I have lived long enough to remember when we, as a country, believed in facts. Things were either provably true or false. A determination was made and we moved on. A fact was synonymous with reality; with truth. But for a large segment of Americans these days, belief in facts is viewed in the same light as collision coverage on an auto policy … optional.
The late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously observed, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” Boy, what would he think of the sorry state of affairs these days!
With the proliferation of social media, anyone can be a journalist, an expert, or a news source. But who is doing the fact checking? Where is the editorial oversight? It is just too easy to spread falsehoods or spin conspiracy theories these days. Some have even claimed there is an entire cable news network dedicated to the propagation of disinformation and misinformation.
The “fact” is that we each have our own worldview and we tend to gravitate towards those news outlets that conform with, and confirm, our predilections and biases.
The “truth” is that facts do not change the minds of those whose minds are made up.
Take the example of “birtherism.” A large segment of conservatives questioned whether Barak Obama was born an American. The conspiracy theorists had our president being born in Kenyan. They demanded to see his birth certificate, and not just any proof of birth, but his long form birth certificate. The president at first resisted, calling the request silly.
When the growing controversy over our president’s birthplace was fanned by none other than Donald Trump, with a big assist from Fox News, President Obama relented and produced the requested certificate that showed, proved, verified, documented, and validated his birth in Hawaii.
Did production of the proof “birthers” demanded change anyone’s mind? No, not really. In a recent FDU poll, nearly one in five Americans do not believe our President is a citizen. As for Republican respondents, the number who do not think Obama was born in Hawaii is a whooping 34%!
That a major news channel, Fox News, spent so much time on the “birther story,” even though not endorsing the nonsense, legitimized the issue to their viewers. “Helen, they wouldn’t be spending so much time covering this stuff if there wasn’t anything to it!”
A word of advice,. You can never win an argument with someone who does not believe in the existence, or primacy, of facts.
The “fact” is that many low information Americans have come to believe facts, logic and science are just part of a big liberal conspiracy. Heaven help us!
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