The War on Facts

We Americans are notoriously cynical about politicians, and for good reasons. We complain that they all lie to us to get elected, but most politicians are too smart to tell outright lies. They may exaggerate, distort the truth or take a quote out of context in order to mislead you without actually lying.

Smart politicians usually make sure there is some small truth behind what they say so they can’t be nailed for lying to us. It’s actually very rare for a politician to tell an outright lie – or at least it used to be.

Something Has Changed

Just recently something has changed. It is becoming more common for politicians to lie without any kernel of truth to back them up. Here are a few examples.

  • Recently, members of Congress killed a bill that mandates background checks to buy a gun by claiming it would lead to gun registration - even though the bill did exactly the opposite. It specifically made gun registration illegal.
  • Some politicians say we need to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because it adds too much to our national debt. However, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the ACA reduces the national debt by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades. Nevertheless, these politicians continue to repeat this lie.
  • For years Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has been criticized for saying that Congress needed to pass the Affordable Care Act so they could find out what is in it - implying that they never read the bill.

  • But that's not what she said. Pelosi was speaking to the American people - not to Congress - when she said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of controversy." She was saying Congress should pass the bill so the American people could see what's in it instead of relying on the lies they had been told by Republicans.

Each of these examples are outright lies, not just exaggerations or distortions, by people who know the truth. Yet they are far too often allowed by our media to get away with these lies unchallenged.

Tea Party Rally in Washington D.C.
Tea Party Rally in Washington D.C.

Don't Challenge my Beliefs

Sadly, the problem is not just that politicians are more eager to lie to us; it’s that too many people would rather hear a comforting lie than an awkward truth.

During political debates today, instead of looking at the same set of facts and arguing about the solution to a problem, it is more common for one side to reject the facts they don’t want to hear.

We used to laugh when people insisted that the Earth is flat or the Moon landing was faked, but today, rather than be persuaded by facts that may dispute their beliefs, many people choose to embrace shaky information from unreliable sources that confirm their views.

Tell Me What I Want to Hear

It’s gotten so bad that we now have news organizations that specifically pander to your particular political bias. Fox News is famous for targeting the conservative audience and MSNBC is pursuing the progressive TV viewers.

A recent review conducted by Politifact.com of statements made on air by FOX News commentators, hosts and pundits showed that fully 60% of on air statements were rated as False, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire. Another 18% were rated as half true while only 22% of statements were rated as True or Mostly true.

Yet some surveys indicate that 25% of people say they trust Fox News more than any other TV source for accurate information about politics and current events.

A similar review of pundits and commentators at MSNBC showed that they fared somewhat better than Fox with 44% of on air statements rated as False, Mostly False or Pants on Fire. Another 22% were rated as half true and 34% were rated as True or Mostly True.

The bad news is that each of these news organizations tell their target audience what they want to hear, but not necessarily the truth. This enables people with strong political views to get their news from the source that is most likely to confirm their opinions.

Opinion Poll

Which of these do you consider to be the most truthful and reliable source for news and factual information?

  • CNN
  • FOX News
  • Wikipedia
  • Factcheck.org
  • MSNBC
  • National Public Radio
  • Facebook
  • The Blaze
  • ABC News
  • Local TV News broadcasts
  • CBS News
See results without voting

There Was a Time When Facts Settled Arguments

Rather than basing their opinions on factual information, many people form their opinions first and then look for facts to support them. In the absence of real facts or even a rational argument to support their views, people will grasp onto whatever they can – even an outright lie – as long as it reinforces their view.

There was a time when facts settled arguments, when accurate information really mattered. That no longer seems true today.

To be honest, most of us tend to give more weight to those facts that support our views than we do to facts that dispute them. But rational people can be persuaded to reconsider their beliefs when new information becomes available.

Opinions Are Not Facts

During a political discussion with a friend, I stated some objective facts which I believed strongly supported my point of view. He told me he didn’t care about my “liberal” facts because he had his “conservative” facts. I tried to tell him that Facts are neither liberal nor conservative. They are just facts.

