Our own truth?

As reported by PM (Phil) Carpenter in the Carpenteriat, President Obama, appearing on David Letterman’s new Netflix show, responded to the question:   Which is more dangerous to a democracy — “the president demeaning the press or a foreign power sabotaging the voting process?”  with a more fundamental, and more troubling answer. “One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts,”

I have been seeing this recently in numerous ways.  Now for the most part, this isn’t about people lying, but rather about people focusing in on their own sources of news and believing only those pieces of information that support what they already believe.

Here is one example.  A friend of mine shared the following on Facebook:

My initial reaction was “uggh”   –  I know this guy leans conservative, and I didn’t want to get into an argument.  I also know that this guy is a good person, and intelligent.  So I decided to set this battle aside and not engage.  But then, another friend replied, leading to this exchange

And that’s where I just couldn’t control myself and posted the following:

… they know – the purpose of the law is not to protect voter integrity – it is to suppress the votes of black people. The DMV offices in affluent white areas stayed open – the DMV offices in poorer – blacker neighborhoods closed.

The Republican goal is to suppress the votes of black people – I know you well enough to know that you wouldn’t support that

He responded that I was right, he would not support that, but that he still wants to see picture IDs for voting.   He was asked why,  and several stated that voter fraud is not a problem.  to which he replied:

there is the problem of 9 million illegal immigrants in LA county voting is a problem, and there is statistics to confirm that

NINE MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS VOTING in LA County?   The total population of LA County is 10 Million  – almost 90% are illegal?    The estimates for illegals in the total US is 11 Million.  Nine out the 11 million live in LA?

Now, again – I know the original poster to be a person of good will –  He is someone I like, and I am sure that he is not lying intentionally.  I guarantee you that he heard, read, saw, this somewhere, and it confirmed something he already believed.  We get our lies from the media – and believe those that confirm what we already believe.  We all do this and it is getting worse

Side note on lying –  MIT published an article on a recent experiment on lying.  Researchers found that 50% of us are basically honest – 35% are “conditionally honest” – will lie if dissatisfied with the outcome of telling the truth, and 15% are ” bad people” who will always lie to improve their outcome  (I once had a complicated relationship with a woman who fit into that category – but that is a different story.

So bottom line  –  we need – all of us – to challenge our own assumptions, and to commit to telling the truth.  Among other reasons this is why I am working to up my skills on data analysis and data presentation – because it is needed.

photo by: kozemchuk

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