Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
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.
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.
- 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).