Rule # 117 : Trust but Verify
You kids know that I tend to tell my stories and make statements that appear to be based fact, but are colored by my opinion. My Dad use to do this at the dinner table and quote aspects of social studies, math and science as fact and do it in such a convincing way you left the meal certain that he was telling the truth.
For the most part is was, but when the facts didn’t support his arguments he slightly changed the facts. For better or worse I inherited this unique skill set… creating my own reality for the benefit of a good story.
It was a lot more fun up till the introduction of the world wide web in 1990 and even more fun before Jerry Yang sprung YAHOO on us in 1994. Instead of requiring a trip to the library to fact check me, you can now test all the stories with a simple search.This all makes telling a good story increasing hard.
This was all bad enough until the information we had available started to include intentionally misleading or wrong facts, trusted sources of information were being eaten up by the “user created” data in places like Wikipedia. Now its possible to be fact checked with incorrect or intentionally wrong information made look real.
I love the satirical websites like “the Onion”with their “made to look real” stories, and find it hysterical when “real” news pick up one of their stories and re-report it as fact. Unfortunately this has started happening weekly not a couple times a year. That laziness of fact checking by reporters is not as funny, and often dangerous
Take for example National COVID-19 team saying that deaths from COVID-19 could be as high as 240,000 people- pretty scary.
But in 2017 ( latest complete data) there were 2,813,503 deaths the US.
Heart Disease 647,457
Unintentional Injuries ( car crashes and the like) 169,936
Were the big 3- but what the numbers aren’t saying is that many of the people who died from respiratory illness (160,201) and things like diabetes (83,564) would have died anyway. If all the 240,000 people were people that would not normally have died this year it could be 8.5% increase in death rate. But the CDC is say the net effect may be something like 50-75,000 new deaths ( which would not have occurred anyway in the year)
The point of all this is that in this world of fluid information and “story tellers” that look like creditably sourced information we need to adopt a TRUST BUT VERIFY position on everything we read or listen to from others.
When I took a journalism course ( back when their was journalism) we were taught that every story needed to have credible sources, and sources of information had to be verified. Check and re-check and never believe anything as fact without proof from multiple sources.
In this new age of COVID-19 and the next crisis which will come along we need to behave like the good journalist- checking sources, verifying and re-verifying. I have learned through this crisis not only not to trust any source on its own but not to trust my own instincts. So its up to each of us to be our own guardian of the truth, searching for the truth and not just an answer that agrees with our opinion.
With that said I need you to give your old man a break, as I did your Grandfather. Sometimes “stories” are better with the facts changed a bit, and far more interesting. The fish grows bigger with each retelling, but far more exciting to catch. There is a difference from humoring your Dad’s stories than relying on news from the cable channel.