Craig Silberman: Time for some serious truth-seeking
Opinions generally fall into two categories: those based on true facts and sound reasoning, and those without any basis.
The former are almost as good as facts themselves, and it’s why court rulings are called “opinions.” The latter have no value whatsoever (a third type of opinion, matters of taste, doesn’t figure into this discussion).
This important distinction should be considered when one reads or hears opinions on consequential subjects like climate change, COVID-19,or the presidential election. Few people are without opinions on these topics, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. But how many of those opinions are fact-based?
A recent IPSOS poll found 83% of Americans were concerned about the spread of false information — even as a third of them believed false information.
It’s ironic that at no time in history have we had greater access to more information than we do today, and yet it seems like we’re more misinformed than ever.
One major reason for this is what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” when people seek not accurate information but that which supports their previously held beliefs or beliefs they want to be true. If you’ve not already seen it, or if you want the most current version, please search for the “media bias chart” prepared by Ad Fontes Media.
Regardless of whether your political inclinations lean left or right, if you’re being informed from one of the sources in the bottom half of that chart, you’re being misinformed.
While some media outlets strive to present the most accurate information they can to their audience, others have carved a niche for themselves by putting a partisan spin on events, and still others have no regard for the truth, but have found there’s money to be made by generating propaganda or producing the fiction their audience wants to believe. Note that these outlets exist on the far left and far right, as the appetite for fallacious information isn’t a trait exclusive to liberals or conservatives.
Like most Americans, I’m upset at the great divisions in our country and have seen nothing to suggest they won’t continue or even worsen.
It seems like the solution is education, both formal and informal. People wouldn’t be so angry or fearful if they knew the truth, and were equipped to evaluate the veracity of claims they encounter. But you can’t force people to learn, not when they believe they already know what they need to know, and not when prominent figures feel there’s political or financial benefit to keeping them ignorant or misinformed.
While we may have different values and priorities, we should be able to agree on facts. We’re not free to pick and choose our facts. Dismissing those that are inconvenient doesn’t make them any less true, nor their consequences less real.
We are in the middle of challenging times, and while there are some bright spots in the outlook, much remains grim.
We have it in our power to emerge from this strong, and we can overcome each of the obstacles facing us. But it’s going to require truth-seeking. Allowing yourself to be lied to isn’t going to prepare you to make good decisions.
Most of us are pretty certain we know the truth, but given how many beliefs are mutually exclusive, it’s obvious half of us are wrong. That’s why we need to abandon those who would deceive us — whether they be politicians, media outlets, or others.
It will require everyone to accept some things they wish were different, but we’ll all be better off for doing so.
Craig Silberman lives in Grass Valley.
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