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Attack on Pro-Truth Pledge Means We Are Winning

Caption: Image with “Truth” on top and “Lie” crossed out on bottom (Geralt/Pixabay)

A recent editorial in the Amarillo Globe-News, a newspaper serving a Texas town of about 200,000, attacked the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP), and the Texas politicians who took it. Surprisingly, it was written without a byline, thus representing the official opinion of the editorial board of the newspaper itself. Shortly afterward, another Texas newspaper republished it (serving a city of 250,000) and then another one (city of 130,000), all without bylines and representing the official position of the newspapers.

A close reading of the editorial shows that it is poorly written, incoherent, self-contradictory, and hypocritical, twisting itself into knots trying to slam the pledge and Texas politicians who took it. Consider this quote from the editorial:

  • There is an old joke that is relevant to today’s editorial – how can you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving… People should not make a show of doing something they should be doing anyway. In this case, shouldn’t politicians tell the the truth without having to sign some silly document stating they are pledging to tell the truth? Yes, we know it is completely unrealistic to expect our elected officials to be truthful. We are not living in a fantasy land. However, it just seems a tad absurd for elected officials – and those who want to be elected officials – to sign a document stating they will be truthful. Shouldn’t this be assumed?

This quote claims that: 1) we can’t expect politicians to be truthful; 2) we should assume that politicians are truthful; 3) politicians should not sign a document claiming they will be truthful.

In other words, the editorial argues against all codes of ethics, ranging from the Ten Commandments, to the Better Business Bureau Code of Business Practices, to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (which the editorial writer – being a journalist – presumably signed). If we follow the logic of the editorial, we should assume that people, journalists, and businesses – though they should be ethical – are inherently unethical. Thus, we should disregard any code of ethics to which they commit, and criticize them for committing to it.

In fact, as commenter Dan Bessire points out at the bottom of this editorial, one of the newspapers that published this editorial, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal pledged “to the goals of The Local Media Consortium in preventing fake news.” Given that the newspaper itself made this pledge, it seems pretty hypocritical to condemn the PTP as “some meaningless online form pledging to tell the truth,” as the editorial does.

Notably, the editorial specifically fails to describe the substantial accountability mechanism that underpins the pledge. Unlike some other codes of conduct, the PTP has a clear and specific way of ensuring that politicians and other public figures who take the pledge stick to it. In failing to discuss the accountability mechanism, the editorial writer clearly lies by omission.

Since the editorial contradicts the apparent actions both of the writer, who presumably committed to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and the newspaper, which definitely committed to The Local Media Consortium, as well as lies by omission, we have to assume a different motivation for the editorial than an honest criticism of the PTP and the politicians who took the pledge.

Note that all the editorials published attacked Beto O’Rourke, whose campaign spans across all of Texas. However, they also attacked politicians in their area who took the pledge: for example, the Amarillo Globe-News editorial attacked Greg Sagan of Amarillo, a candidate for Congress; the Denton Record-Chronicle attacked Texas House of Representatives District 64 candidate Andrew Morris.

These attacks, combined with the hypocrisy of the editorial, can only point to the fact that the PTP is having a real impact in the political sphere. We have already found out that according to studies, after taking the PTP signers tend to behave more truthfully. This editorial shows that the PTP is actually getting the truth-oriented politicians who signed it positive reputational rewards, whether the Republican member of the Texas State Legislature James Earl White, or the Democrat member of US Congress from Texas Beto O’Rourke, and the other 500 other politicians who signed the pledge.

Those who don’t want the truth – and truth-oriented politicians – to get ahead are now waking up and seeing this impact. Thus, they are taking steps to destroy the reputation of the Pro-Truth Pledge in the eyes of the general public.

The fact that they are trying to fight back means we are winning! It’s especially good to see that the editorial is doing a ridiculously poor job of trying to criticize the PTP, because it’s hard to really say bad things about people committing to the truthful behaviors of the pledge.

Still, they are hoping that their readers will not notice the hack nature of this attack. They are hoping that the readers will skim the editorial – without reading deeply – and come away with the impression that the PTP is bad, and politicians who took the PTP are bad.

