Don’t Confuse Me With Facts
A lie can travel half way around the world while
the truth is putting its shoes on. Mark Twain
In the next many months we will be hearing a lot of election political discourse. I believe most people realize that this discourse will be full of falsehoods. What we will need is an immune system for political falsehoods that travel fast and often.
The free press is supposed to function as our immune system against such gross errors of fact and understanding. However, today’s uncensored television and the open Internet won’t be helpful. It has never been easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they are right.
So where does the help come from? The people? The political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best-documented facts in political science. The voting strategy of today’s voter might be: Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is already made up. And the mind is often made up of falsehoods. Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change the public’s mind. Most voters aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, true or not true, in their minds. And beliefs determine the facts they choose to accept. Because the fact is that we believe what we want to be true, the “real truth” may never get its shoes on.
It is not just a voter problem. The Supreme Court, made up of the politically wise ones, is entrusted to be a kind of immune system to protect us against false democracy. But the Court members also are not blank slates; they already have beliefs, true or not true, and made up their minds. And they don’t seem to be able to overcome their political cognitive biases. Their political beliefs and decisions may not be “right”, but they become the factual law of the land. How do we become immune to that? Should there be a law against falsehoods in political discourse?
It appears we, as individuals can’t eliminate the use of falsehoods, illusions, misinformation, the abuse of truth, and even lies in political discourse. What we may need as an individual immune system is what Ernest Hemingway recommended in 1954. (Please excuse the sexism language).
Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating
inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle
in case the machine breaks down.