The Decline of Fact in Our National Conversation (and How to Avoid Despair)
Louder Preaching is Not the Answer
It seems wrong to call it a national conversation when we mostly monologue at each other. And most of our monologues are meant only to reinforce the already-believers listening. Republican Paul Ryan’s recent string of verbal deceptions was a stunningly brazen example of half-facts delivered with full-on force—but both sides are equally guilty. That both Democrats and Republican play loose with facts is neither a surprise nor anything new. So it has always been: we persuade each other by twisting facts in our favor and choosing not to reveal the truths that would balance our cherry-picked facts.
It is natural (though not necessary) to become cynical about our national exchange of monologues. Recognizing that any speaker is likely persuading you with only half the relevant facts is probably not a bad strategy to adopt for the next three months—or the next 30 years. It is also easy to see how this strategy only accelerates skepticism about the official word of any authority. And so “Question Authority” returns as a relevant bumper sticker, several decades later. Or was it ever out of style?
How to Avoid Despair and Reject Cynicism
Remaining skeptical of facts presented as truth is a good starting point. And perhaps seeking a generous spirit that questions facts even while looking behind the facts to ask what broader point the monologist is making. But we must speak up and expect dialogue rather than more indoctrination.
More preaching will not do.