Barrett: Question everything this election

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Now that the election has officially been called, here’s your reminder not to believe everything you read on the internet.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but even before the election was officially called Wednesday morning, many politicos on various party supporters on social media have shown just how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing absolutely anything that reinforces your own beliefs, values and fears, regardless of how credible the source may or may not be.

The latest example was early this week when a left-wing supporter started the hashtag #ScheerWasSoPoorThat in response to graphic posted by  Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer referring to his family’s modest situation when he was growing up.

The hashtag, meant to supposedly expose Scheer as a well-off liar claiming to be poor, from a family that supposedly made the equivalent of $400K a year by today’s standards, proved to be little more than an excuse for many to spread misinformation and make personal attacks over the financial situations people are born into.

It eventually started to backfire, with people calling the tag out for being insensitive to those living in poverty, misleading and hypocritical coming from Liberal supporters who back Justin Trudeau who inherited $1.2 million from his father. However, the point remains many bought presumed and in some cases fabricated stats put into memes rather than going to look into facts themselves.

For one, Scheer never claimed to be poor – he’s always been clear he grew up in the middle class. For another, the $120K his parents supposedly were making combined in the late 90’s and early 2000’s would be long after Scheer, who was born in 1979, became an adult and entered the workforce himself. In fact, he has said in interviews he had a good life growing up, just not the lavish one Trudeau had, owning a mercedes as a teenager.

Is it a political tactic to bring his modest upbringing up? Given Trudeau’s talk about balancing a budget in the 2015 campaign and entering this year’s campaign with a budget not expected to be balanced until 2040, it absolutely is. Sure, he may be well of now, but does growing up middle class make him more in tune with that class than someone who has always been in the upper class? That’s what he wants voters to think about.

Unfortunately, many people don’t want to consider facts and differing points of view. They don’t take the time to read reputable sources and learn what’s really going on. They rely on social media for all their information – and while links to articles may be posted, too many don’t click, and form opinions on the content based on the comments.

I mean, who cares about facts and policy when you can worry about who has the sickest burn and best memes?

Right-wing supporters are equally subject to this as well. Last week, a video of Trudeau at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner in May circulated where he made a joke about his media bailout program.

“Now, you sometimes hear about Liberal bias in the media these days, how they’re constantly letting off our government, letting our government off the hook for no good reason,” he started. “Frankly I think that’s insulting. It’s clear they let us off the hook for a very good reason, because we paid them $600 million.”

Headlines from newspapers across the country criticizing the move were shown on the background, but the video covered those up, and was spun as Trudeau bragging about buying off the media.

Even after it was proven to be false, it continued to be shared because it reinforced people’s fears – that the media is not to be trusted.

The irony is they wouldn’t know if media is to be trusted, because they don’t fact-check themselves.

Is it a good idea to elect a government based on fears, or fact, even if it goes against how you’ve always voted? Do those parties desevere your loyalty for fearmongering?

This election, regardless of your political beliefs, your priorities, or where you choose to consume information about the election, question everything. Consider the source of information and its credibility – don’t use a Beaverton article as justification, or rely solely on opinion pieces, unsourced graphics on social media to back why you’re voting the way you are.

Voting, afterall, is a responsibility. Take it seriously, so that whoever gets into power is serious about bettering the country.

abarrett@postmedia.com

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