What facts are factual?
A politician telegraphing early strategies for his 2012 US presidential candidacy was speaking of what he referred to as facts. Not surprisingly they buttressed his platform.
A political researcher and I engaged with him in a dialogue about the relative factuality of facts. And how less-robust but rhetorically expedient sound bites can be problematic.
The researcher said, "Facts without data are like a canoe without paddles." His point was facts must be data-driven to meaningfully change citizen’s minds.
A challenge all candidates face, include findings by the researcher, which indicate most people distrust politicians. Due, not least to tactics used to distinguish campaign platforms and gain votes.
This Q of relative factuality is ever more salient. As people worldwide sort and filter fictional rhetoric from objective research.
The relationship between real facts and rhetorical frames calls for understandings not only of political campaigns, but also of methods (and motivations) communicators of them use. And how they are interpreted, if not propagated, by organizations, consumers and citizens.
For example, data communicated by respected PEWResearchCenter regards perceptions of Muslims and non-Muslims, on closer examination, reveals population-based differences in collection methods.
Survey methods are here: http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/07/21/muslim-western-tensions-persist/5/#survey-methods
Face-to-face collection methods (considered more nuanced) were used for Muslims, while phone data collection methods, (considered less sensitive) were used for non-Muslims.
These methods amount to overlooked but relevant facts, if not potential bias-provokers. Likely bias is not Pew pollsters' intent. But, in this case may amount to consequences of their method.
The Q is:
How do we determine what published research, politicians’ rhetoric, other people's views—and our own, are of most factual relevance?
Closing Statement from Andrea Morisette Grazzini
Thanks to all who offered views here.
I'm left with a prevailing sense that fear is a primary motivator for lack of transparency. This fear could be internal or externally motivated, and often is both.
Fear of the revelation of one's wrongness or complicity about the facts. Fear of the truth we have long denied. Or fear of repercussions truth telling can elicit from others.
Ironically, this fear of the truth is exactly what leads to the corruption of it.
Which leads me to wonder what would happen if we acknowledged our capacities to miscommunicate facts while continually seeking the deeper contours of our misunderstandings? Rather than the path of least resistance that falsely implies we know all.
It seems to me this stance would convey a more congruent reality, and invite greater trust in the communicator of it.