Ross: Fact checking is all too important in the war for information

Oct 18, 2023, 7:04 AM | Updated: 10:52 am

fact checking war...

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Yassin Mosque destroyed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike at Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. Israel's military battled to drive Hamas fighters out of southern towns and seal its borders Monday as it pounded the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

(AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A hospital full of patients blows up in Gaza. Hamas blames Israel, and Israel blames Hamas.

Who do we believe? It usually depends on who we want to believe.

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I get a list of news items when I log on at 4:30 a.m. Dispatches from CBS News, the Associated Press or our own reporters. I read through them all. When I see one that sounds too good or too horrible to just too confusing, I look it up on sites I trust — The New York Times, BBC or The Seattle Times.

And lately, I’ll go to opposite sources for stories from the Middle East, including the Israeli paper Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, and even Al Jazeera.

I’ll try to find the source to avoid the telephone game effect. And if it’s still questionable, or there are too many different versions, I either ignore the story or, if it can’t be ignored, like the hospital bombing, mention the discrepancies.

But even then, there are no guarantees because, in war, information is just another weapon. Fact-checks are always too late, and the internet is all about posting it first and vetting it later: A propagandist’s dream. There have already been documented incidents of images from other wars being passed off as coverage of this one.

If only there were some all-seeing satellite that could detect who fired first! But since most of us are not experts in analyzing satellite data, would we believe it? Wasn’t it a satellite image that convinced us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? And even if we do discover the truth, how does it help? All it does is justify the retaliation.

Leading us to a familiar conclusion: the only way to win a war is not to start one.

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Or for both sides to suddenly realize the futility of what they’re doing and lay down their arms, and then, for the world to join in a promise to protect both sides.

I realize even proposing such a thing makes me a candidate for involuntary commitment, but it was the only positive solution I could come up with. If you have a better idea, let me know.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Fact checking is all too important in the war for information