Fortunately, you can make a difference by getting positive media attention for the PTP using these guidelines, asking your elected representatives to take the PTP using these guidelines, getting signatures for the PTP using these guidelines, starting a local PTP chapter using these guidelines, indicate a general interest in volunteering using this form, and/or making a generous monthly (or at least one-time) tax-deductible gift today to the nonpartisan educational 501(c)3 organization that runs the PTP, Intentional Insights, at this link.

Together, we can continue winning for the truth!

Changing Fact-Checking Standards

Caption: Meme saying “One Does Not Simply Trust Any Fact-Checker” (Created by blog author)

When we launched the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP), we looked for a credible set of fact-checkers that we could use to hold accountable the public figures and organizations that took the PTP. After a thorough evaluation process, we decided to use the Facebook fact-checking program as our reference point for the credible fact-checkers that we would count for the purpose of defining violations of the PTP. After all, Facebook had an enormous financial capacity to evaluate the credibility of various fact-checkers, and a strong financial incentive to ensure that its chosen fact-checkers were balanced, favoring neither conservatives nor liberals.

Unfortunately, since that time, some developments convinced us that the Facebook fact-checking program suffers from a series of problems, related here and here, mainly due to Facebook’s lack of willingness to collaborate effectively with fact-checkers. Moreover, Facebook’s credibility in the arena of fighting misinformation took a serious hit with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. All these revelations convinced us that Facebook is no longer a worthwhile reference point for credible fact-checkers. Furthermore, Facebook’s fact-checkers mostly focus on the US, whereas the Pro-Truth Pledge is a global project, and we wanted more of a global reach.

We launched another search, and decided to use as our standard of reference the Poynter Institute International Fact-Checking Network of credible fact-checkers. Any fact-checker around the world that wishes to join this network needs to commit to a code of ethics that include non-partisanship, transparency, and public and visible corrections. All who apply need to pass a vetting process, and their application and assessment are listed on the website. After public discussion of the cons and pros of making this change, we have decided it’s a wise idea.

We welcome any and all questions and comments!

Pro-Truth Pledge Volunteer of the Month – June 2018

 

The Pro-Truth Pledge project is a grassroots effort made possible by the efforts of volunteers around the world.

Some of the volunteers focus their efforts on external activities, such as gathering signatures, giving presentations, running local PTP chapters, and otherwise promoting the Pro-Truth Pledge. Other volunteers work behind the scenes assisting with website maintenance, research, data entry, content creation, and a variety of other tasks.

This month we are pleased to acknowledge Susanna Marlowe for her contribution to the success of the Pro-Truth Pledge project. She is a great example of reliability, consistency, flexibility, and teamwork that fuels the Pro-Truth Pledge.

 

Susanna Marlowe, Data Entry and Maintenance Volunteer

I input names into the Pro-Truth Pledge website to represent signatures that are collected by PTP activists. I also curate the Public Figures page, making sure that each public figure who takes the pledge has a listing that includes a picture and links to their social media profiles.
I am excited about the Pro-Truth Pledge project because, as a law librarian, I am committed to the facts and the verifiable truth.

 

PS: If you are interested in joining the Pro-Truth Pledge volunteer team, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you soon.

Why the Founder of the Houston Tea Party Society Took the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Logo of Unfakery Facebook page created by Felicia Winfree Cravens (courtesy of Unfakery)

In politics, it’s often difficult to know what’s true, what’s spin, and what’s an outright lie. With governments expanding at every level, and increasing the number of issues they have control over, the stakes for elections, bond initiatives, and public referenda get higher every election cycle. That means the incentives to spread misinformation about issues and candidates get higher as well.

It’s profitable to lie and cheat, and we have even come to expect it to be the norm with politicians, activists, and advocacy media. Too often the focus is on doing whatever it takes to win an election or a debate, rather than searching for truth to find a solution to a problem. We complain about the lies and the spin, but we view them as a permanent feature of the political process. It’s baked into the cake, we tell ourselves; what can we do?

As the founder in 2009 of the Houston Tea Party Society, I spent a lot of time thinking about that very question, especially in light of the plague of fake news infecting the political sphere. My fellow conservatives have been relentlessly targeted by people wanting to manipulate their emotions in order to make a profit. If there’s anything I learned in twenty years of conservative political activism, it’s that people react and respond to misinformation all the time, in ways that have serious consequences. And when I saw some friends and allies from my days in politics sharing those fake articles and images over the past few years, I decided I couldn’t just hide them from my feed and ignore the problem. There HAD to be something I could do to push back against fakery and misinformation. The truth deserved a defense.

