The Problem with Facts

On the 50’s police drama Dragnet, Detective Joe Friday frequently employed the phrase “All we want are the facts, ma’am”, which in the course of being quoted over the years has been shortened to “Just the facts, ma’am.” I agree with Joe Friday. All I want are the facts. That is especially true when it comes to the news, regardless of the source of that news. The problem is, how do you know when you are hearing “the facts.”

For the sake of clarity, let me make it clear that I’m not talking about the kind of “fact” referenced in the context of the academic pursuit of math or science. I’m talking about the kind that involves the actions and motives of human beings. Now that we have that straight, on with the opining.

Even the best intended journalist can be mislead or simply “get it wrong.” The truth is, facts are notoriously slippery critters. So slippery are they, that I think it fair to say that the vast majority of facts will never be truly and fully known in this life by the vast majority of people. In fact, the vast majority of facts will never be known by anyone and another very large proportion of facts will only be know well by one individual and a smaller proportion by a few.

This is a simple, unavoidable fact born of our own limitations as observers. To truly know a fact, you have to be able to see it in the entirety of its context, and there simply is no way to do that while constrained by the limits of our physical bodies. Consequently, the best we can do in this life is to attempt to get as much information as possible in order to arrive at as close an approximation of any fact as possible. Sometimes, this approximation is a fairly good approximation, but all too often, the approximation is at great variance with the full truth.

As bad as it may be when those reporting the “facts” are doing so with a sincere intention of avoiding bias, the situation becomes far worse in our flawed world. While it is true that some journalists do indeed earnestly seek to report objectively, the reality is that many do not. In fact, some “news outlets” actually acknowledge their bias. I applaud their honesty since this allows me to avoid wasting my time listening to anything they have to say, but I am disgusted by such unapologetic arrogance.

Any source of news that would boldly admit to any willful bias simply can not be trusted. Any organization not willing to thoroughly and carefully examine all sides of every “fact” is by definition, willing to misrepresent those “facts”. Such “news organizations” are really nothing more than propaganda mills. As such, they do not merit my business or trust as a consumer of news.

Reporting the news is a sacred trust which should never be taken lightly or viewed as a tool to “spin” the public perception of events. Any organization that does so (and they all do to varying degrees) is committing a breach of the public trust so severe that the result can quite literally change the course of history. Wars have been fought, lives lost, property destroyed, hatred fomented, and the human race splintered into factious hatred by such abuse of this trust.

It’s happening today. Right now. A perfect example is playing out in our presidential election. I can say this with a fair degree of objectivity because I cast my vote for neither of the two “major party” candidates. I voted Libertarian because I find neither the right or the left satisfactory. Consequently, I have watched with dismay as the most remarkable electoral scenario in the history of this country has unfolded before my very eyes.

Think about it. If I had written a novel ten years ago about a presidential election featuring a black incumbent who claims he is Christian opposed by the “religious right” who claim he’s a Muslim while they support a white, Mormon, a religion the “religious right” will readily admit they do not view as Christian, who comes from a business background which famously included “chopping up” other American businesses and shipping the jobs overseas all within a climate of an economy attempting to recover after being destroyed by disastrous policies of the previous Republican administration which almost sent us into a depression… well, you can imagine the reception such a plot would have received by every editor on the planet. I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

So, how did we arrive at such a surreal state of political chaos. Simple. Misinformation. Plain and simple. I see people quoting the “facts” from the biased sources that are actively disseminating misinformation in an attempt to convince people of the need to vote a certain way. These purveyors of fiction dressed as fact have convinced a huge portion of our populace that up is down and in is out.

It hasn’t been hard to do, though. All of those that have swallowed the propaganda whole are the ones that are either too naive, too lazy, or too self-convinced of the “rightness” of their views to ever even consider questioning any “news” that reinforces those views. Consequently, they willingly swallow the “facts” spewed like toxic waste from the mouths of the brazenly biased pundits who dare to call themselves journalists.

