Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was convincing you about something, only to find out later they left out half the story? It’s easy to find yourself taking a stance and forming opinions based on a single side of things, especially if the information presented seems very declarative and all-encompassing.
But card-stacking – also known as cherry picking, a one-sided argument or suppressing evidence – intentionally seeks to make people believe one side is the entire story. This can lead to false conclusions, misinformation or a complete misunderstanding of a situation.
It can also have a devastating impact on our lives, socially or politically. One of the most prominent issues in media news today comes from the development of two narratives in media reporting that stem from willful card-stacking on the part of mostly conservative media organizations. You can even see the issue take place on a smaller, personal scale, when two individuals have an argument and people take sides after hearing just one version of events.
Card stacking tricks you by giving you the false impression that you’re fully educated on a subject
Card stacking works by not just presenting only one side of an argument but intentionally suppressing a listener’s knowledge of other arguments or evidence related to a subject. Commonly employed in political ads or public relations campaigns, card stacking gives the listener the false impression that they’re being fully educated on a subject when they may in fact be presented with misinformation or information taken out of context.
For example, someone wanting to defend a John Doe may take a quote that says “I do not support John Doe and dislike him, although many people say he is a great man,” and then present someone only with “Many people say he is a great man.” This would technically not be a wrong quote, but it is willfully taken out of context in order to bolster a particular argument. It provides a listener with what appears to be solid evidence, thereby appealing to a sense of authority, and discourages the listener from questioning the accuracy of the quote.
On a larger scale, this can involve intentionally providing testimonials or evidence that comes to a particular conclusion, while willfully ignoring, leaving out or failing to seek out information or testimonials that leads to a different conclusion.
Some biased political polls is done based on the concept of card stacking
Cherry picking often comes down to a misrepresentation of events or information based on presenting an analysis that is incomplete or incorrect. Some biased political polls, for example, are conducted in such a way to obtain opinions from primarily older people who haven’t abandoned old habits – such as having a landline – leading to a conservative slant in poll responses. Or they will call only cell phones, which leads to a decidedly liberal slant. Although this isn’t an example of willful cherry picking, it is an example of a well-known weakness in polling methods that political pundits may intentionally ignore or fail to mention when presenting the poll results.
The sense of skepticism is the best tool to combat card stacking
Individuals can combat this by learning to keep skepticism about them when receiving information from creepy guy types and other unreliable sources. When someone provides you with a quote, search for the full context the quote was delivered in to understand precisely what the speaker meant.
If an expert presents you with a poll analysis, search for the compiled poll results yourself, and then look at the methodology used to conduct the poll.
During an argument between two individuals, make the effort to listen to both stories (as well as other testimony) in order to understand both perspectives, rather than drawing a conclusion from one.
In general, a sense of skepticism about the information presented to you and a willingness to search for original data yourself will keep you from falling prey to card stacking misinformation. By learning to take the search for information into your own hands, you soon learn how to identify misrepresentation off the bat, which sources can be trusted and which cannot, and how to effectively form your own opinion about a subject. Make yourself an independent thinker and don’t let anyone manipulate you with misinformation or cherry picking.
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