I read a lot of scholarly articles and studies and white papers about fake news. There was no shortage of paragraphs about how bad it was, who created it, why they created it, how it worked, who fell for it. But nobody seemed to be talking seriously about what to do about fake news, how we should respond to it. Debunking sites were well established, but were frequently dismissed as biased by those sharing fakery. And debunker sites only answer the question of “Is this specific thing true or false?” instead of teaching better habits and strategies to people to avoid future fakes.

That led me to create Unfakery, a Facebook page chiefly geared towards conservatives, devoted to countering misinformation, holding all media outlets accountable, and helping people learn how to become better information consumers. And once I found the Pro-Truth Pledge, I knew this belonged in our toolbox.

Unfakery could debunk articles and images all day long, and build dozens of tools to teach better information habits. But unless our target audience values truth more highly than serving an agenda or winning political points, we won’t be able to make a real impact on the problem of fakery. Nor will we be able to affect the large number of people whose opinions and voting are shaped by it. I believe the keys to establishing a more truth-centered culture are contained in the principles of the Pro-Truth Pledge: sharing, honoring, and encouraging truth.

If we want people to value a commitment to truth, we have to model it. We have to publicly discuss it, and do so often. We have to uphold it as a prominent value again. We have to permeate our social spheres with references to the search for truth, and orient our conversations around it. We can’t brush aside a truth because it disagrees with us or doesn’t serve our agenda. We can’t lie about things other people said or did in order to achieve our purpose, and still call ourselves honest.

For instance, too often these days I see people defending their share of a fake quote with “It sounds like something he would say!” or “She may not have said it, but it’s what she believes!” These are dishonest defenses for sharing made-up quotes by famous people. This kind of fakery is NOT acceptable. It should be obvious to everyone that you do not get to put words in other people’s mouths, and yet some people are thoroughly convinced this IS acceptable. There should be no room for “fake but accurate” excuses for misinformation.

When you take the pledge, you let people know that truth matters to you, and you are willing to be held accountable for promoting it. That’s important for people in politics and business; we can all agree with that, and encourage and promote them taking the Pro-Truth Pledge.

But it’s even MORE important for the rest of us to consider taking the pledge and living by it. We shape the culture ourselves by what we collectively approve and what we reject. When we give political lies a pass because they agree with us, or dismiss them because “that’s just politics,” then we perpetuate a culture in which truth is an afterthought. That will only serve to spiral us further down into the current truth crisis, and prevent us from having meaningful, productive conversations with people who have the same goals as we do, but differ in how to achieve them.

People generally don’t want to be seen as dishonest on social platforms where their reputations constitute their greatest social capital. So let’s take advantage of that. Promoting truth, especially in online arenas, can be contagious. Broadcast that you are willing to be held accountable by taking the Pro-Truth Pledge, and then encourage others to do it as well. Start building networks of accountability partners and truth defenders.

We can keep complaining about the lies and fakery we encounter every day, and continue to write it off as ‘how politics works.’ Or we can take the pledge, stand for truth, and start changing the culture now.

Pro-Truth Pledge Volunteer of the Month – May 2018

The Pro-Truth Pledge project is a grassroots effort made possible by the efforts of volunteers around the world.

Some of the volunteers focus their efforts on external activities, such as gathering signatures, giving presentations, running local PTP chapters, and otherwise promoting the Pro-Truth Pledge. Other volunteers work behind the scenes assisting with website maintenance, research, data entry, content creation, and a variety of other tasks.

This month we are pleased to acknowledge Stephanie Frizzell for her contribution to the success of the Pro-Truth Pledge project. She is a great example of reliability, consistency, flexibility, and teamwork that fuels the Pro-Truth Pledge.

PTP Volunteer of the Month 2018-5

 

Stephanie Frizzell, PTP Activist in Olympia, Washington State

As a volunteer for the Pro-Truth Pledge I carry the message to political figures in my area to share, encourage, and honor the truth, and I appeal to them to take the pledge.

The state of public discourse in America is at such a low I would despair except the PTP has revived my confidence that people can overcome the challenges that face us today.

 

PS: If you are interested in joining the Pro-Truth Pledge volunteer team, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you soon.

