“you’re entitled to your own opinions, but you’re not entitled to your own facts”
America has a problem, a fact problem. And it’s being felt across the political spectrum.
Yesterday morning as tradition dictates, I met one of my oldest and dearest friends for brunch. She’s well-informed, well-read, incredibly bright, and quite liberal. After catching up on all things personal the conversation shifted to the current political climate. She expressed her frustration with having to sift through ten different articles from major, legacy publications, in order to piece together the basic facts of any given story.
We discussed the issue at length and I vented about how the extreme drought of factual reporting makes my work life increasingly risky and difficult. We came to no conclusion, but were left pondering the same questions — what happens when we no longer have access to facts? How are decisions made? How do we know what’s real? And even more importantly, what happens to a country untethered to facts?
Also yesterday, Sen. Sasse (R-NE) joined CNN’s Jake Tapper and discussed this very issue. His conclusion was dire — “a republic will not work if we don’t have shared facts,” he said.
“The reality is journalism is really going to change a lot more in the digital era and we have a risk of getting to a place where we don’t have shared public facts. A republic will not work if we don’t have shared facts.
I’m the third most conservative guy in the Senate by voting record, but I sit in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s desk on the floor of the U.S. Senate on purpose, because he’s the author of that famous quote that “you’re entitled to your own opinions, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
The only way the Republic can work is if we come together, we defend each other’s rights to say things that we differ about, we defend each other’s rights to publish journalism and pieces that we then want to argue about. I agree with the president that there’s a whole bunch of crappy journalism out there, just as I think you’d agree that there’s a whole bunch of click-bait out there and barriers of entry to journalism are going to go down, down, down.
It is going to be possible in the next three and five and ten years for people to surround themselves only with echo chambers and silos of people that already believe only what they believe. That’s a recipe for a new kind of tribalism and America won’t work if we do that.
We need to come together as a people and re-teach our kids what the first amendment is about.”
While working in grassroots organizing, I learned a very simple truth — it’s much easier to start from the one place of consensus than it is to convert someone on twenty areas of disagreement. I wholeheartedly believe focusing on the common ground is the quickest, best way to close the rapidly widening cultural schism.
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