Yet his “facts” were really political opinions and commentary he’d heard. Many people still do not understand the difference between fact and opinion. You can objectively verify facts, but opinions depend on your beliefs. Opinions may be very compelling but they should not carry the same weight as facts.

Comedian John Oliver once showed a Fox News poll indicating that 1/3 of Americans didn't believe in climate change. Fox implied that this poll cast some doubt on the science of climate change. But polls are irrelevant when debating scientific facts. If you asked, which number is larger, 5 or 15, even if 90% of people answered 5, the correct answer would still be 15.

Scientific Fact vs. Political Convenience

After scientists collected climate data all over the world, 365 days a year for several decades, they concluded that the average year-round, worldwide temperature is increasing over the years. This increase corresponds with increases in the production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The long term trend threatens millions of lives and could cost trillions of dollars. Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that human induced global warming is occurring. There is no debate about this in the scientific community.

The cost of reducing CO2 production to slow the rate of climate change is tiny compared to the cost of doing nothing.

It's Not What You Know, It's Who Signs Your Paycheck

Big powerful corporations with massive profits have spent millions of dollars working to dispute the overwhelming science of climate change and prove it is a worldwide hoax perpetrated by the scientific community.

Meanwhile, the scientists and the environmental groups who have the facts on their side do not have much money with which to influence Congress. There’s just not a lot of profit to be made by protecting the environment.

Some politicians will gladly change their views to satisfy the highest bidder. Others, like John McCain and Newt Gingrich, who once argued that we must act to stop global climate change, suddenly reversed themselves and said climate change is a hoax when they wanted to run for higher office. This opened up the pocketbooks of big businesses to contribute to their campaign.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

— Upton Sinclair

The Fact is, Facts Don't Seem to Matter

So the war on facts rages on. Today despite indisputable proof to the contrary, millions of people still choose to still believe that:

  • We found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
  • Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks.
  • President Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya.
  • "Trickle down economics" stimulate the economy and create jobs.
  • Social Security is broke (even though it actually has a $2.5 trillion surplus).
  • President Obama won his presidential elections (by a combined 15.3 million votes) due to voter fraud.
  • Obamacare hurts the economy and drives up our debt (while the CBO indicates just the opposite is true).

The list could go on and on.

Be Skeptical, Not Gullible

In the age of the internet, there are endless web sites and other sources that masquerade as news and they provide compelling information that seems very persuasive. Many people gravitate to the source of information that reinforces their beliefs without fact-checking anything.

Every day false information spreads through social media which many people believe without questioning.

It is up to us to become more skeptical about everything we read and hear. Don’t get your information just from those sources you agree with. Learn how to fact-check and then double check the fact checkers.

And finally, don’t take my word for anything. I’m just a shmuck on the internet. Research everything you can and then form your own opinion.

More by this Author


7 comments

bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 20 months ago from Orange County California

Opinions are not Facts, but Facts aren't the same as Truth.

Quoting the CBO contains data, which may or may not be facts, much less truths.

As for SS, the forecast for SS has been grim since the turn of the century. The fact is that we are now in the benefit stage of the program. That is why they increased the minimum age.

Social Security's surplus is projected to be $2.7 trillion in 2011, and the surplus is projected to peak at $3.7 trillion in 2022. With no action Social Security will have sufficient income and assets to pay all monthly benefits in full and on time until 2036.

California is the worst run state in the US, thanks to people like Nancy Pelosi.

We have the highest, and most taxes in the country. The education system here is poor, and we are on the bottom end of the states.

We haven't kept up with the resources needed for the population. We almost doubled our population since the eighties.

The electrical grid is not adequate, or maintained well.

We lost our nuclear power plant in S Ca.

We haven't kept up with supplying water to S Ca.

Our freeways are gridlocked, and that wastes fuel.

The price of our Gas is always higher because of taxes, and we use a special blend. The refineries are barely able to keep up with demand, so when one of them goes down, the price of gas goes up.

