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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Facts Versus What You Think Is A Fact: Prosecutions and "Fake News"

The judicial system (that is, our courts) have to parse out the facts of a case.

Both sides (and sometimes cases have more than two sides!) present their version of the facts, their arguments about the law and how the two work, and introduce items into evidence where permitted.

Many people do not truly understand the limits on a fact.

Even worse, and much worse, is this: Those people then compound the first error by imprecisely describing what is it that they claim to have seen, or know. 

This is where the vast majority of people get it wrong. Whether they're in the legal profession, or judges, or journalists, and definitely many corporate officials making decisions, they almost always get it wrong.

Just imagine, those are the people with above average mental intelligence, if not necessarily the emotional intelligence. For those of "average" or even "below average" intelligence, the subtle nuances between "impressions" and "opinions" and actual "facts" are often lost. This is a huge risk factor for people going before a jury, I tell you.

Someone having a feeling about something being wrong? Where's the fact in that question?

It is not that "something" is "wrong." The fact there is the observation about the underlying information that supports the feeling. The fact is the observation, that is, "I saw something." The problems arise when the "something" gets described incorrectly, inaccurately or embellished. 

Facts are objective. 

Opinions are not objective, but it is a fact to say that you have an opinion. The opinion, however, is not fact. 

A particular person who is quoted in some article saying blah blah blah?  The blah blah is not the fact, but the act of it being said becomes the fact. No matter how false the actual subject of what's said might be, the truth of it being said creates a fact no matter how false the subject matter claim might be. 

This brings me to my final points: Facts are objective, but impressions are subjective. Most people hear only part of what you will say (or write). Listening comprehension is a lost skill, particularly as we "multitask" more and get more "plugged in" to competing sources for information.

In other words, we hear, but we do not necessarily listen. And it's much rarer that we actually understand what gets through. 

The same can be said for the skill of reading comprehension. Trust me, as the skill in today's journalism has generally declined from two decades ago, although the dropoff in skill has also affected legal writing. 


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