Tonight’s presidential debate is going to debut a new feature: many media outlets will provide live “fact-checking” during the proceedings. This means that for the first time in debate history, whether or not a statement is statistically correct will be revealed during the event… as opposed to the days and weeks afterwards.
While this means that percentages and estimates will be difficult to fabricate on the spot (as many conversational statistics are) it also means that both teams will begin preparation for the debates by making sure that their assertions are justifiable and verifiable, not merely anecdotal or opinion.
Their words are likely to be more carefully crafted and their statements less dramatic.
While radio and television brought an immediacy to the fact checking of previous debates, the lack of ability to immediately interact with fact-checkers meant that a person identifying a discrepancy between an assertion and a verifiable statistic also needed access to a national publishing outlet to make the discrepancy known.
With the advent of digital publishing, and interactive media, the day of immediate accountability appears to have arrived. There is a strong possibility that this could be the most “guarded” debate in history.
I’ve been deposed three times in my life.
I’m not using the word deposed in the same way that we talk about dictators, I’m using it in the legal sense. I’ve been asked to testify as a witness in several lawsuits, and in each case there is a moment where you swear an oath to be honest, and then everyone in the room begins recording your words on paper and audio devices.
Because no word goes un-recorded you gain a deep, personal knowledge that every thing you say not only “counts”, but can be recalled, sifted, and then made to stand against a device of measurement.
The people are being paid to investigate the facts.
They will judge you accordingly.
There are stiff penalties for perjury.
There is very little room for opinion, speculation, or preference.
We tend to think that we will be heard for our many words. We often think that we can sway people to our cause by wearing them down with our volume. We like to set ourselves up in positions of authority so that our words will carry more weight.
Accountability is truly the only thing that makes us second guess our ambition and vanity.
This is why teachers give tests isn’t it? Class attendance doesn’t count for much if you cannot demonstrate knowledge when the headmaster call you to justify your responses. Generally speaking, wisdom is the result of applying our knowledge correctly, and it’s hard to grow wise when no one makes an accounting for how we’ve implemented our knowledge.
So who fact-checks you?
Is there a person who dares to push back on your version of events?
Have you given someone permission to be skeptical of your spin?
Do you allow your “position” to promote infallibility?
I’ve learned over the years that unless I invite “fact-checkers” into my life, I will surround ourselves with sycophants and “yes-men”. I will reward the people and programs who “tell me what I want to hear”, while I punish my critics.
This is humanity’s simplest and easiest way to avoid accountability, and it has to be actively opposed to be defeated. We defeat this self-centeredness by giving “permission to confront” to the people who love us most, and then responding in humility when it happens.
While we do “get better” with follow-up accountability, we actually “get best” when we begin our daily preparation with the knowledge that our words and behaviors carry weighty consequences.
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” -Proverbs 27:6
Author’s note: Please let this post do what it is intended to do; ask yourself how accountability personally impacts your life. Please refrain from turning this post about personal accountability into a stump to spew partisan political opinion from. God is doing a personal work in your life, take a moment to join him in it.