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Finding facts in a world full of fiction

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We are living in what some have called a Post Truth society. In the age of alternative facts and fake news we, the public, have been given license to pick and choose what we would like to believe and to disregard all else as untrue.

But facts are indisputable by nature. If something is really objectively true, there is no room to agree or disagree. You may dislike that something is true, you may dislike the manner in which it is presented, and you may disagree with the discussion revolving the fact, but you cannot disagree with the fact. It goes against the definition of a fact.

Political polarization has worsened the issue, because the ability to appoint things as true or untrue makes it exponentially easier to justify our own set of values. But polarization isn’t helping us, and alternative facts aren’t either.

Here’s why it matters: we need truth.

Without truth, we cannot protect ourselves. We cannot critique our government. We cannot fight for justice. We cannot accomplish anything.

News is meant to hold the government accountable. If any story breaks that doesn’t match our agenda, we can call it fake, and the government can then go on doing whatever harmful thing it intends to do. Without facts, we don’t know who to vote for. We don’t know where we are falling short as a society. We don’t know how to fix problems. When you throw polarization into the mix, we don’t even know how to talk to one another.

This phenomenon has reached far beyond journalism. Alternative facts have spilled over into other outlets and even face-to-face discussions. I have had experiences in which I have told people things that have happened to me, and they have responded that they disagree.

One facet of postmodern society is the idea that truth may not exist at all. But I don’t think anyone really thinks that, when it gets down to it. I think everyone can acknowledge that some things just are. The sky is blue, Donald Trump is president, and when water reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it boils. These things are quantifiable and provable.

The same goes with controversial things, too. One piece of truth may be wrapped up in layers of opinion, but when you strip it all down, the fact still remains. We have to be able to find the facts in any argument, and we have to be willing to lay aside our own agendas, look at what is true and find solutions. We don’t have to all agree. We never will. But we all have to at least acknowledge the same set of facts and build from there. We simply cannot progress without truth.

Lydia Waybright can be contacted at [email protected]marshall.edu.

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