I recently wrote a blog post thanking Marie Yovanovitch for her public testimony, during the ongoing impeachment inquiry. I appreciate the mostly positive response that the post received.
But a negative comment caught my attention. A reader (whom I choose not to identify) wrote: “Facebook should charge you for promoting this ridiculous independent blog that is nothing more than a non-factually based opinion. Thank you for wasting our time.”
That my blog posts are opinions, should not be a surprise: Every post starts with a standard Disclaimer that hopefully makes clear that I am expressing opinions—and also candidly discloses my core beliefs. That the reader seemingly disagrees with me, and clearly dislikes my posts, is definitely fine: Freedom of thought and speech are essential rights that we share as Americans.
The interesting part of the comment is that the reader does not think that I base my opinions on facts. While I do, is my concern with facts clear enough in what and how I write? Should I, for instance, add more links to better reference supporting facts? I certainly quote my sources far more extensively when I write scientific articles—but that literature has a very different culture and audience. And I might already provide too many links in most my blog posts, at least based on usage statistics that show that those links are seldom activated by readers.
More likely, the problem is that facts are perceived differently by different people and groups, in today’s hyper-partisan world. While I am politically independent, I have been clear that I consider this president unfit as a person and a leader, and I am critic of Republican leaders who support him in a seemingly unprincipled manner.
What I consider facts—based on critical reading or viewing across and beyond media covering the full political spectrum, often privileging direct quotes or published data—might not be recognized as such by those who disagree with me, or whose information comes from a narrower, more partisan, or simply different set of sources.
This problem is partially addressed in a recent New York Times article by a respected journalist, Nicholas Kristof (“Fox News? More likely Trump’s Impeachment Shield,” November 16, 2019). Of course, Kristof himself has a bias. And in this article, he approaches media bias from a specific, narrow perspective.
Still, Kristof’s article constitutes important reading for all quadrants of the political spectrum, and points to a serious challenge for our country and democracy: How can we possibly have constructive dialogues and objective inquiries, if we cannot agree on what constitutes a fact?
Having no magic answer, I will just remain committed to be as informed, objective, and balanced in my analyses as I possibly can. I will also keep believing that facts are facts, and thus (at least on base 10; see Note) “two plus two equals four,” should we just take our blinders off.
— Antonio Baptista
Note: That two plus two is not four on, say, base 2, is also true (and important!)—but, just like life and politics, might come across as confusing.
Your blog challenges me to be more thoughtful and less emotional and reactive. It brings me a clearer understanding of the issues that we face in today’s political climate. Thank you for your non-confrontational, insightful, productive offerings. You exemplify a better way of discussing the issues that divide our country.