During a debate session of one of my other classes this semester, we talked about the crime rate of undocumented immigrants. One of my classmates presented us with a long list of data, illustrating how undocumented immigrants commit a lot more violent crimes. I was very suspicious of the numbers, because New York City is one of the safest cities in the country with one of the lowest crime rate, and yet New York City has a lot of undocumented immigrants. So I looked into the source of her data, it is from a right wing think tank. So I can’t help but wonder how credible these data are. This think tank claims to be a non-partisan non-profit organization. But all of the researches published on its websites are anti-immigration. So I would not trust data published by an organization that is so one sided.
I think in this age of alternative facts, we can either choose to be lazy and be a passive information receiver, or we can take initiatives to fact check every data and every social research result presented to us. The choice is ours and the democracy of this country depends on us taking the initiatives.
I grew up in China where every piece of news is censored. State media organizations control the news people read and listen to, they also fabricate data to brainwash Chinese citizens into thinking China is the best country in the world, while the rest of the world is suffering. There is no such thing as freedom of speech in China where expressing anything anti-government publicly means jail time or even death. So when I moved to the United States, freedom of speech to me is a very precious thing. It saddens me to see the democracy of the U.S has been compromised by fake news spread by trolls on social media platforms. I think social researchers have a responsibility in this critical time to regain the trust of the public through fact-based research.
In a perfect world, there should be more funding for social research so that researchers don’t have to heavily rely on funding from interest groups with hidden agendas. But we live in a capitalist world where money can not only buy votes, it can also buy data, scientists, researchers and their results. Hate to end this blog on such a bleak note, but this is the reality we live in.