedIn update was 4 months ago.

It appears that the organization folded. Thus, the PTP CCC decided to avoid the usual accountability mechanism of an action alert and media release, because the organization is no longer around, and thus the reputational pressure is not relevant. We simply removed it from the public figures page.

Questions and comments welcomed!

A Biblical Perspective on the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Image of Bible (Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images)

 

So, you’re a Christian, possibly an evangelical Christian, and you’ve heard about the Pro-Truth Pledge. You may be wondering, “Why should I sign this pledge? Is it really what it claims to be?” or, more importantly, “What would the Bible say?”

Firstly, what about the Bible? What does it have to say? Well, the Bible was written before humanity knew about electricity, let alone the internet, so the Pro-Truth Pledge was not mentioned, but the Bible does have a strong message about truth and lies.

Bearing false witness is against the ten commandments as recorded in Exodus 20:16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” And in the new testament, Jesus says, “Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” – John 8:44. Revelations chapter 21 repeatedly states that liars are to be sent to hell.

Additionally, Matthew 12:36 states, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” This verse makes it pretty clear that even accidentally spreading misinformation without taking due care to make sure it isn’t fake news or otherwise mistaken would have theological consequences.

Clearly, the Bible states that telling the truth is good and that lying is wrong. It is also pretty clear that merely repeating what you have heard without making sure it’s correct first does not fulfill the spirit of truth-telling.

However, these arguments alone aren’t good enough justification for signing this pledge. Why bother signing the pledge when you are already telling the truth? Accountability.

According to Galatians 6:1 which reads, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Christians ought to be holding each other accountable and trying to help each other be righteous. We know this, but sometimes it’s hard. People generally don’t like being told that they are doing something wrong and it is even sometimes considered impolite to call someone out in a lie.

But accountability to fellow Christians is an important part of how a righteous man stays on the straight and narrow. The Pro-Truth Pledge has the benefit of helping you inform others that you are making a concerted effort to be more honest. It also can tell your fellow Christians that you are open to gentle reminders to remain honest.

The Bible doesn’t have anything to say about the Pro-Truth Pledge directly. However, it seems to be a useful tool to help you keep yourself honest and careful with your words, as it is intended to do.

Is the Pro-Truth Pledge what it claims to be, however? Well, this study indicates that it does accomplish its goal of causing signers to be more truthful. I know of no better argument for a course of action than the evidence of its effectiveness.

In conclusion, should you sign the pledge? Christian Pastor Lorenzo Neal describes in this blog why he signed it, and encourages others to sign; Bishop Pierre Whalon also signed the pledge. It is your decision, but I have a question, why wouldn’t you sign?