What is the truth?

About 911. We know that not one US fighter jet defended the country, not even the Pentagon. And it is only miles away from Andrews AF Base.

How do three skyscapers go down the same way as if they were being demolished. One of the buildings wasn't even hit.

About Benghazi

About Hillary Clintons emails

About the lost IRS emails.

About ACA

We do know that life went on for six years before it even started to take effect. We don't know how it affected those people that had good insurance before the ACA. Many of them lost their insurance because it didn't meet the ACA.

We do know that government workers have the best retirement and their health insurance meets ACA approval.

But we don't know how the ACA will improve the quality of healthcare. Adding tens of millions of more people to a system that is pathetic, my opinion.

We do know for a fact that since the FDA monitored the pharmaceutical industry that no major disease has been cured.

About Iraq

We don't know about Iraq, but we didn't do a good thing during Desert Storm, we could have prevented going back in later.

We do know that getting the troops out of Iraq didn't help Iraq, the US, or the Middle East.

We do know that ISIS and ISIL came to life without a blip on the radar, and now we have to deal with it.

About N Korea

We know that we lost the war in N Korea, and had we won then we wouldn't have to deal with it today.

About Iran

The same thing is true about Iran. If we would have taken Iran to task over the hostages, we probably wouldn't have to deal with them today.

The list goes on and on.

The point is that all the media on Television is partisan, and even if the truth appeared, we wouldn't know it.

I personally don't watch the news, broadcast or cable. It serves no useful purpose.

They shine the spotlight on what they want to show, and how to show it. We have been without the real news since the Cable TV network was created.

Many of the issues of the US cannot be decided objectively because they involve social issues. Even the economy cannot be looked at objectively, because Economics is not a hard science, it is closer to forecasting the weather way in advance.

TARP, and the Stimulus didn't fix the economy. They didn't give back the millions of homes that were foreclosed, they didn't get back the tens of millions of jobs back to the unemployed. Many people never got back into being employed after their unemployment benefits stopped. So they don register on the job forecast. The new jobs, didn't relate to people getting their jobs back. Those jobs don't exist in many areas.

Anyway, feel free to delete my comment.

Thanks


jeff61b profile image

jeff61b 20 months ago Author

bradmaster -

I can’t think of a better person to post the first comment on this article than you.

Some of your comments even make sense.

Your mixture of facts, falsehoods, opinions, conspiracy theories and stream-of-consciousness rambling is the perfect example of everything this article is about.

Thanks for commenting.


lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 20 months ago from Cape Cod, USA

There's an excuse for everything these days.....and those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

My facts come from living and experiencing America for 54 yrs.....and these people try n tell me that black is white and up is down!

ONE person whose life is saved by ACA is good enough for me: FACT

ONE person who died for WMD is too much for me: FACT

One million people have died from that Iraq invasion: FACT

People die in America for lack of healthcare: FACT

Opinion: People who lie about facts to support their opinions are liars, and should not be in public office, or on national media.

We are inundated with liars: FACT


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 20 months ago from Orange County California

Jeff

Clever, but not polite

bye


Cptn As-cot 19 months ago

Hi Jeff, i posted your "worst president in history" article on facebook today. I challenged my conservative friends to factcheck you. They have been rattling sabers all day and my progressive friends have been jumping in pointing out they haven't disproven anything, to which the conservative change the topic. Where is the article? It was very well written, really good stuff. Anyway i can get it back?


Cptn As-cot 19 months ago

No need to reply here, try my email, wilotms@gmail.com.

Thanks.

Tim Smith

Charlotte, NC


SanXuary 17 months ago

Facts have been gone a long time. Public opinion does not matter and we have become apathetic. They only give us the facts they want us to believe. Why do you think everyone is so angry and why murder by proxy occurs every day. Even when they are dead you will never get the true story. Only if they are totally screwed up and an agenda can be attached will you hear anything. We are living in tyranny and no one has realized that this is everyone's conclusion.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working