No, it’s not at all hard to get away with slanted journalism when there are so many people that have unquestioningly accepted the “facts” of either the liberal or conservative camps. The moment you stop questioning your beliefs, is the moment you stop growing, and the moment you stop growing is the moment you start shrinking. Only then can you start allowing yourself to look with disdain upon all those unwashed, heathen traitors that are so frustratingly foolish and mislead as to embrace the obvious lies of the “other side”, while rejecting the obvious Truth of the beliefs and policies which you, and all the other wise, like-minded patriots with whom you have aligned yourself, draped in the flag and fighting boldly to save our embattled country, hold so dear.

In short, we have become a country divided. Our leaders take every opportunity to feed that divide by fomenting distrust and outright hatred. We have devolved into three main tribes: the right, the left, and the disengaged. The right and left are in a pitched battle to convince the disengaged of the need to join “their side” and are willing to play fast and loose with “the facts” in order to achieve their goals.

The sad part about it is that many of the people firmly entrenched on either side of the political battle line are sincerely convinced of the virtue of their stance. They really do love this country and really do want what is best for it. Unfortunately, this also results in a growing distrust and disdain for the “other side”. This distrust is, of course, encouraged by those that control the slanted “news organizations” because it really is in their best interests to keep us divided. It’s in their best interests because perpetuating the belief that the “other side” is the enemy serves to prevent us from realizing that the real enemy is those that are dividing us in order to profit off of us.

Who, you may ask, is this mysterious “they”? At the risk of sounding like a nut-job conspiracy theorists, my answer is simple: the conspirators operate in plain view. “They” are the ones that own our government. After all, “they” paid for it lock, stock, and barrel. If you want to know who “they” are, simply follow the money.

“They” are the ones that donate enormous sums of money to both major parties. “They” are the ones that hide behind super PACs. “They” are the ones that own, or at least control, the propaganda factories, er, “news organizations”. “They” are big money. “They” are those that convince us that regulating the banking industry will hurt the economy so that “they” can then rape us for obscene profits while simultaneously destroying that very same economy, all without penalty. “They” are those that do not care how many people die fighting wars over oil or drugs as long as “they” make big profits. “They” are those that would spend billions of dollars to discredit legitimate science and deceive us into believing that there is significant doubt about the role of man in global warming. (Some of you reading this are, at this very moment, convinced that I am the one deceived because I would give credence to the “fake science” of global warming. Amazing how effective propaganda can be. One of us is deceived. I hope it’s me, because if it’s you, we are in for a very unpleasant ride.)

“They” are those that live in constant fear of one thing and one thing only: truth. “They” know that if truth every does become important to the deceived, then the deceived will begin to question the “facts” they have accepted for so long, and the moment that starts happening is the moment that “they” will begin to be exposed as the real enemy. “They” have convinced us that the poor are the leaches of society when the truth is that “they” are the real leaches, gorging themselves on the spoils of social warfare orchestrated precisely for that reason. All “they” have to do is keep us all diverted by using fear nurtured by lies to divide us.

In this regard, we are our own worst enemy. All too many of our citizens steadfastly refuse to even consider the possibility that we are being deceived. All too many of our citizens would rather watch our country crumble than ever consider the possibility that perhaps the real problem is us. After all, we get the government we deserve, and like every valuable thing in life, you only deserve liberty if you earn it and the only way to earn it is to work tirelessly for justice, which in turn requires a constant pursuit of the truth, even when arriving at the truth requires admitting that perhaps you have been wrong.

So far, truth and justice have been taking a beating. It looks like Joe Friday won’t be getting those facts anytime soon. We’d much rather be “right”.

And so, the beat goes on. The liars lie and the sycophants sing while the deceived dance to the beat of the drums. The tribes of men have ever been thus. Why should now be any different?


About Joel Hall

Onward through the fog!
This entry was posted in Politics, Spiritual Living and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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