The Center for Economic and Policy Research posted a blog entry today by Shawn Fremstad entitled “How Do We Correct Misinformation in Public Policy Debates?”. The author cites a recent article in The Forum about the health care debate and the role that misconceptions played in it. Both Fremstad’s post and the journal article—by Brendan Nyhan, the Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan—are interesting reads that provide important insights into the way that public policy arguments are won and lost. Fremstad’s conclusion, in particular, seems like prudent advice for debaters:
Where does this leave us then when we’re responding/defending against misinformation in the public sphere or even in non-elite private ones, like discussions with friends and family? Instead of just providing the fact or data that rebuts misinformation in a narrow or technical sense, it’s important to identify the frame or mental preconceptions that likely underlie or reinforce the misinformation, and then come up with an argument or response that seeks to undermine or replace those broader preconceptions as much as it does the specific piece of misinformation.
Beyond this particular article, however, The Forum is an excellent journal that every debater should add to their bookmarks and RSS feeds. Published four times per year, each issue focuses on one subject that is timely and important. The July 2009 issue, for example, focused on immigration policy and will be highly useful for college debaters researching next year’s resolution. The journal is available free of charge to “guests” via The Berkeley Electronic Press, itself an essential source of electronic journals.