Truth? Or Baseless Opinion?

The following was in a comment made by Valerie Tarico in response to the several comments she had received related to her post, America’s Fake News Coup.

While the post itself was outstanding (as Valerie’s usually are), I particularly liked what she said here …

For some time I have wrestled with the boundaries of free speech, both here and in our society at large. It has become clear that in our pursuit of freedom of speech we have lost sight of accuracy of speech. The result is that all manner of misinformation now proliferates in media and on the web to the point that it threatens our democracy and our future. Climate denial, political disinformation, fake news, baseless opinion that demands equal time with evidence-based research . . . our collective pursuit of truth is being lost in a sea of bullshit.

I value freedom of speech in part because I believe that through a messy process of discourse and listening we are most likely to understand the complexities of our world. We all are prone to oversimplification and embracing partial truths, and contradictory opinions often contain the missing pieces that can turn those partial truths into a more complete picture of reality. When we shut out those who disagree with us, we cannot learn from them. It is also indisputable that censorship generally tends to serve power rather than the quest for knowledge.

And that said, it is also clear that people need to step up and stop providing a platform for the proliferation of falsehood. Several people responded to this article about disinformation by writing responses that contain some combination of valuable, sincere disagreement and repetition of the very kind of distortion that prompted the article in the first place.

I emphasized several of her remarks because I felt they were extremely relevant to what’s happening on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. And it isn’t strictly germane to “fake news.” What she says relates to discussions surrounding topics of all shapes and sizes.

I think we need to ask ourselves … are we guilty of putting forth “baseless opinion?” Have we lost sight of the “accuracy of speech?” Are we proliferating falsehoods?

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17 thoughts on “Truth? Or Baseless Opinion?

  1. OUTSTANDING post Nan! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    As you and others here know, I’ve recently dealt with — or tried my best to deal with & dialogue with — exactly this: truth (or verifiable info) or baseless (personal) opinion. That image of a gerbal running and running and running in place comes to mind yet again. LOL 😉

    I too enjoy Valerie Tarico. Excellent journalist! “Accuracy of speech” or blog-writing and blog-comments… would those fall into the same category? Perhaps to an extent, but always be prepared to deconstruct your “oversimplifications” and “generalizations” when asked and asked politely. But… I guess that’s MY personal opinion, huh? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. To answer your questions: yes, yes, yes, and yes. As much as I try to label my satire, hyperbole, and opinion, people do miss the labels. So as individuals we need to be more careful in reading and more skeptical in our opinions. I will try harder.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s why I always explain my opinion and open it up to criticism and rebuttal on merit.It’s the opposite of baseless and invites rather than shuts down commentary. Of course, it’s then all to easy to assign the tl;dr or ‘it’s a rant’ reason in order to avoid the substance of it and then carry on with baseless – and often clueless – contrary opinions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A dilemma indeed. I kept thinking of my recent exchange with SOM on the Climate Change post.

    I suppose what I see is a deep desire in humanity to confirm our bias. This applies to pretty much everyone (me included), regardless of political or religious persuasion. We tend to uncritically accept reports that align with our presuppositions whilst at the same time are resistant to accepting reports that are contrary to our presuppositions.

    This human trait is one that is virtually impossible to subdue. The mistake that many of us make is to assume that this trait applies only to those who have a differing view to us, no applies to us as well. Now it does not mean that what we believe is incorrect, rather it just means that we are more likely to accept false reports if they confirm our bias.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You summed it up well, Peter.

      I think our only “saving grace” is to recognize our biases for what they are.

      Recently I’ve been listening to the usual “stuff” about tRump and then asking myself … would I feel the same disgust and outrage if he had been the one I supported? And I must admit to myself … probably not.

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      • Nan you are indeed self aware to have thought in that way. I gather that the reason why we have inbuilt bias in our brain is that it reduces the amount of effort required to process information. It takes real effort to evaluate information, so a shorthand way of deciding whether to accept or reject new information is a sort of energy conservation measure.

        We know that neural pathways for things like tying shoelaces enables the brain to almost go onto cruise control. We also know that stereotyping is a way the brain can make a very quick judgement about new people encountered.

        When I studied theology, a quite wise lecturer I respected, advised us to be aware of our presuppositions. He argued we could not overcome them, the best we could hope for was to be aware of them and understand how they affect our thinking. Of course in my case the presupposition was the Bible was inspired by ‘God’, this was the same presupposition of pretty much all the students, thus we were incredulous when some academics suggested that Paul did not write the pastoral epistles.

        Liked by 1 person

        • tildeb, the point I am trying to make is that none of us is free from bias. The self aware among us realise this reality and thus tend to be a little less prone to speak in absolutes.

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        • My answer…‘I don’t know how’.

          Speaking from personal experience as a former preacher, I found that I could only preach with authority when I believed the message I was preaching. The message I was preaching did not need to be true, I just needed to be convinced it was true.

          The question for myself in retrospect is, ‘did this cause me to limit my questioning because I subconsciously feared where the questioning might lead’?

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  5. Well written stuff. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

    I honestly feel like we as a group/society in general need to stiffen up a bit and bring on the facts when the B.S. starts flying. Make it known that the B.S. is damn well B.S. Then show the why, the where and the “there is no excuse to believe this B.S. when the truth is here, here, and here.” We cannot be afraid to call Bullshit!

    JZ is the meme king!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I keep away from Facebook and those other time- wasting media because I find it mostly rubbish. I believe because it is so easy to write your opinion about anything some people including the odd paid journalist are writing crap because they can and just for the sake of it.

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  7. This is great. I started my blog Millennial and Political to counter baseless opinion and the rejection of fact. I think we’re a long way from getting people to take fact seriously and stopping the spread of misinformation. Our President Elect can’t seem to stop himself from making inflammatory baseless accusations and critiques as well as completely denying factual, credible information when it best suits his narratives. And his supporters are buying it. In every post, I try my best to cite the facts I state and explain how I come to my opinionated conclusions. Because fake news is a real threat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, M&P! And I totally agree with what you said about THE tRump. It’s become apparent he says whatever furthers his cause — true or not. And yes, his supporters eat it up.

      Anyway, thank you for stopping by and I hope you’ll come back often.

      Liked by 1 person

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