Facts Alone Won’t Destroy Fake News

Take it from a librarian: Misinformation is everywhere

Nisha Mody
GEN
Published in
5 min readJun 14, 2019

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Photo by Hayden Walker on Unsplash

AtAt work one day, I received a call from a retired doctor who was concerned that their grandchildren were hooked on television and sugary drinks. It seemed that the kids’ parents often leaned on junk food and iPhones as a means to keep the children quiet. But neither parent would listen to the potential hazards of reinforcing bad habits for kids — not even when the warnings were issued by the caller, a medical professional. “You were a doctor ages ago!” the parents would respond, laughing off the advice.

Desperate for research to support their argument, the doctor turned to me for assistance. “Can you help me find information that has evidence to prove that drinking sweetened juice and watching TV all day isn’t healthy?”

This isn’t an altogether unusual request. I’ve been a medical librarian in higher education for two years. I came into the profession because I was interested in helping people critically evaluate information. My hope is for them to think about information sources and how they are (and are not) influenced. So when this doctor called me, I told them about credible consumer health resources. Other resources, like a full text medical database, were also available, showing randomized controlled trials or other reviews of scientific literature demonstrating the effects from soda or screen time in children.

But what I really wanted to say was, “I think your daughter just wants you to shut up.”

I appreciate a doctor’s desire to find evidence-based information to demonstrate their point — after all, it’s hard to know the “right” thing to do with the amount of health information overload out there. But it isn’t a stretch to assume that this person’s daughter and son-in-law are probably aware excessive sugar and screen time aren’t exactly the healthiest thing for their kids; they’re probably just trying to make do and resign themselves to the consequences.

Because the truth is, in this age of “fake news,” facts aren’t necessarily the answer. The news is embedded within a broad political spectrum, and acknowledging the slants from the messages we receive is more powerful than grasping for facts.

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Nisha Mody
GEN
Writer for

Writer. Feminist Healing Coach. Librarian. Cat Mom. I write about healing & justice. Read more at thehealinghype.com and hear me on my podcast, MigrAsians.