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?