Pro-Truth Pledge Volunteers of the Month – April 2018

The Pro-Truth Pledge project is a grassroots effort made possible by the efforts of volunteers around the world.

Some of the volunteers focus their efforts on external activities, such as gathering signatures, giving presentations, running local PTP chapters, and otherwise promoting the Pro-Truth Pledge. Other volunteers work behind the scenes assisting with website maintenance, research, data entry, content creation, and a variety of other tasks.

This month we are pleased to acknowledge two volunteers for their contribution to the success of the Pro-Truth Pledge project: Carl Baker and Nora Koci. They are great examples of reliability, consistency, flexibility, and teamwork that fuels the Pro-Truth Pledge.

 

PTP Volunteers of the Month - April 2018

External Volunteer

Carl Baker, Washington State Organizer

I’m the Washington State group lead and I am part of the PTP Political Cultivation Committee. I’ve also to mentored a couple of folks in other locations.

I’m hopeful that the Pro-Truth Pledge project will help return our nation to a less divisive state and allow some form of political and social progress to be made.

Internal Volunteer

Nora Koci, Video and Audio Editor

I edit audio and video for Intentional Insights social media, our YouTube channel, and for promoting the Pro-Truth Pledge. I’m also currently working on a new radio show that Intentional Insights is coming out with – the “Think Better, Live Better Show”.

I’m excited about the Pro-Truth Pledge because it is important that people tell the truth and advocate truthfulness in politics, social media, and in constructing their arguments. I’m glad that the Pro-Truth Pledge is gaining ground because there is so much misinformation out there, people need to be aware and push for the truth!

PS: If you are interested in joining the Pro-Truth Pledge volunteer team, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you soon.

How Journalists Can Communicate Truth Effectively and Credibly

Caption: Image of various types of news media (Wikimedia Commons)

As a journalist, you are committed to seeking and reporting the truth, following the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. Unfortunately, recent behavioral science research shows that some standard practices of how journalists communicate the news both fail to convey the actual facts and fail to create an impression of credibility among audiences.

Consider a typical journalistic trope: the 10 myths, followed by a rebuttal of these myth. A classical example is this Time article on 10 science myths, or the weekly “5 myths” column in The Washington Post. In our era of fake news and alternative facts, many journalists use this style to counter such misinformation.

However, much research, such as a 2005 study in the Journal of Consumer Research or a 2016 study in Science Communication show that this style of writing usually backfires. The studies demonstrate that when journalists present a myth first, followed by corrective factual information, news consumers will tend to remember the myth as opposed to the correction. This backfire effect becomes stronger over time, with more study participants forgetting the corrective information and instead remembering the myth as true.

The backfire effect is one of over a hundred mental failures that behavioral scientists call cognitive biases. Behavioral science researchers believe there might be several reasons for the backfire effect.

First, the backfire effect ties in with another cognitive bias called the illusory truth effect, our tendency to ascribe more credibility to a statement the more often we hear it, regardless of whether the statement is true. We know from recent research that misinformation spreads faster and further than true information, so news consumers are likely to hear fake news more often than corrections. Thus, they are more likely to encounter misinformation before the correction, and encounter it more often: as a result, they would tend to believe the myth than the correction.

Second, the way we form our memories exacerbates the backfire effect. We have much stronger memories about what we perceive as salient information, as opposed to the context around that information. If the myth is presented by a journalist as salient information, then we tend to remember the myth, and forget the contextual information of the correction of the myth. Consider the Time article as a classic example: each myth is presented as a bolded statement, with our attention drawn to it, while the corrective is presented as commentary about it. No wonder that the backfire effect intensifies over time, with people remembering the key information – the myth – as opposed to the corrective information.

The typical style of writing headlines exacerbates the challenges of communicating truth to news consumers. We know that people get most of their news from skimming the headlines; in fact, most people share articles based on the headline alone. Unfortunately, most headlines concerned with misinformation convey the actual misinformation in the title, leading people to have the wrong impression.

Consider this BBC article, entitled “£350m Brexit claim was ‘too low’, says Boris Johnson.” You probably know that the original claim of £350m for the UK National Health Service if the UK leaves the EU is false, and may well suspect that this one is false too. However, you as a journalist are a sophisticated news consumer, and most people are not.

