Just the Facts

As regular readers of this blog know, I tend to harp a lot on the inadequacies of the media and the importance of accurate and complete information. My (frequently unarticulated) assumption is that if people agree about the facts of a matter, they are more likely to agree upon what those facts mean. So facts matter. A lot.

Case in point: yesterday, I shared my frustration about Fox News and its incessant drumbeat about a ‘Benghazi scandal’ the details of which the network neglects to specify. One of the commenters purported to fill in the blanks by asserting that the administration had refused to deploy troops that were within range and might have saved lives.

That would indeed be scandalous, if true. But as most other media outlets have reported, every military official in a position to know has emphatically denied the allegation. (Former Secretary of Defense Gates characterized the belief that the nearest troops could have gotten to Benghazi in time to defend the embassy as based upon “a cartoonish understanding” of military operations.) Unless every military expert from Gates on down is part of a conspiracy to protect the administration, the facts do not support the single concrete accusation being made.

I’ve been mulling over the role fact-finding plays in our political debates, because I’ve been reading a book that has been getting a lot of attention lately, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt’s scholarship is focused upon moral psychology, and the book is an excellent and very accessible exploration of evolutionary morality and the operation of culture on innate human tendencies.

One of the innate tendencies Haidt identifies is a belief in proportionality; that is, a belief that reward should be based upon contribution. Most of us have an innate “fairness” monitor that tells us that the member of the tribe who works hard should be entitled to a greater share of communal goods produced than the slacker.

I think both conservatives and liberals agree with this moral premise. Their dispute is with application—that is, with the facts. For example, if you believe that people are poor because they are lazy and conniving—that is, slackers, you will resent their dependence on public assistance. If you discover that the great majority of poor people work 40 or more hours a week at jobs that simply do not pay enough to allow them to get by, and that those who are “gaming the system” are a very small percentage, you are less likely to feel that you’ve been taken advantage of and more likely to support policies aimed at making the working poor self-sufficient.

There are lots of other examples, but the basic point is: facts matter. Conservatives and liberals (terms that have lost much clarity in any event) share many more moral premises than the pundits and pontificators assume.

What we increasingly do not share is accurate and complete information–and a uniformly credible media.


  1. Sheila; I am waiting for a response from FactCheck regarding a news item I read only one time after the Benghazi attack that stated the host countries provide security outside all foreign embassies within their borders. If this is a fact, it is one that should be emphasized or is it being swept under the rug to maintain friendly foreign relations. Americans inside the Libyan embassy couldn’t have been murdered had terrorists been kept from entering the compound. We not only need facts, we need ALL facts – unless they will jeopardize national security and endanger more lives. Congress cannot cut funding for security then cast blame on President Obama and Hillary Clinton when the level of security provided fails to protect those serving this county.

  2. The on-board jewelry channel (just guessing there was one; has been on every one of the three cruises we have taken) probably had more content and was more accurate about eh facts it set forth (“Tanzanite is the ‘in’ jewel right now and you can get it on deck 3…”) than what is set forth on Fox. I should have written that in response to your previous blog. As to today’s blog, I think there is a quality of “meanness” today that causes some people (the same ones who vow never to give up their 8-cylinder gas-guzzling whatever) to want to exact existential revenge on those less fortunate.

  3. If you’re going to criticize commenters for not stating facts, then please don’t resort to cherry picking opinions of what could or could not have been done to aid those under attack at Benghazi. There is a lot of dissent among the military on the lines being read by those at the top of the feed chain. Most facts involving Benghazi are still unknown. What we have are a lot of opinions filling in the void because of the great extent to which this administration is going to conceal what happened there. http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/05/us_military_we_could_have_saved_ambassador_stevens.html

    You also ignore the commenter’s complaint about you and others ignoring the true purpose behind this outpost, which was in fact not a consulate but a staging post for covert activities being carried out by the CIA. The obsession of Ms. Green and other hand-wringers for any mistakes made by this administration with blaming security cuts at consular posts is a total red herring. Funding for consular posts had no bearing on the covert activities taking place at this outpost; their funding does not even come from the same pot. In fact, the funding for what was taking place at this outpost in Benghazi is not to be found in any government documents as its activities are protected under that broadly written National Security Act. Those activities are what this administration wants to keep hidden. Yes, facts matter. All the facts matter. Not just the ones you selectively toss out and assert as facts that are in actuality opinions, not facts. That I believe was the point of the commenter you condemn as ignoring facts when it’s the lady in the mirror who is ignoring the facts.

