Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Stephen Colbert is one of those people I can either take or leave...sometimes, he's really funny; other times, I just want to unplug my TV and toss it out the window when he comes on. But I really enjoyed this Colbert quote, cited in my "Daily Curmudgeon" compilation a few weeks ago:

"In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant ... One motto on the show is, 'Keep your facts, I'm going with the truth.'"

If you think about it, that's a pretty good summary of how all too many people think nowadays. Facts can be very inconvenient when they fly in the face of the things we absolutely know are true, and it's often easier to just ignore or minimize them when they get in the way. They are even malleable - they can change over time to accommodate shifts in the political wind (the constant rewriting of "history" in many countries is the prime example).

So what is a "fact," then? My trusty Webster's dictionary defines a fact as "an actual occurrence or event; a piece of information presented as having objective reality." Nowadays, the emphasis seems to be more on the second part of the definition than the first. A "fact" is something we just know is true, whether it is or not. It's something that conforms to our own version of "objective reality." If you're on one side of the argument, global warming is a fact; if you're on the other side, it isn't.

I offer a link on my blog to the Annenberg Political Fact Check website, which I encourage you to visit often for a clear and nonpartisan look at the "facts" (such as they are) presented by our presidential candidates. And as I've often said in this space, don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. If someone tries to convince you with facts, check them out yourself before you take them on faith. You'll be surprised what you might find when you turn those factual rocks over.

Have a good day, and remember the famous (if, perhaps, apocryphal) quote from Sergeant Joe Friday on the classic police show Dragnet: "just give us the facts, ma'am."

But be sure to check them out, first.

More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I like Colbert and Stewart they both make a mockery of our gov't and a good portion of the time they say what's absolutely true..

La Chanson de Phoenix said...

Josh loves this guy. I don't watch him much, because there's a lot of politics and I'm not generally too interested in politics.

I have a quote on my Myspace page, however, that reflects your quote. "There's more to the truth than just the facts."

Amanda said...

I have this bad habit of checking up on certain people's facts. Y'know, when you meet people who just talk as if they know EVERYTHING (eg Hinduism, dinosaurs AND childbirth). Sometimes, it irks me and I purposely go double check their facts so that I can set them straight.

Mike said...

Figures don't lie, but liars can figure.

Don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind.

Etc, etc.