Knowing that most people will only read the headline, and share it on social media afterward, what do you think readers will take away from the headline? They will take away the impression that Brexit was even better than they thought. Now, the rest of the readers who choose to delve more deeply into the piece will learn that critics strongly pushed back against Boris Johnson’s false claim. Still, plenty of those who read this piece – and similar pieces like this one from Reuters – will fail to remember the pushback, and only retain the myth.

Fortunately, adjusting the style of reporting addresses this problem. The BBC and Reuters pieces could have had a headline such as “Critics bash Boris Johnson’s claims about post-Brexit savings.” Instead of starting the piece with Johnson’s claim, the article can start with criticism of these claims. Another approach might be to use the headline “Boris Johnson doubles down on previously-disproved Brexit claims.” Then, you can start your story with the disproved claims about £350m, and get to new claims by Johnson, and then criticism of these claims. This change in the traditional journalistic approach to conveying information is aligned with how our brain intakes information and addresses many cognitive biases, which are described in more details here.

Besides communicating truth effectively, journalists need to convey credibility. Yet, trust in the media has been decreasing, including in media fact-checking, around the globe. So how do you communicate credibility to news consumers?

Consider their perspective. You might alway abide by the SPJ code, but how do news consumers know that? The Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP), a civic initiative to fight misinformation and incivility, provides a way to do so. The pledge asks signers – which includes private citizens, public figures, and organizations – to commit to 12 behaviors that research in behavioral science shows correlate with an orientation toward truthfulness, which align well with the SPJ code.

The pledge provides external credibility by permitting anyone to file complaints about any false statements made by a public figure, and PTP volunteers evaluate these statements to ensure accountability. Thus, the PTP functions as the equivalent of the Better Business Bureau for public figures: the BBB provides credibility for ethical business practices and the PTP provides credibility for truthfulness for public figures and organizations.

After signing the pledge, individual journalists can include the pledge logo it on their website, in their personal bio on articles, and on their social media profiles. Media venues that take the pledge as an organization can list it on their website and in print. Likewise, their information is listed on the PTP public figures and organizations page, and shared with all private citizens who signed the pledge, who are then substantially more likely to follow journalists and media venues who committed to the PTP. Through both publicly signaling your commitment to the truth and through opening yourself up to being held accountable, you as a journalist – and any media organizations to which you belong – convey credibility to their audiences.

Behavioral science research can help you as a journalist to communicate truth both more effectively and credibly. Please take advantage of them!

Why Do People Take the Pro-Truth Pledge?

Photo: group of pledge signers writing letters encouraging public figures to take the pledge

 

What prompted people to take the Pro Truth Pledge?

There were a variety of reasons that people took the pledge and these are listed below in no particular order of merit or importance:

  • Politics
  • Personal
  • Media

One thing seems clear. People take the pledge because they want to be part of something important and to be able to take some action that could alter what they perceive as the current public discourse of media, politics, and other information characterized by bias and misinformation. Pledge-takers are concerned with statements whose intention is simply to promote one viewpoint over another, or misinformation which is designed to sway our view and understanding of a topic so that if benefits either some political cause or some economic venture.

That ability to take action seems central to much of what is happening today in various movements worldwide where people seek to take more control over their lives and how they are governed. They are seeking democracy in its purest form.

Media

 

Starting with media, we can make a distinction here between the “mainstream” press, namely newspapers, magazines, television and radio controlled by the major media corporations, and what might be called the media of the people. The latter includes blogs, podcasts, and various social media platforms that are easily accessible to most people and provide a forum for them to express their views. It also provides an opportunity for things that matter to gain traction if people identify, agree and begin to share common ideas. The role of social media in bringing about the sweeping changes of the Arab Spring was profound, and demonstrates the reason why it is subject to strict control in some countries.

The Pro-Truth Pledge can be seen as one such opportunity to share common ground and principles which will guide how we relate to each other and in pursuit of a democratic freedom to have our voice heard and try to influence those in power to adopt the same values and behaviours

Michael DeCandia “I feel that science and critical thought are the life blood of society. These methods carry us through difficult times and help us progress as a society. The spread of fake news threatens this in my mind, so I felt it was necessary to do something. I was looking for a cause to combat misinformation when I saw an advertisement for the PTP.”

Nora Naurava “I didn’t want any biases. I may have to grab at unworthy reporting of events.

