That’s Not A Fact, It’s An Opinion
Do you believe everything you read?
Over the years I have moderated my thoughts on a ton of things. I am not specifically politically active. Nor are as concerned. I used to be.
My last semester in college I was an intern at Senator Bill Bradley’s office in the Hart building in DC. Bill was a champion NBA star and Rhodes Scholar. Soon after working in his office, I worked on 5 political campaigns both democrat and republican, until I figured out that campaign management and politics was not a career for me. It did not pay and everything was temporary. And my fellow interns on Capital Hill were often from wealthy families. I was not! There would be no handouts for me. I just wanted to make a living.
So, just understand I am not specifically going to say anything politically motivated. What I will say is there is a dangerous trend underfoot. It’s a trend that has increased in the past 15 years, except the trend seems to have exponentially accelerated in the past 2 years. It has to do with the facts, opinion and information in general.
In today’s crazy fast internet information world, organizations, non-profits, businesses and politicians try to control the message. That’s as old as politics itself.
Businesses, Politicians and Groups have always attempt to control their message to the public.
Except the Internet in many ways has changed the way this works.
While the Internet is great because we have choices to read what we want, it also has introduced highly niche news channels, and therefor different segments of society read different news. On one channel the news is black and on another the news is white. It was not always this way. The Internet and 300 channel cable services has allowed US news readers to read filtered news based on a personal affiliation, religion or political point of view.
News and public information are now separate shades of grey based on opinion. When this time period becomes history, will there be multiple versions? And therefor the future looks very bleak when it comes to consensus.
You can change the truth with a deluge of misinformation, misdirection and lies.
I can understand the need to control a message, because I have worked for many corporations, where they need to manage how they are viewed.
Companies, Associations and sometimes Governments do what is in their best interest, and if information arises that is not in their interest, they fight it, whether the information is correct or not correct. Just happens, one way to fight is to deny the facts.
But what has made it easier to discredit facts, is that Americans have gotten used to a world lacking transparency. One definition of transparency is “easy to perceive or detect.” Transparency means to me that information is not hidden or obfuscated. Transparency is one of those items I believe people on the left and right can agree on and find common ground on, because information (if accurate) represents the truth.
There has been active campaigns by interests who attempt to determine what is the truth! Just remember, when the truth is under attack, then the foundations of a democratic society are under attack.
You have to start with the real question of what you want to believe. If we can’t agree what is described as a fact, or the facts are constantly challenged, then we have a major problem! Yes, there are facts in the news that are sometimes incorrect, but at least we have to conclude that certain sources for facts are real. For instance, would you consider facts that come from Dictatorships, Communists or Religious Fundamentalist run TV stations as typically true… They almost certainly will be incorrect, manipulative and lies. That’s what they do. They’ve always been bad actors.
When you leave the world of journalism, Americans have gotten used to being bamboozled by product and corporate messaging. You need to understand that all packaging and products on our food shelves are not all what they appear to be. The messaging is meant to sell, not to tell the truth.
And social media, the nature of the Internet in general, makes it easier to manipulate information and facts. All it takes to convince you that something is true is a beautifully written email, post, ad or well-done Youtube Video. Trust me, we can all be misled at some point.
Why all the lack of transparency?
Think about healthcare. The biggest problem with healthcare in the past is the actual costs were not always in our faces. Years ago we never knew the real costs. They were hidden away, because that is the way insurance companies and health care providers did the billing. And it was a good thing for them, because the less we knew and the more they billed and got covered by insurance, the better for the industry. When I used to go to the doctor 25 years ago, I never knew the final total bill. That day is gone. I need to know the full cost, because it is likely I am paying it. Now, more than ever we need transparency. This is actually something that left and right can agree on. I read an article by Steve Forbes and actually agree with him on this, so we are making progress towards the middle.
But the real problem is I think Americans are just not used to transparency. Who wants to look at health care bills? Who wants to really know what’s in the McRib Sandwich or preserved lunch meat? We just like to eat it and not know whats in it! Did you want to know for instance that chocolate or coffee is picked by underage workers? Did you want to know that our apples, oranges, pears and other fruit you buy at ShopRite are picked by illegal aliens? Or that Chinese workers are working 14 hours a day like slave labor and violate EPA laws in China we would would not accept in the US, yet we like our $4 t-shirts from Walmart.
In many industries, the real culprit is that corporations can wildly profit when nobody is questioning the bills like government agency spending, spending at college campuses, wars overseas, and anyplace that it would be hard or difficult to measure or gauge the spending. The government has spent close to a trillion dollars on wars overseas since 9–11, but nobody seems to want to count it up.
For companies that get you on a monthly credit card recurring payment, the ability to get customers to forget about the bills is the basis of their profit. Many food companies don’t want you to really understand there is high fructose corn syrup in your fast food or sodas. It is not in their interest. Take a look at this study about how both China and India have blocked certain food dyes in their countries, yet we have them here in the US! Red Food Dyes, Blue Food Dyes, Yellow Dyes and other food additives. You may think the US is better than this, but often we are not? Trust me food manufacturing companies are not specifically looking out for our best interests. Especially if they are not regulated and work on the honor system. So to think that we need less regulations and not more, makes no sense at this point in time.
What Is The Truth Really?
Recently I have heard people make factual statements in their mind to me that are questionable, meaning they heard them or read them online. Often people are just spitting back at me some sound byte they heard on TV. (I am staying away from lie, because it gets kind of murky when you are looking for truth) Like a couple years ago, my father in law told me Obama was changing laws to get a third term. I rolled my eyes. He was listening to an ad running on cable TV. I had heard it, but it was garbage. And garbage can be used to describe a lot of a statements without facts or basis. I had a friend say a couple things to me this past year, which were questionable and crazy. I refuse to argue. I simply say that is an opinion, not a fact. And we have to all own up to our belief system being susceptible to misinformation and lies. Don’t believe me, talk to anybody who lived in pre-world war II Germany. If that society can buy into the big lie, so can we. The question is do you personally even understand there is the possibility of a big lie?
What to do about it?
Well, what I do is look for the opposite opinion and read or listen to it. I go back and forth between what I believe and what others believe. You need to listen to all opinions. Biggest mistake would be to listen to only one outlet or media. That is how you end up potentially being brainwashed. It once happened to me briefly. Trust me I have this story I always tell people about going to a seminar in Fort Lauderdale, where beautiful women talked to me for hours, gave us amazing coffee and cake and sold me on being a travel agent. It sounded real and I walked out of the seminar with a travel agent badge after I paid a couple thousand. It sounded good, because supposedly it would get me free cruises and flights. In the morning when I told my friends I was a travel agent, they laughed at me. The next day a friend of mine called me and had me buy a copy of the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Across the cover was an article about this scam. Luckily I was able to get out.
So, the truth is we are all vulnerable to disinformation and misinformation. Don’t be a gullible idiot. Watch CNN, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, PBS and Fox news and not just one station. Don’t become caught up in anything without all the facts and most of all question everything you read. Don’t ostracize your family or friends for what they believe. They have a right to an opinion. But I always correct people, when they state a fact that is questionable. I don’t say they are wrong. I simply say that’s not a fact, it’s an opinion!