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Fake News & Fact Checking

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

Various versions of this quotation are attributed to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger, and Bernard Baruch. See below for details.

What is fake news?

What makes a news story fake?

  1. It can't be verified
    A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic.
  2. Fake news appeals to emotion
    Fake news plays on your feelings -- it makes you angry or happy or scared. This is to ensure you won't do anything as pesky as fact-checking.
  3. Authors usually aren't experts
    Most authors aren't even journalists, but paid trolls.
  4. Fake news comes from fake sites
    Did your article come from abc.news.com.co? Or mercola.com? Realnewsrightnow.com? These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.

Categories of Fake News
identified by Professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College

"Fake News" is a broad term that encompasses:

  • websites that disseminate false information to procure social media likes, clicks, and engagement,
  • websites that share misleading or disingenous information,
  • clickbait articles,
  • and satire or comedy.

Some fake news falls under multiple categories.

Truthiness

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Quotations from Moynihan, Schlesinger & Baruch

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

Moynihan

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is often attributed as the source of this phrase. Although he certainly popularized the words, he is not the originator. In an article he wrote in 1983 Senator Moynihan cites Alan Greenspan.

"Alan Greenspan, who chaired the commission [National Commission on Social Security Reform], adopted a simple rule: each member was entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts." -- page 20, "Reagan's Bankrupt Budget" by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The New Republic, December 31, 1983. The text of the New Republic article was also included in the Congressional Record, January 26, 1996, page S418.

Schlesinger

Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger is frequently quoted as saying "Each of us is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." -- 1973 Congressional testimony [unverified] -- Schlesinger is quoted on page 110, "Intelligence Identities Protection Legislation" Senate hearing, June 24, 1980.

Baruch

The earliest versions we have located attribute the quote to Bernard Baruch, usually as "Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts." The earliest verified version from 1946 is:

"Every man has the right to an opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Nor, above all, to persist in errors as to facts." - excerpt from "Text of Baruch's Speech Accepting Freedom House Award," New York Times, October 9, 1946, page 23.

Other sources citing Bernard Baruch:

  • page A3792, Congressional Record, June 16, 1949
  • page 18, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 5, 1950 -- "Statement as Chairman, War Industries Board, 1918" -- [1918 unverified] Princeton University's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has 740 boxes of Baruch's papers, but without much more specific details regarding the circumstances of Baruch supposedly saying this in 1918 the Princeton staff cannot verify it as true or false.

Excerpt from pages 131-132 of volume one of "My Own Story" by Bernard Baruch (1957):

Both my failure in whiskey and my success in copper emphasized one thing—the importance of getting the facts of a situation free from tips, inside dope, or wishful thinking. In the search for facts I learned that one had to be as unimpassioned as a surgeon. And if one had the facts right, one could stand with confidence against the wills or whims of those who were supposed to know best.

Later in public life I found this rule equally valid and applicable. In every government assignment that was given me I would begin with a relentless search for the facts of the situation. President Wilson took to calling me “Dr. Facts.” I strove to let the facts shape my recommendations. Many times, as in my long fight against inflation during World War Two and afterward, friends would come up to me and argue, “Bernie, why aren’t you more reasonable? What you propose isn’t politically possible.”

But even in such situations I held my ground, feeling that if the facts called for certain measures nothing less would suffice. I still believe that no President or Congress can make two and two equal anything but four.

Excerpt from page 376 of volume two, "The Public Years" by Bernard Baruch (1960):

I have always maintained that every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.