Ishi CrewI took it for the same kind of reasons I vote and even pick up trash around here if it’s easy (sometimes as part of group that does an annual Clean the Park Day, though I mostly do it by myself because I don’t like seeing pollution—I would hope one day people can just pick up their own trash.)

 

A lot of media around here is a kind of air pollution—and to an extent, I blame the FCC for that as well as those who wrote the legislation for how FCC regulates the airwaves.

 

I could see the Pro-Truth Pledge eventually having some effect on that process–because it could influence what politicians do, and also who votes for them. (As Gleb has said, this is not too different from efforts like “Silent Spring” or the 60s March on Washington. Just a statement.) They say ‘The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.’ For most people, it seems that’s too expensive. I guess things like voting by computer as is done in Oregon, and having easy tools to ‘fact-check’ may lower the price.”

 

 

Politics

 

There would appear to be a growing level of discontent with the state of politics around the world. Increasingly, people are becoming more vocal about this as various protest movements and marches demonstrate frustration at how out of touch politicians are with the people they are elected to represent. Social media has played its part here as well with the development of electronic petitions, which seek to galvanize public opinion into pressuring politicians or other groups to acquiesce to demands. At times, this has been effective. It is clear, however, from many exposé and news articles that politicians rarely say what they will do or do what they say.

Jim Lentz “I was motivated by the current political environment and my need to do something other than complain about it. The pledge seemed like a small, no risk act to demonstrate my support of principles that I believe in.”

Karen Wiley “I was motivated because of the inundation of ‘alternative facts’ coming out of Washington and all over Facebook during the campaigning.”

Joe JB Shaver “Having been exposed to our very partisan and dysfunctional political arena that is filled with hyperbole and falsehoods, it was extremely motivating to pursue an alternative course.”

 

Eric Evans “Shortly after I joined the Facebook group, “Indivisible Wisconsin,” I began to post comments on political events and actions at the local and national levels. One of my first comments was about the violent and deadly demonstration, by a group of white supremacists and white nationalists, in Charlottesville, Virginia. A member of Indivisible Wisconsin, who disagreed with my comment, questioned whether I knew what I was talking about. In my defense, I posted links to several reputable newspapers that reported the factual information on which I based my comment. The person, who had questioned whether I knew what I was talking about, did not respond. Since that initial experience on Facebook, I continue to include references to legitimate news sources, to support comments that I post on social media. In addition, I fact-check posts that other people place on Facebook, before I comment on them. I have and will warn and then “Unfriend” people on Facebook, who repeatedly post comments and/or information to my timeline which my fact-checking reveals is false.

Personal

When I was growing up it seemed like knowing the difference between right and wrong or good and bad was important, it was something of a moral compass, a sign of a good upbringing. Now society has grown to adopt an attitude of “if it’s alright for you then that’s fine” as a means of combating what some experienced as a judgemental society. Some would say this freedom has enabled us to be more truthful about who we are and what we believe. However, this perspective has potentially created some difficulties for us in how we relate to each other and find common ground on things that we can agree as fact and truth.

Valuing each other as well as ourselves has of course gained traction as tolerance has developed and groups like Hope not Hate strive to support a culture of inclusiveness, and this is to a large extent based on the evidence of truth or fact in combating false views of others. The pledge is seen by some as a statement of their intent to follow a path that seeks facts and evidence and does not rely on ill informed and preconceived notions. They seek values which will support their personal relationships whether with self or others that is first and foremost about the truth.

Jami Miller “I have severe mental illness. Most of the time, I am stable. My medication helps, but doesn’t cure it and doesn’t prevent episodes. If I’m having a very bad episode, I can’t count on my own brain to tell me the truth of what is really happening. Truth, reality, the difference between possible and not possible; that line can be very blurry for me. During these times, I have no choice but to rely on trusted people around me, to help me bridge that gap.

 

So, basically, I’ve been fighting my own brain for truth all my life. Sometimes, I win. Sometimes, I think lizard people might actually exist, but then I come back and win again. Fighting for truth has been a lifelong struggle for me.”

Russell Frizzell “No surprise here, Stephanie is the visionary in our family. I took the pledge to please her. This is no trivial point; popular characters will lead way more people down a good path than unpopular leaders could.”

