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" What people want to believe is more important than what's true."


"Don't Confuse Me With the Facts" 

>>I worked in news and documentaries for many years and was constantly amazed, or maybe distressed, at how people could disregard clear facts and doggedly hold to opinions that had long been shown to be incorrect.

Recently, I came across this quote by the famous Stanford psychologist, Leon Festinger.

" A man with conviction is a hard man to change.

Tell him you disagree and he runs away.

Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources.

Appeal to his logic and he fails to see your point."

As a new election looms I'm afraid we are going to see a lot of, "Don't confuse me with the facts, I've got my mind made up," thinking. [This was written before the recent election but it nonetheless valid.]

The most noted recent example involves the Iraq war. In order to help justify the invasion of Iraq the Bush White House propagated the idea that Iraq was behind the World Trade Center attack.

Although it wasn't true, some people paid a personal price for disputing that story.

Even after President Bush and others in the White House finally admitted that Iraq wasn't actually behind the attack (and the facts supported that), many people refused (and still refuse) to believe otherwise. Of course, a few broadcast pundits found it advantageous to ignore or obscure these admissions and perpetuate this misconception.  

In an extensive article on the subject Chris Mooney recently said, "Since political beliefs are rooted in emotions, the facts are often irrelevant."

What people want to believe is more important than what's true.

The question is how can people in a democracy make intelligent political decisions if their minds are closed to important facts that emerge?

And a question for news and documentary producers is whether for the sake of ratings they should shy away from facts that people need to know, but don't want to hear.

Since there is confusion between facts and factoids, maybe we should define how we are using the term, facts.

A fact is any observation that has been repeatedly conformed and accepted as true; any scientific observation that has not been refuted.

In contrast, a factoid is an idea, often passed off as fact, that ultimately rests on personal belief or opinion.

As noted in, "I Wouldn't Believe It Even If It Was True!", "Fog" Horne ran into this issue many years ago in the newspaper business.

- Ron Whittaker

>>  You can find more detail on this subject in "Made Up Minds," The Week newsmagazine, May 20, 2011, and at the MotherJones website.

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