The world is a complicated place. If you’re a conscientious citizen, want to get involved in politics, but don’t want to get duped into supporting something you don’t believe in, consider these tips to get the facts straight.
1. Take a class in political science, if you can. Look at the school’s and the professor’s background and political involvements, and remember that their beliefs are just that- their own. Focus on developing a strong analytical technique, not a copycat ideology.
2. Find local volunteer groups, charities or non-governmental organizations that offer talks or workshops on subjects that interest you. Attend, and practice your analytical technique.
3. Don’t take it for granted that things people tell you are true. There is a lot of money invested in politics, as well as a lot of lives, and people want to sway you to their side. Being lazy about your research benefits people who want to lie to you. Be especially wary of information from advocacy/lobby groups, breaking news and “liberal” or “conservative” pundits.
4. Read everything you can about the situation you want to analyze. Make notes, and find out the following about everything you read:
- what information is impartial, verifiable fact (who what where when how)?
- what information is analysis (why, how, what does it mean, who is affected, how should you react)?
- who is giving you this information (newspaper, tv, politician)?
- what benefit do they receive from telling you this (sales, ratings, votes)?
- what political, financial or other motivation do they have for interpreting the facts this way?
- how does that motivation sit with your personal beliefs?
- are all their facts correct (look up those sources, in encyclopedias, meeting minutes, raw video, the bible etc)?
- has anyone offered a different interpretation of the facts?
6. Talk with people who disagree with your conclusions about the situation. Find out what convinced them.
7. Ask someone knowledgeable about the situation if there’s any more information to consider. Thank them for their input, but apply the same analytical techniques to what they tell you.
- Libraries are your friend.
- Your instinct is also your friend.
- Start with topics that interest you. Politics isn’t boring, but it takes some getting used to if you’re going to investigate thoroughly.
- Watch for “buzzwords.” These are vaguely defined words or ideas (“the homosexual agenda” or “the christian agenda”) that are designed to scare you, without giving you any real information (what agenda? who wrote it? how did the news find out about it? who agreed to it?)
- Some people really, really, really hate talking about politics. You might start to think of them as lazy or willfully ignorant. They might start to think of you as annoying or a know-it-all. Mind that your political views don’t get in the way of being a kind and considerate person.