There’s a famous quote that goes,
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
It’s attributed to a Randall Terry but we’ll never forget—and always be grateful for—George W’s mangling of it. (Video below.)
It’s an important quote because it says that individual responsibility for the truth is as much the listener’s as it is the speaker’s. Said another way, if I discover that you lied to me in the past, then I must assume responsibility for your telling me the truth in the future.
But what if you never discover that I’ve been lying to you? What if I fooled you so well the first time that you’re willing to keep drinking from my firehose of lies?
A frightening prospect, especially since people on one side of any political divide often think that people on the other side are either lying evil doers, or fools to believe those lies.
Are we being lied to about Climate change?
Last time I described how a new friend confronted me with my parroting that there was global scientific consensus about the causes of climate change. I even had a number (97%) in my head, and I wondered, “Where did I get this consensus from?”
It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.
Alex is right and I certainly was one of the motivated millions passionately repeating the “consensus” talking point. Thanks to years of kung fu mind mastery though, on that particular day, I avoided a childish escalation of
“ … do so!”
“ … do not!”
I decided to investigate where the consensus claim comes from and whether I had any grounds to continue making this claim. My investigative reporting is not yet done, but allow me to share what I’ve learned about the truth seeking process.
If you wish to not be fooled, prepare for the following:
There is no truth stop on the information superhighway
There is no well lighted truck stop on the information superhighway that says “This is unquestionably the place for reliable trustworthy information”.
Actually, scratch that. There is, or rather there are.
Every political or ideological group has their own “truth stop,” each telling their members that their truth is “the real truth.”
My NPR is your Fox News.
So if you’re taking responsibility for the truth of your beliefs, you’ll have to roll around in the muck of those who are taking counter positions and read the sites or publications you wouldn’t normally read. And you have to be willing to accept that they are right and you are wrong.
What convinces is often not convincing
A well done web page, or a shoddy amateurish looking one is not a reliable indication that it’s contents are true or false. For millions of Americans, the Oregon Petition against taking action on climate change is convincing, while NASA’s Climate Change pages on evidence, causes and Scientific Consensus are not.
Be prepared to do a lot of reading
Truth finding is time-consuming for three reasons:
No concise and clear executive summaries
It’s more often the case that there are no concise executive summaries that specifically address the questions you need answered and to get at the truth you may have to dive into some lengthy scientific papers. Harvard’s website, for example, clearly indicates that urgent action needs to be taken on climate change, but nowhere could I find a short statement stating Harvard’s position on any scientific consensus for human activity being the most likely cause. They are preaching to the choir.
Credible sources are hard to agree on
Also, take care that your sources will be accepted. Wikipedia for example, while being as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica on scientific and historical matters will not be accepted as credible. If you really want to satisfy yourself it may take emails and phone calls to get the information or validation you seek.
You must go deeper
The urge to stop is great. You want to accept what you find on a site you trust, but you must go deeper than you would normally go if you want to be certain that you have good reason to believe what you believe. If you’ve never done investigative reporting or a thesis, this will give you a taste of the tremendous work involved.
Your responsibility to not be fooled
The only truth we can agree on is that there are some very powerful special interests sponsoring some very dangerous lies.
But what are the lies?
No one wants to believe that they’re being fooled, and finding out that the people you’ve trusted have been fooling you may be hard, but you owe it to yourself and to your communities to find out.
Lying you see is a cooperative act, and this was the message of George W.’s mangled quote. If we can’t agree on how we can arrive at the truth, the lies will not only deepen our divides, but also cause us to start tossing bodies in. If we allow it to get to that, shame on who?
If someone believes something that is so transparently false – say, that Hillary Clinton has had over 100 people murdered and yet somehow managed to evade justice all these years, or that Barack Obama founded ISIS, or that both of them are literally demons – it’s safe to say the fault lies at least as much with the person who believes the lie as the person who tells it. Erik Sass
Here’s the video of George W’s version of the “Fool me Once” quote. It’s in the last ten seconds, the ones before will brighten your day. I miss him.