Obliviots can be incredibly predictable — even (sadly) the occasional This is True reader. You say you want an example. I offer Mark in Idaho.
I send out Premium subscription renewal notices on Tuesdays. This week, two-year Premium subscriber Mark in Idaho replied, “I had planned on renewing, but after your last ‘This is True’ I’m done.”
Oh, this Is Going to Be Good!
I replied that it’s sad that truth is too much for him to bear — and then went down to the living room, where my wife was waiting for me. Since Covid, we’ve been carving time out of our schedules most evenings for “cocktail hour” (which may or may not include actual cocktails).
After telling Kit about the exchange, which made her chuckle, I added that I expected the ’ho man 1) to first reply that there wasn’t truth in the most recent issue, and 2) to not reply to my challenging response.
A couple of hours later Kit headed to bed, and I did what I usually do: stopped in the office to take care of any end-of-the-day emails, and to put an hour in on any projects, such as planning the next podcast episode.
Obliviots Can’t Resist Bait
Yeah, my first reply was bait, and he took it hook, line, and sinker.
You have to think about this a little, and Mark didn’t. True is “Thought-Provoking Entertainment” — a description I’ve used for many years. The key there is “provoking”: I absolutely provoke readers, challenging them to think. Those with any sort of open mind (which is certainly a required aspect of thinking) don’t just accept that, they welcome it.
“No, it isn’t truth,” Mark had replied. “That is what is sad.”
He didn’t elaborate on what aspect(s) of the issue he thought “isn’t truth.”
I already had a response to Mark’s oh-so-predictable comeback. “If you can prove anything in yesterday’s issue is not true other than an obvious joke,” I challenged, “I’m happy to retract it.”
Step 2: Wait and Wait and Wait
There is absolutely no problem with readers disagreeing with me: happens all the time. And I certainly make mistakes, including factual mistakes, which is why there’s an Errata Page. In fact, reader feedback is an important part of the process: corrections sent by readers helps reduce the chances that errors end up in the book collections.
There was only one correction sent for this week’s stories: I erred in calling British sports commentator Steve Cram (who I had never heard of before) a “record-setting sprinter in his day.” Actually, said reader Mike in Worcestershire, England, “Cram wasn’t a record-setting sprinter, but he was a record-setting middle distance runner.” Certainly a tiny, pretty much inconsequential error, but I want to know about even those so I can correct the record.
Yet Mark in Idaho couldn’t come up with any actual errors or “not true” points, let alone something to quit over. Here three days later, he still hasn’t replied. Yet he was so quick to throw down his gauntlet!
“Truth” can be measured — that’s what fact-checking is about. While I’m sure runner Steve Cram did some sprinting in his career, that’s not what he is known for — it’s not where he set his records. Even then, I didn’t take Mike in England’s word for it, I did a quick check and confirmed he was a mid-distance runner: he won gold medals in the 1500m in the World Championships (1), the European Championships (2), and the Commonwealth Games (3) — plus a Silver in the 1984 Olympics. He set world records in the 1500m, 2000m, and the mile over an astounding 19-day period in 1985.
There’s a big difference between facts and politically-driven beliefs that can objectively be shown to be untrue, which is I suspect is exactly where Mark in Idaho sits. I’m guessing, for instance, he doesn’t like that masks have been proven to dramatically reduce the spread of Covid-19, as shown in the ever-rising case rate in the U.S. — while most other countries are ramping down.
And consider this is in an environment where U.S. politicians are discouraging testing, so the actual case numbers are significantly higher than shown.
Slandering scientists doesn’t change facts, and facts are how we measure truth. This is how science works. Yet I call it a “moving target” in that new research leads to new understandings, and thus new recommendations — such as masks are absolutely helpful in containing this deadly virus, unlike the opinions presented early on.
And if you dispute any of this, fine: back it up.
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