Fact or Opinion

Posted: October 14, 2008 in News and politics

I am fascinated by those who blow off the media in general by such pronouncements as “You can’t write a news item without inserting bias”. These people refuse to accept objective, or incontrovertible, truths. If two or more people can agree on any definition of any thing then they might also decide that putting a tag or name on something, anything, means that the thing named is in fact what ever you name it. If that name happens to have a commonly understood definition from a recognized dictionary, then the name must be an element of objective reality. Not that the name is necessarily the true name if the thing unless it gains a “general” acceptance; it’s just that, in order to have a conversation, people have to accept certain common definitions and names of things under discussion.

It is this mixing of fact and fiction, the latter being the extreme of opinion, that gets people into a muddle and lose all sense of reality. It is that muddle that is the mess that politics has become; where people start to accept falsehoods as good arguments because they passed the test in some debate, transmitted to millions of homes. It is the reason I have a problem watching debates. After the debate is over and Factcheck.org does the research on the many pronouncements that are being scrutinized we see who really “won” the debate: the one whose pronouncements were mostly true. We have to accept that the debater who told the biggest and most lies is not the winner.

If the viewers of the live broadcast of the debate have some knowledge of the subjects being debated they can do a good job of fact checking as the debate progresses. Probably people getting together to watch a debate is a good way to pass judgment. To really judge whether one of the other is the winner, however, you have to have a certain detachment and non-prejudiced attitude. If everybody watching the debate is afraid to freely express him, or her, self then the attendees go away either holding on to prejudices, or having second thoughts about the results (who won and who lost) of the debate. Watching the pundits can add context as long as the pundits maintain a level of objectivity and bring their knowledge of history, etc. into the conversation.

I have signed up to attend, yet another, debate watching party. I have watched one debate at this person’s home and enjoyed it a lot. I do have a self-imposed challenge not to be too vocal and to listen more. If I don’t I go away worrying whether the people I talk “with” enjoyed my input, or merely put up with me. I believe that if I enjoyed the conversation with enough input from the others that I was probably appreciated.

There is a little of the belief that if we don’t let ourselves be the center of our universe we can be comfortable in a room of people sharing their perspectives.


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