 

Ishi Crew “For me, scientists and musicians have been more influential than politicians in shaping my views—my social and political views follow directly from the sciences I read, music I listen to, and places I hike. It’s a different path to the ‘truth’ as I see it. A lot of people don’t see that—they think if you don’t show up at a meeting you won’t learn the truth. That is similar to saying if you don’t vote or sign a petition you can’t complain, are a-political, and part of the problem rather than the solution. I’m agnostic, so I sometimes vote and sign petitions.

Diane Wilkinson Trefethen “I joined because ever since I was 6 years old I’ve tried to be a truth teller. Now almost 70 years later, I’m more convinced than ever that even when telling the truth up front hurts, it surely beats eating cold crow later.

 

Linda L. Allen “I have always hated when anyone lied to me: parents, preachers, lovers, politicians. Second, I was trained as a scientist, a MS in biology focused on experimentation. I find truth and reality fascinating. Why pollute them?”

Cory Frost “Fear that as campaigns of misinformation become the norm we may see a Fourth Reich in America.”

Mark and Suzanne EastburnWithout truth there is no meaning.”

 

Ashley RooneyTelling the truth is the most important thing. It’s the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t.”

 

What led you to take the Pro-Truth Pledge? Let us know in your comments!

Want Your Political Representatives to Take the Pro-Truth Pledge?

Caption: Woman speaking in political context (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

So you took the Pro-Truth Pledge yourself and are excited to get your political representatives to take it? Great: let’s talk about how you can do so!

Figure Out Who They Are

The first step to getting your political representatives (whether elected or appointed) to take the pledge is figuring out who they are. It’s not hard to do. Just put into your preferred search engine “contact your political representatives in [country]” without quotation marks and you get a list of websites that help you contact your representatives. If your country’s primary language is not English, use the appropriate language.

For example, this is the link to the search result in Google for contacting representatives in Australia. The first site at the top is this one, giving Australians clear ways of contacting their elected representatives.

It’s even easier if you are in the US. Thanks to the Google Civic Information API, our website developers put together an automatic way for you to learn who are your elected representatives. Just enter your address into the top bar on this page. You will get a menu with (almost) all of your elected representatives, from local to national, and the number of pledge-takers per elected representative.

Once you figure out your elected representatives, use your preferred search engine to figure out if there are any candidates running for the office. Then, you can pitch both the incumbent and all the candidates.

Pitching Your Elected Representatives

After you find your elected representatives, figure out their emails, website contact form, Twitter profile, Facebook page, and other social media, along with phone numbers. They usually have these readily available, with the possible exception of email for more high-profile politicians. You can use this guide on finding emails if their emails are not readily available. Next, follow the directions here, which have a variety of templates for you to pitch politicians and candidates for office.

For the US, it’s even easier once you enter your address on this page. You will see the websites and social media of most of your elected representatives. Do some additional research to figure out their emails and any social media that may not be present there (remember, the Google Civic Information API does not provide complete information). Also, don’t forget to figure out candidates for office.

The best thing about entering your address into this page is that those who have easily-available Twitter accounts will have a blue “Twitter” button above and to the right of their picture. When you click on that button, you will send to each one this message: “I took the #ProTruthPledge at https://ProTruthPledge.org/ because I value #truth and #facts and I ask my representative @ [twitter handle] join me in taking @ProTruthPledge and showing that #TruthMatters and #FactsMatter to them.” Here’s an example of how it looks, and below is a video showing you how to do so.

It takes 5 seconds (literally, not figuratively) to send a tweet to each. So take 5 minutes to tweet to all of them, and repeat the same 5 minute tweeting per week. You can easily set up a Twitter account if you don’t have one. Make your voice heard and make a difference – Tweet for Truth now!

Don’t forget to then go through all the other social media channels, website contact form, email, and phone, using the directions here. Also, don’t forget to contact candidates for office: we find that they – not being career politicians – have a much higher likelihood of taking the pledge.

We know these strategies work: a number of public figures have been convinced to take the pledge through reaching out to them on social media. For example, one of our volunteers has described how whenever anyone invites him to “like” a Facebook page from a politician, he asks whether that individual have taken the pledge. After a couple of exchanges back and forth, where he explains the pledge and follows up, about a quarter end up taking the pledge. Imagine what would happen if a quarter of all the politicians whose Facebook pages you were invited to like end up taking the pledge!

