The best quote, that I get more mileage from than I deserve to is given to us by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.’Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1927-2003
If only those on the right writing ‘opinion’ columns, TV ‘news’ commentaries, or simply a small blog knew, or cared, it existed.
Writing about anything that segues politics, and to be clear, most, if not all, areas of society have a political strand to them, requires research, sources and citing those sources.
I’ll clarify what I mean when talking about sources. In a commentary piece, I should be able to show that while I am providing my take on the subject at hand, I am not simply making up what I am saying. I have a way of establishing that my thoughts are based on real-world observations, have a basis in an agreed set of facts and I can show you, my reader, where that evidence of agreement can be found.
Now, while those of you who are used to writing in an academic setting will no doubt agree with this sentiment, I am not talking about having to provide a strict format like MLA, APA or Harvard referencing styles.
Honesty when writing? Always!
A commentary piece written in a blog or newspaper needs to be honest but it also needs to be easily readable. That is why the hyperlink, like the one above, is used so often. One click and the reader can, at the very least, see you are talking about the same subject, but could actually check the author’s facts. Of course, it is only likely to be used if the author is happy to have the reader check what they have written.
I’d go further and say authors should want readers to check what they are writing. Apart from simply wanting to be able to establish the minimum basis of trust with your reader, surely we all want for those listening to us to understand that we are saying ‘here is the basis of what I believe on topic X’ and show the minimum level of ownership of and preparedness to stand by those beliefs?
But the thing is, I can hear you typing into the comment box at the bottom, opinion is just one person’s view of a subject.
Whilst I may be writing for a relatively small readership, would that make any difference? What if I were to say here that the US elections in 2020 were rigged by Hugo Chavez and later controlled by Italian satellites? If I did, the very least I’d hope would be that you would expect me to be able to back those claims up!
Honesty when writing? Always?
Let’s take that imaginary scenario a little further. Imagine I am a news outlet, one of the biggest in the world, and I make the same sort of statements about the completely debunked notions of election fraud.
If I know my audience will not question what I am presenting and will not think twice to take my word for it, I am affecting the public discourse of what is ‘true’, what should be considered as agreed notions of how the world is and works. Also, if I can get away with this, what other lies can I tell, affecting the reality of my audience?
I imagine there can be nothing worse than writing the killer paragraph of your piece only to have a reader question it; someone who either knows the subject matter you have written about or checks the sources you have usefully left in your piece. They jump into the comments to tell you that you either have no idea what you are on about or you are a charlatan, accusing you of trying to whip up division or foster a bunch of clicks simply from an incendiary commentary.
As someone who simply wants to be able to debate the merits of an argument, because I truly understand that the politics of the left has the answers for the vast majority, I’d be mortified to be accused of willfully lying. I’d also be pretty dumb because checking the veracity of a piece of work is so easy to do. I expect some pushback if only from those who do not agree with my take. Therefore, I rely on the truth provided by my research, and the citations from it.
So, why lie?
Why would anyone knowingly lie or even just be ‘economical with the truth?’ (By the way, whilst any written piece is always improved by adding a literary great like Twain, it is the 1986 ‘Spycatcher’ use of the reference above I was referring to)
Time and effort is the answer to that question.
If I make my ‘election fraud’ statement, how many hours of research, writing, sourcing and citation would it take to dispute my claim? The basic answer is ‘a lot’. It takes nothing to make the claim, but it takes real effort to, at best, persuade a ‘neutral’ party to think about looking into the claim.
For those who are already believers, there is no turning that page back. There is no amount of honest research that will ‘prove’ to them that one of their fundamental beliefs is wrong. After all, it is a belief, it is intrinsic to their being, it is something they know, they have faith in.
For those who are casually reading, listening to or watching an article, they may well think, ‘Why would [fill in your own favourite channel of propaganda, lies and obfuscation here] make this up? They are not usually wrong.’ (although I never fact check anything they say and take it all at face value!)
This single page from Fox contains so many lies that debunking this one page would take an entire day. By the way, feel free not to add to the clicks Fox receives but I’ll understand if you do want to fact check it, given the whole thrust of my article!
Is there any point to being truthful?
