Perusing the commentary sections of newspapers is not quite a pastime for me, but fun and certainly more informational oftentimes than the article I’ve chosen to read. Commenters will offer arguments, sometimes fact based, often emotional, rebuttals in contradiction to the article’s author. At other times, commenters seem unable to read, or at least read with comprehension better learned at the grade school level. 

When this happens I’ve found it’s because their bias won’t allow them to understand the article, almost like a struggling swimmer trying to stay afloat. They twist the facts or disregard them completely in order to ensure their side is in the right. 

Finally, we get to opposing commenters who present facts, but facts contradicting each other, the rival commenters throwing “facts” back and forth like lawn darts grazing their target. The reader, in this case, me, has to throw his hand in the air and say, “dash it all, I must find out for myself.” 

If you think I say “dash it all,” well, you’d be wrong but you get my point. 

Most people blindly accept whatever their side tells them to accept, unwilling, unable, or simply uninterested in getting to the answer.

Worse yet, if you defend something considered taboo to criticize, now you become a target, despite the fact you may be right, statistics and information on your side and all that. Doesn’t matter. A segment of the population has decided on a “side,” and deviation from that position will put you in the crosshairs, brand you some sort of malcontent, or worse yet, a purveyor of misinformation to be shackled off and sent to a re-education camp so as to tow the line the public has decided is right.

That’s why most clear thinking people on either side of a dispute stay out of it, keeping their thoughts to themselves…the silent whatever’s.

Case in point: Covid.

Granted, it was a new situation for this generation of people, myself included, but…should you say (and this holds true to some degree today) the entire situation was a farce, we did not need nor should have had lockdowns, mask wearing was simply useless, and the vaccine wasn’t (isn’t) really a vaccine at all, nor does it protect anyone from either getting it or spreading it as we were told incessantly, the swords of justice will become unsheathed. 

If you say the vaccine did save lives, was effective, and masking was the reason things didn’t get worse coupled with lockdowns, smirks, laughs, and even a few sneers may come your way. 

Listen. Did you hear them just now? The swords on both sides emptied from their scabbards.

What about climate change, once referred to as global warming? Say you think the Earth is warming to the point of our own destruction, with sea levels rising and catastrophic death in our future and some will roll their eyes even when presented with climate models showing the same. Yet, those on the other side of the debate counter with the fact CO2 is 0.04% of our atmosphere and out of that humans are responsible for creating less than half so it can’t possibly be a driver of climate change, temperatures historically nowhere near catastrophic levels and we’re actually approaching CO2 desert conditions. Now, you’re a heretic, a climate denier, and one that should not be spoken to as you’re certainly part of the problem.

Worst of all, bring up our politicians or political parties.

Say that former President Trump was convicted by a jury of his peers, based on the evidence presented and that his guilty verdict is proper and sound because of it, his side will sneer and mention the case was a false case to begin with, based on made up charges not even taken up by the federal government and hinging on an undefined crime with jury instructions designed to render a guilty verdict.

There they are again, swords unsheathed.

Then there is President Biden. Mention the fact the economy is actually improving, with inflation easing and that members of his cabinet have attested positively and publicly to his mental acuity and competence and the other side sneers showing video tape of his freezing last week in Europe, his missteps and misspoken words, along with noting grocery bills are still very high along with increasing rents and still record inflation, not to mention an open border. That last accusation countered with his defenders rightly stating a border bill was rejected by Republicans and that despite that, he still put a policy in place last week. 

See what I mean? 

Who is right?

Who do we believe? 

What do we believe? 

The issues become clouded, not necessarily by facts but more so by what we choose to believe. Sometimes, we don’t even believe what’s put in front of our faces, preferring narrative and what I’ll refer to as mysideism to reality. We can’t leave our team, we just can’t, for the other side is evil and I can’t abide evil, we’ll say.

We parse out arguments so deeply to protect our side even we cannot quite figure out the argument anymore, only that we are right, made so by convoluted means so stretched out, braided, and intertwined, we barely understand them any longer but it doesn’t matter, our side is right.

Some of this is exacerbated by social media and self-proclaimed influencers who present just enough evidence to convince but not prove. There’s a difference, but those who want their side to be correct lap up what they can so as to be on the right side. 

There is also the problem of industries built around some of these controversial things. Should one side win out over the other, there will be job loss along with billions of dollars of grant money for starving scientists who depend on such grants to fund their research. If, say, man-made climate change is little more than a hoax, climate change part of the natural cycle of the planet funded by an extensive study done by the fossil fuel industry, well…

On the other hand, if it is proven to be undeniably true, with 1000 scientists saying so, the question becomes who is funding them and are they saying that in order to keep the funding going (hint: that’s already been stated by some of those same scientists)?

See? No easy answers, only more and more questions exacerbated by the fact one can “Google it” or “Bing it,” or whatever search engine one chooses to “it” it. Wait, there’s a problem there too. It’s commonly known Google curates its search engine responses to reflect a much more liberal bent. This is not hyperbole and is documented. What about AI? We’ve seen significant bias there too. Remember Google’s rollout of Gemini? 

Books are not immune. The 1619 Project was not only poor scholarship, but wrong in most of what was presented, savaged by actual American historians like Gordon Wood, yet many schools still adopted it as a text for American history. Even accepted university texts such as A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn has been debunked more than once as anti-American leftist history rooted in poor scholarship and unsupported by facts, yet it’s adopted by universities across the nation as the standard text. Yet its counterpart A Patriot’s History of the United States, not only meticulously documented and researched isn’t even mentioned in university classes much less high school classes. 

Should there not be both? Who is right?

Environment? Silent Spring won accolade upon accolade, presenting DDT as the scourge of the environment without a shred of proof, yet was accepted and DDT banned much to the consternation of farmers and attempts to fight malaria worldwide. No matter, the argument was accepted and that’s that.

Don’t Get me started on the book The Population Bomb.

Again, we come back to not only what we believe is right because we want it so, but what has become accepted as being right, even if it’s wrong.

So, how do we get the real answers?

Research and pressing those with opposing views to substantiate their points with fact, not what they feel is right. The great thinker Thomas Sowell said to ask these three questions:

1. Compared to what?

2. At what cost?

3. What hard evidence do you have?

The part that is hardest for people to understand is that in most cases, and I agree with Dr. Sowell, is that there are really no solutions, only tradeoffs, and the best we can do is make the best trade off we can. That’s the plight of being human and living on this big blue marble. Maybe we need to begin accepting that premise and doing the best we can with that mindset foremost in our philosophy. 

Then again, maybe this really is the Matrix.