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.

This entry was posted in Democracy in Danger. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Cynthia Schroeder says:

    Thanks, HB, for this even-handed and helpful look at political rhetoric. In the political sphere it is fairly easy to see how information is conditionally generated and dispersed, the conditionality being pervasive, i.e. if this is so…then that is so…So many layers, interpretations, conclusions, biases, all piling up to influence what the “people” (myself included!) believe as THE “truthiness” (a la Stephen Colbert…) of one thing or another. I will never forget when years ago I recognized that my calling George W. Bush hostile names and believing he was “stupid” was a conditionally arisen view (opinion rather than any kind of “truth”) and action (name-calling). Recognizing this has led to a much more balanced approach to my thinking and reacting to “politics”, (though I will say I sometimes miss the days of fiery rhetoric and intense verbal sparring). On the other hand, once one starts to see how everything is conditionally arisen and impermanent, a certain kind of passionate neutrality can also arise which in itself seems to hold more “truthiness” and is more beneficial in the long run.

  2. Marianne Fontana says:

    Wish we had ways to block out false statements. The really obvious ones are a little easier to discern, but not when the statements are about things we are not likely to know, for example; budget figures, numbers of military, money spent on the military as contrasted to money for human needs. And even then, are we sure what the human needs really are, or are we BELIEVING what we have come to believe. Troublesome for sure–especially troublesome are the types of candidates running.

  3. Eugene Unger says:

    Good advice. Also add Sexism and all the rest of the Isms of political correctness to the Crap pile!😜😡😵 Death by activists are so accepted but so dangerous. Criminals is closer to the truth. When people can break the law at will and be excused for political reasons, Democracy is in grave danger. All we have between us and Anarchy is the law of the Land. Only one set of laws for all of us.



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