It may seem as though I have been making an argument for not bothering to source anything, that there is no reason to show what others who have some standing are thinking. In fact, why bother to show my readers that I am a serious person, who takes the views of my readers and audience seriously? If there was no other reason then I would say that being taken seriously by you, the reader, is reason enough.
Emanuel Kant, ethical and moral philosopher, oh, and massive racist, is, ironically, a seminal thinker on how we should morally interact with each other. A fundamental tenet of Kant is that human beings are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves. In other words, you, my dear reader, are seen by me as another human being. You are not just a means to clicks, eyes on my work or help via Patreon (imagine that last bit flashing and a siren going off at the same time!) You are an individual, a human being, an end in yourself.
For me to respect that, I have to give it to you straight, unvarnished and honestly. In my work I am, hopefully, summarising something you may find interesting but I respect you enough to come to your own conclusion for your own reasons.
I do not think I have the finished answer to anything. I hope that I have something that is at least interesting and honest enough to spark a thought for you. Something for you to think about and draw your own conclusions from those thoughts. If I do not do that then my work means nothing, it is simply dogma, an agenda, that I think you are silly enough to fall for and accept.
Who gains from dishonesty in discourse?
I have made the argument, as many before and after have and will, that the right is not based on ‘ideology’ but self-interest. To the extent of thinking about anyone, it is merely nepotism that allows those who are at the top today to continue that lineage. This is regardless of whether they provide any skills or benefits, producing solutions or answers.
They love to tell us that we now have a fair and equal society. A world that is truly a ‘meritocracy’.
The beginning of the race may have to be at the starting gun for all. However, keeping the majority 30 metres behind the starting line of the 100-metre race of life is just fine by them.
After all, it’s always been this way and it works just fine for the already wealthy, healthy, educated and with a network of intertwined families and ‘friends’.
By definition, anyone who relies on ‘tradition’, as the right does, to show us how best to progress is simply saying ‘it has always been great, the people who came before were the best, they had all the answers and there is no need to question this. EVER. PERIOD. FULL STOP!’
It is exactly this internally chanted dirge that needs to be questioned, shown for what it is and replaced with what should already be the constant. Honest discussion.
How do we counter this?
I was going to write this entire piece without any links to any sources, just to poke fun at the right and their fact-free, discussion-light type of BS. However, it would be likely that some troll would simply point at the article and totally context-free say something along the lines of ‘See, that’s the left for you. They say any lie they like without the slightest evidence.’ There is no irony on the right.
The sincerity with which they see the need to keep the masses in line should be taken very seriously. After all, without having formulated any ideology, there is nothing to talk about, nothing to convince the people that the right has any of the answers let alone all the answers.
Their ‘thinking’ is purely and simply that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable and immutable. These orders are handed down to us by nature, they are the norm and they are most certainly desirable, as seen by the right.
They invoke natural law, God and tradition as though these substitute for reasoning, observable facts and outcomes.
The left needs to be able to assure itself that when it speaks, it does so in the security of ‘truth’.
Truth resides where the evidence we have comports with the observable world. This suggests, if our evidence begins to better describe the world through education, science, medicine etc, we are ever closer to the truth. For us, this means always being inquisitive, never taking what we are told at face value and always, where possible, providing evidence for what we are saying.
Hi. I am Dave Elliott. I have been deeply interested and invested in politics as far back as I can remember and have been a Socialist since I was approximately seven years old. What a weird and creepy kid, right?
Despite being told that I would ‘grow up and out of’ my left leanings, I have moved further left over time. It has been this journey that led me to understand that my efforts within electoral and party politics were making little if any difference to the material lives of my community and society.
It was this realisation that gave me the kick I needed to make more direct contributions at the grassroots. The creation of the YouTube channel, Party Political Puffin and the associated website have been a way to communicate with Comrades on the left and challenge those on the right.
Whilst writing on a number of other platforms has been cathartic, being part of Critical Mass has opened the door to a place where I meet those that are so committed to each other and the wider movement that it can only inspire me and us all. It is my pleasure, and with pride that I am part of the Critical Mass writing team.
Whilst video production and writing articles are my passion, I still have to pay the bills. If you get value from any of my work please consider a Party Political Puffin membership on Patreon. Alternatively, if a one-off contribution suits you better, please take a look at my PayPal. Thank you for your support.