"Just the facts"

Is there any way of requesting purely the facts regarding a situation (news story, etc) without coming off as unsympathetic?

I want to be able to make judgements based on facts rather than peoples’ opinions, but am worried that if I ask for facts only people will assume I am judging the side of the story they agree with/ automatically disagreeing with them.

realsocialskills said:

Asking for just the facts won’t work, for several reasons:

Key facts are often disputed

  • Eg: If someone is accused of a crime, some people will think they are innocent and some will think that they are guilty.
  • Those people believe different things about what the facts are.

Even when facts are not disputed, which facts are important enough to be worth mentioning is a matter of opinion:

  • For instance: If a person is accused of abuse, often people who like that person will go out of their way to describe incidents of conspicuous kindness.
  • Bringing up those acts of kindness is communicating an opinion about the accused abuser, even if it’s done by stating facts that are not in question
  • This can also happen in other situations, eg: 
  • A CEO is accused of embezzlement. On the news, reporters show videos of their lavish mansion and pictures of them entertaining dates in extravagant restaurants. 
  • The fact that the CEO lives a life of luxury is a fact that is not seriously disputed. Whether it’s relevant to the story at hand is a matter of opinion, and there’s no pure unbiased perspective to be had.

There’s no such thing as a pure, unbiased, opinion-free perspective. But there is such a thing as trying to figure out what’s true to the best of your ability.

I think that it is possible to find out facts from people who have opinions. I’ve found that two things help: asking concrete questions, and listening to people who have different opinions on the issue you’re trying to understand.

Eg:

  • Them: Proposition measure 5 is anti-woman! Vote against it!
  • You: What is it?
  • Them: It’s a bill the Republicans are pushing to keep the good old boys club powerful
  • You: What is the bill actually about? Abortion, or something else?
  • Them: It’s about abortion and contraception, not recognizing a woman’s body as her own.
  • You: Are they banning it outright? Or restricting some cases?
  • Them: They’re saying that no clinic that receives public funding can provide abortion and contraception services
  • and so on

And then you might ask someone else:

  • Them: Proposition measure 5 is necessary to the future of our country!
  • You: What is it?
  • Them: The Democrats are trying to convince you that America needs more government intervention, but this is just basic decency.
  • You: Ok, so what’s the proposition actually about?
  • Them: Government funding for abortion. Big government should not be involved in that.
  • You: So, what it’s actually banning?
  • Them: Tax dollars used to pay for abortion.
  • and so on

Here, this Democrat and this Republican are asserting different things about which facts matter. By talking to both of them in concrete terms, you can get a picture of what many of the facts probably are and come to your own conclusions.

You can find out a lot by asking people who disagree with each other concrete questions, then thinking about what each side is asserting, and what you think is true.

tl;dr: Asking someone for “just the facts” is unlikely to work; asking concrete questions *about* the facts is a lot more effective. (Especially if you ask people on different sides of an issue).