Facts are Not Enough

In #critical thinking

In the October issue of Significance magazine, an article called “Why facts are not enough in the fight against fake news” by Brian Tarran resonated with some of the things I have been thinking. A few quotes are useful here,

“But fake news also satisfies another need: serving up stories that people either want or feel to be true, even if the facts say otherwise. This appeal to emotion is a central component of the post-truth phenomenon.”

“Post-truth is a very specific and very twenty-first century problem, which is where emotion trumps factual assessment and evidence.”

“…bombarding people with facts is not enough, and that the answer to fake news is to wrap our response to it in an emotionalism that does not compromise factual accuracy, but acknowledges that the way in which people respond to information has changed.”

“”…we have to always have a mixture of telling people’s human stories while at the same time giving context to those stories and giving the real facts.”

Reading this, I am immediately reminded of a few things.

  • The book Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style by Randy Olson, which outlines the importance of using stories to communicate science, and that we lose the public when we don’t.
  • The TV series Cosmos, with Carl Sagan, where he did just that - used stories and visualization to convey the emotional impact of science.
  • Interviews with Scott Adams, a professed Trump supporter, who refers to Trump as the “Master Persuader”. Don’t believe me? Listen to his interview on the Art of Charm podcast. His point as I read it is that Trump is very good at providing visually and emotionally engaging points, despite the facts, to build solidarity in the base and to disarm his opponents. This is the epitome of the post-truth culture.