Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Facts do matter

We are constantly reminded by the well-intentioned and the adversary alike that fact-checking the current US regime is pointless: Its supporters don’t care, its opponents don’t need it, and those in-between don’t want it. On some level, that’s absolutely true, however, facts do matter. Always. And even if no one is listening—maybe especially then.

This morning a friend shared this post on Facebook:

I don’t know the author, but the piece is sourced, which is more than can be said for most of the things about this topic that are shared on social media. I shared a similarly well-sourced post a couple weeks ago, and, generally speaking, those are the only sorts of posts from people that I share: Ones that are sourced, something that’s especially important if they’re trying to fact-check propaganda.

I also share things from media sites and relevant organisations to help shed light on topics, as well as to help keep facts foremost, because the current regime doesn’t want facts discussed. Even then, though, I’m more likely to share an article that’s sourced. An example of the sort of piece I mean was published recently by The Washington Post: “There’s no immigration crisis, and these charts prove it”. It sets out to debunk four of the myths and lies the current regime and its allies are promoting. It, too, is sourced.

There are two common things here. First, the pieces are sourced. There’s no point in trying to claim the moral/intellectual high ground if one doesn’t provide evidence for it. Second, these are all pieces that provide information that opponents of the regime can use in quiet conversations with people they know really well—not just some rando on social media or in the unmoderated comments section of, well, pretty much anywhere these days.

The reason that sourcing is important is obvious: Because facts are important. Similarly, it’s also true that, despite the well-worn advice, just because a total stranger might not be receptive to fact-checking, people who we know well, such as close friends and family members, MAY be willing to hear us out—as long as they haven’t forgotten how connected we are, as seems to happen quite a lot these days. Even then it’s worth promoting facts and truth: They may not believe us right now, but eventually some may, and every person we arm with facts and truth is one more person who may join us to get rid of this gang. That goal alone is reason enough to persist even if it does fail more often than it succeeds.

The final reason this all matters is that we must be better than the regime we oppose. If we suggest they spit on the Constitution and laugh at the rule of law, we must always advocate for the Constitution and the rule of law. If we see they take immoral or unethical actions, we must call out that immorality. If we say they lie, we must provide the truth. And if they spread lies and myths packaged as “alternative facts”, we must always present real facts and the sources for them. This is a real-life opportunity—and obligation—to be the change we seek.

Facts do matter. Always. And even if no one is listening—maybe especially then.

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