Last issue I had fun discussing opinions and listed a few easy steps on how to form one of your own. Perhaps the most important element of a proper, upstanding opinion is a foundation in factual information. As President Trump once said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own fake news. Regardless, the ever-growing mediasphere is full of contradicting “facts.” Thanks to the First, and my favorite, Amendment, people can say just about whatever the fuck they want, as our POTUS often demonstrates. That’s great, but the flip side is that any fool can take to the page and present complete bullshit as truth. I’m even doing it right now.
I can vouch that truth is often at odds with comedy, so knowing how to separate the two can be crucial to your senses of both reality and humor. Once you strip away the sarcasm, bluster, metaphor, and litany of devices people like me use to enhance opinion-driven narratives such as this, all that remains are the cold, hard facts (or lack thereof). With a healthy dose of skepticism, here are, in my opinion, five essential questions to ask yourself when checking facts.
WHO is presenting this fact? I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t make it past the headline of a story. I often won’t remember who wrote a piece or pay any mind to the author in the first place (there’s a chance I won’t even remember writing this). It seems like the human mind easily strips away any authorship from information and reduces it to a basic factoid for later regurgitation. But when in doubt, it’s critical that the person presenting any given fact must be a trusted source. Just think of Chicken Little. He cried wolf time and time again and his nose grew to unprecedented lengths. Once his pants caught fire, he admitted to chopping down the cherry tree and, because of his son’s birthday wish, he never told a lie again. Now that’s a trusted source.
WHAT is the basis of this fact? People routinely sling their opinions around haphazardly, but when something is declared a fact, those people better have more facts prepared. We want research, data, and proof to reinforce the facts, because things get tricky when we don’t have the luxury of experiencing truth first hand. I’ve heard about, read of, and seen pictures of both the Statue of Liberty and the Dark Lord Cthulhu. I don’t have the resources to visit New York City or R’lyeh to personally witness either. When you’re not sure what to believe, it’s best to go with your gut and bow before the Great Old One.
WHERE is this fact being presented? Am I watching Cartoon Network or Fox News? Which is better for informative content? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but to properly judge the facts, it’s best to know from whence they came. Behind the clickbaitors exists a fabric of organizations and outlets, each with agendas and slanted perspectives, aimed to skew the facts in their favor and skewer your brain with bullshit. The talking heads may be biased, but the truth is not. Know where the facts come from. If you always acquire them from the same place, you may live in a bubble. Consider bursting the fuck out of it immediately.
WHEN was this fact presented? We live in an ever-changing world. As the state of existence ebbs and flows over time, some facts of life change with it. It’s paramount that your facts are up to date. You may have read in an article yesterday that Abraham Lincoln is alive and well, and he’s running in the next presidential election. Before you get excited and order a “Make America Great Again” top hat, take a moment to realize that article you read was printed in May of 1860. That’s almost eight score ago. This fact has expired. Be sure to consider the expiration dates of all future facts before you file them in you mental bank of permanent truths.
WHY the fuck is this a fact? Sometimes, in pondering the importance of any given information, it helps further solidify facts into reality. Why is the sky blue? Because tiny molecules of blue light are scattered in the Earth’s atmosphere. Why only blue? Because blue travels in easily dispersed waves of light. Why? I don’t fucking know, because the question of why is actually a bottomless philosophical pit. If you ask it enough times, you will run out of answers. Sometimes we just don’t have the truth, and we have to use our best judgment to make due with what we’ve got. And that’s a fact… but don’t take my word for it.