Opinion: Stating facts

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We identify those in the room we believe to be prevaricating and, as if we are honor bound to do it, call them out for their transgression. “Not true,” we exclaim, demanding a fact check – at least one that is confirming. Those who stand accused strike back, pointing the finger of deceptive conduct right back at us. The “facts” — those concrete arbiters of reality — can be surprisingly fickle. Any first-year law student will tell you that whosoever frames the case will eventually win it. Laying claim to data by showing that it supports our point of view is a powerful first-mover advantage. By the more nuanced second year of study, that same would-be attorney can effectively argue the identical evidence with multiple possible outcomes. Could the same data be used to prove diametrically opposed positions? Experience answers with an unequivocal affirmation.

Now, more than ever, it is easy to find supporting information to prop up our “facts.”  The internet delivers study after study dedicated to building — and then destroying — the accepted understanding of what is happening in our world. Some directly use propaganda to lead us down the primrose path. Others, assured in their intellectual superiority, use their position of legitimate or influenced authority to prevent disagreement with their perspective. Many withdraw entirely, not thinking, reflecting, or learning past some point of saturation that may have passed decades ago. As such, who is to be believed? And does it really matter?

Most of us hope it does. We innately seek veritas but get fatigued in pursuit. Perhaps our journey to find certainty would be improved with a few simple rules: Don’t intentionally intend to mislead; don’t assert as truth what is likely an opinion; and don’t use our mouths to tell your lies – asserting your presumptive knowledge of our view.

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