Now, you can also meet and pitch public figures in person. Use the script informed by the email templates, along with this blog on how politicians can get maximum benefit from taking the pledge. We also recommend bringing along the information of all the people who have signed the Pro-Truth Pledge in that politician’s region if it’s a regional politician, or country if it’s a national-level politician, since part of signing the pledge involves calling on one’s elected representatives to sign the pledge. We can make that information available to you if you email info [at] protruthpledge [dot] org outside the US, or you can put in the relevant address into this page to get US data.

Ideally, you would also bring along a PTP sign-up binder with some sample signatures, or at least photos of signatures. The binder provides demonstrable proof that signatures were gathered, while the spreadsheet provides the total number of actual signatures.

Note that politicians – or their staff, who you will likely be talking to if it’s a high-level political figure – will likely want you to leave them with some physical presence of the number of people who signed the PTP. What you can do is print out a photograph of one page of a sign-up sheet, as physical proof of signature-gathering, along with printing out the spreadsheet with all the names of the people who signed the PTP in that region or country. You can then leave it with the politician or their staff, along with a flyer with the text of the PTP.

It’s especially good to approach politicians during a candidate’s forum or listening session, as these are specifically designated times for politicians to meet constituents. There, you can ask them publicly in the Q&A about whether they would be willing to take the pledge, and mention that you contacted them before. If you can get someone to videotape you, it’s especially helpful, as in this video that you can use as a guide.

Then for each public figure you contact, fill out this form, and in the “Any relevant notes,” note that you have contacted this person. That way, we can keep a clear track record of the politicians who are contacted, and circle back around to them later, referencing the first contact. It’s really important and helpful to do so in order to ensure successful pitches, so please do help us out on this one!

Conclusion

These are the strategies that got over 100 politicians to take the pledge, including Member of US Congress Beto O’Rourke, as you can see from this video of him taking the pledge. There’s no magic, just people like you reaching out to their political representatives and making the request. So join us in doing so, and let us know any questions or comments you have about this process below!

Pro-Truth Pledge Volunteers of the Month – March 2018

The Pro-Truth Pledge project is a grassroots effort made possible by the efforts of volunteers around the world.

Some of the volunteers focus their efforts on external activities, such as gathering signatures, giving presentations, running local PTP chapters, and otherwise promoting the Pro-Truth Pledge. Other volunteers work behind the scenes assisting with website maintenance, research, data entry, content creation, and a variety of other tasks.

This month we are pleased to acknowledge two volunteers for their contribution to the success of the Pro-Truth Pledge project: Ken Whitaker and Kevin Bavaro. They are great examples of reliability, consistency, flexibility, and teamwork that fuels the Pro-Truth Pledge.

External Volunteer

Ken Whitaker, Utah State Organizer

I volunteer with the Pro-Truth Pledge as the Utah state organizer, concentrating on the Salt Lake City area. I’m mentoring four other, new volunteers from different areas of the world. I’m also part of the PTP Political Cultivation Committee, which is just getting up and running.

What excites me about the Pro-Truth Pledge project is the thought of being able to turn the tide on all the “fake news” and “alternative facts” that seem so rampant these days. I’m excited to be able to get people to sign the pledge and have successfully gotten several candidates to sign it. I’m now very excited to start presenting it to our currently elected officials and really start reversing the impact of lies in our politics.

Internal Volunteer

Kevin Bavaro, Newsletter Coordinator

My volunteer role with the Pro-Truth Pledge is to coordinate the editing and publication of the Pro-Truth Pledge newsletter. It has been exciting to watch the mail list grow from the original few hundred to now well over 5,000 people who have taken the pledge, and I enjoy being able to help communicate the latest news and happenings.

I am excited about the project, and got involved, because I saw an opportunity to support reversing the emphasis on loudness and volume of news, and to return the focus to quality and truth. I used to do both news writing and public relations (mainly in sports) and have not enjoyed seeing the communication of information focus on ratings and income. The project’s engagement of both consumers and sources of information is key to me, and this greater engagement the Pro-Truth Pledge is fostering should help create an improved quality of debate and discussion – both in the US and in my home country, Canada.

PS: If you are interested in joining the Pro-Truth Pledge volunteer team, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you soon.