Combating “Alternative Facts”

Last month, Ursula Le Guin, author extraordinaire, sent a letter to the Editor of the Oregonian. Someone had just recently published a letter in the newspaper that talked about how politicians using “alternative facts” was no different than science fiction.

Le Guin states that the two things could not be more different. Science fiction is, after all, fiction. Made up. Not real.

In contrast, when people purposefully say things that aren’t true in order to deceive, there’s only one word for that: a lie.

Her letter is short and eloquent (you should definitely read it). But I think it’s so important that as readers and critical thinkers that we demand truth. Because it’s only with real, solid, provable facts that we can make good decisions–no matter your beliefs or politics. We should all demand facts, so that we can move forward. We shouldn’t have to debate what’s real, but rather debate what’s the strategy to make life better.

The United States is a great place. And one of the things that makes us great is a search for truth. Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani recently said, “America’s enemies feared it for dealing in facts while they offered disinformation and conspiracy theories. All that changes when the White House embraces the notion of ‘alternative facts.'”

Facts, as Le Guin says, are hard won. They are discovered and uncovered. They are precious. Our press helps to keep us honest and accountable while our scientists help us move forward and learn more about the world around us. I think it’s so essential that we support good investigative journalism and remember that bad news, news we don’t want to hear, is not necessarily false or fake. We need to remember that getting multiple perspectives, that debate and discussion, are essential to democracy.

If we don’t demand truth and honesty, we can’t say anything when it’s not given to us.

As readers, we’re already primed to take in lots of information and keep open minds. We’re always using our skills to make judgments on whether a narrator is reliable or a story is true. Those same skills can be applied to everyday life, and I think those skills are more essential than they have been in a long time. Even if you’re not very interested in politics, I think it’s important to know what’s going on. That’s how we keep a democracy going–active involvement.

 

Where do you get your news? My favorite TV news program is PBS News Hour, which does a really good job looking at multiple sides of an issue, and my favorite print sources are The New York Times, The Washington Post, and BBC. Let me know your favorite places to get news in the comments!

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