It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said (that I first heard) that while a person is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts. The annoying trait among so many people lately–to accept as fact only that information which supports their beliefs, and to reflexively deny the…the factualness of what does not–is nicely addressed in today’s piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
[I] can remember a time when facts settled arguments. This is back before everything became a partisan shouting match, back before it was permissible to ignore or deride as “biased” anything that didn’t support your worldview.
If you and I had an argument and I produced facts from an authoritative source to back me up, you couldn’t just blow that off. You might try to undermine my facts, might counter with facts of your own, but you couldn’t just pretend my facts had no weight or meaning.
But that’s the intellectual state of the union these days, as evidenced by all the people who still don’t believe the president was born in Hawaii or that the planet is warming.
To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper’s online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe.
I submit that any people thus handicapped sow the seeds of their own decline; they respond to the world as they wish it were rather [than] to the world as it is.
Do you know what you call a person who does see the world as it is, and doesn’t like what he or she sees, and despite having the responsibility and the power to do something about it, doesn’t? Yep: a member of the United States Congress. Paul Krugman accuses Republicans, but they’re not alone on this.
At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.
Know-nothings, and do-nothings. What worries me the most is the growing number of people in this country who have one foot in each camp.