  4. Below I have copied and pasted a portion of a news item about the author of the article on the site recommended by Gary Welsh. This information makes me question the truth in some “facts” in Mr. Welsh’s comments…or are they Mr. Moseley’s opinons? I am not obsessed or wringing my hands; just curious as to where information, facts and opinions might originate.

    On Wednesday August 16, 2006 a person named Jonathon Moseley posted an outrageously false and libelous hit piece against Professor Steve Jones, Professor Emeritus Jim Fetzer, and the society Scholars For 911 Truth on WorldNetDaily, which was thoroughly refuted by Dr. Fetzer on WorldNetDaily on August 18. Moseley bore false witness against Professor Jones by alleging that he was “calling for the violent overthrow of the government ” during the televised panel discussion of the L.A. Scholars Symposium which aired on CSPAN multiple times. Moseley even had the audacity to repeat this deliberate falsehood by adding that “millions of people heard him [Jones] say it” during a debate with Dr. Fetzer and Alex Jones on the Alex Jones show earlier this week.

    Jonathon Moseley stated at the beginning of the interview that he is an attorney and that his brother-in-law owns the publishing company associated with the Swift Boat book that attacked the war record of John Kerry, the Democrat’s candidate for President in 2004. An internet search revealed that Moseley is also the Executive Director of the U.S. Seaport Commission, a public policy organization that warns against foreign control and ownership of the U.S. ports. This organization is also part of another policy-forming group, the U.S. Intelligence Council, which disseminates publications regarding threats of China and concern of our ports. It would be interesting to know if these entities are CIA assets. Perhaps Moseley would like to tell us.

  5. I believe you are assuming that Fox News is actually reporting the news and is not purposely skewing it to support a particular political viewpoint. If a lie is repeated often enough, especially by someone who claims to have the facts, it becomes truth, especially to those who want to believe it. I have followed the Benghazi issue rather closely but until I read your post, I did not know that the facility attacked was not a legitimate diplomatic post. It makes a big difference in the argument.

    In the public health field, one sees this misinformation, ignore the facts, problem frequently. There was ample evidence that the preservative used in vaccines was not the cause of the widespread side effects that were being reported. It had been used from many years in millions of doses of vaccines with no problem. A study by a British physician reported that the preservative could cause side effects. It was picked up by the media and reports of a variety of side reactions to vaccines began to be reported. This continued for years and resulted in the illness and death of a large number of children because parents resisted their immunization to a number of infectious diseases. It was eventually learned that the original research was a fraud, the investigator made up the data. However, there is still an organization and groups of parents who firmly believe that the preservative causes side effects, including autism.

  6. I’m at a loss, Ms. Green, as to why you want to shift this discussion to a debate over the differences between Mr. Mosely and the views of Professor Jones concerning 9/11, who argues that 9/11 was an inside job and that the World Trade Center buildings were brought down by a controlled demolition.

  7. I didn’t shift the discussion to anything; I only provided a little infomation on the source of the facts which you cited. Moseley did author the article on the web cite you provided; you did not say you used his writing as an example of facts vs opinion.

  8. Below I have copied and pasted the response from FactCheck regarding my question about provision of outside security at our embassies. Still nowhere specific to place blame for Benghazi outside security or the lack of enough protection.

    The Congressional Research Service issued a report that may help answer your questions


    “Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable

    or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered

    approach to security including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities,

    U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing classified information).”

  9. JoAnn, there are plenty of posts (I know I have several) outlining the deceptions and inconsistencies in the Administration’s response on Benghazi in previous threads.

    I take the lack of a cogent counter argument from anyone here that whether or not Benghazi qualifies as ‘scandal’ is a decided issue. It’s fascinating how strongly people will believe things that they steadfastly refuse to defend.

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