Here is where you will find our podcast scripts written in blog form with sources.
February 8, 2019
Searching for a common set of facts
As many of you have noticed, and the rest of you soon will notice, we have decided to change the name of the show from Rants and Reason to Context and Clarity.
There are several reasons for the name change. First of all, the show took an organic direction that was bit different from where we started. Also, we believe people are tired of ranting and we found that once we really researched an issue, we were humbled to the point that it was hard to get up the indignation to rant. But the main reason we changed our name was because we realized that we were really doing was going on a quest for political truth, and asking all of your join us. But then we had to ask ourselves, how does one discover political truth?
We are going to start by discussing last week’s State of the Union. After the presidential address, many news sites and political bloggers immediately began the work of “fact-checking”, ourselves included, but then we widened our lens and came to some bigger realizations.
First, let’s discuss the historical structure of the State of the Union Address.
The address is made up of 3 parts: meditations on values, assessment of information and issues and policy recommendations. The usual themes of the speech also come in a set of three; the first being past and future, 2nd bipartisanship, and 3rd optimism. State of the Unions are also historically known for the introduction of a major policy proposal, which this particular one didn’t have. The President touched on policy proposals that we are already familiar with but didn’t really broach a lot of new territory
In President Trump’s speech, most of the usual elements were there but it all seemed rather disjointed, and we believe this is why-the overriding themes the writers appeared to want to convey was bipartisanship, unity, and common ground and in doing that, there was actually very little discussed that most Americans wanted to hear about.
We hear the word unity tossed about a lot, but we propose unity is nowhere near a solution to current political division. Neither is common ground. Now, before we move forward, we want to own that in the beginning of our show, we said the exact opposite.
When we first decided to do a podcast, we talked a lot about common ground. But as Chuck pointed out once, common ground really wasn’t our goal because common ground isn’t really standing for anything- and that isn’t how either one of us approach politics.
Now, what do we mean when we say that common ground doesn’t really stand for anything? Let’s go back to the State of the Union. The President brought up many issues that hopefully we can all agree on such as eradicating Aids and childhood cancer. That is common ground. While working together to solve those problems is a very positive thing, focusing the speech on issues like that attempted to avoid the issues that we struggle to find consensus on.
Webster defines common ground as : “opinions or interests shared by each of two or more parties.” Common ground isn’t hard. It also doesn’t solve any of the problems outside of the ones we all share concern or interest in. Finding common ground with our political opponents is a good thing in relationship building. It’s a good thing in maintaining a cohesive society. It simply isn’t all that helpful in crafting meaningful and sustaining policy.
Back to our goals with the podcast. We realized we both have very concrete ideas and principles and those ideas don’t always find common ground. While we tried very hard to find points of convergence, what we figured out along the way was that those points of convergence came where we agreed to a common set of facts. We thought if people could take those facts and find a way to compromise, that would be the solution. And compromise can definitely be beneficial, in fact compromise is absolutely essential to a functioning government and some of the more effective and sustaining policies are bipartisan ones shaped by the tool of compromise. However, it is only one tool in the toolbox and not one that always reflects the will of the people. Compromise is not necessarily a representative action unless we start to demand it. (K: Which I personally would like to see more of)
There is a reason that we have two political parties.
There is a reason that candidates run on a platform.
What is that reason? Because we don’t all agree on what should be done, how it should be done or when it should be done.
For example, the right wants lower taxes, the left wants a stronger safety net by raising them. So how do you come to an agreement? Common ground or compromise can’t get it done.
That takes us back to the whole “common set of facts” thing.
As a podcast, we started focusing on that...facts. If we could all just disseminate facts we could start to solve the problems.
Then we encountered one major obstacle: The definition and manipulation of facts.
First of all, one has to deal with the almost philosophical problem of defining a fact.
Webster’s defines a fact as something that has actual existence. Which is pretty vague and open to perception. Other definitions state a fact is something that exists with evidence to support that existence. Well, going by these definitions, there are facts flying everywhere. In fact to use a Chuckism , we are all be accosted by “fact blizzards”.
The internet has singular facts flying at us all of the time. With people being generally blind to their own bias, it is easy to grab one of those facts and present it as truth. And then share that “truth”. We all have bias blindness when it comes to ourselves. We see it in each other, but don’t want to admit that WE have it.
For example, one can take any fact that makes President Reagan look like a horrible President and store it for later use. It may be true that Reagan did wonderful things as President but this person will choose to forget them and favor any facts surrounding Iran Contra and use that to craft their “truth”.
Facts and Truth are NOT the same thing. But we will go into that more in a few minutes.
Next, you have deliberate manipulation of these singular and biased facts. The internet has made this so much easier. Consider that there are 214 million FB users in the U.S. You have the greater population of the U.S. into on platform.
Internet lies are like herpes, except you can give them to 1,000,000 once. As we have talked about before on a previous episode, lies travel about 3x faster on the internet.
A study done by Stanford University identified 570 fake news sites-sites dedicated to disseminate false information on Facebook and Twitter. They found that every story produced by these sites averaged over 100 Facebook engagements, (likes, comments, etc and 10 Twitter retweets). They may not sound like much until you consider that there were 10,240 false stories published by those sites from 2016 to 2018. And they are only using data on the known fake news sites. The study did not account for individual created memes.
Back to facts and truth. Again, a fact is its own thing. It can be a statistic, a study conclusion, or physical representation. But it is is incomplete and rather useless without context.
Context is what can turn a fact into a truth.
Think of simple sentence structure. A complete sentence is made up two essential parts, a subject and a predicate. Facts are the subject and context is the predicate. Context is what activates the fact and gives it strength and meaning.
Really let that sink in. In most of today’s political discourse, we haven’t been speaking in complete sentences-no wonder we can’t hear each other. We are all throwing out facts, but fact without context. History helps provide that context.
Armed with both, one can finally start to cut through the fog of ideology to see political truth.
That is ultimately why we changed our name.
We need context to provide some clarity.
That is the only way to political truth.