Article Comment 

Scott Colom: Facts matter




President Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He isn''t secretly trying to replace capitalism in America with socialism. This means he isn''t a communist. He didn''t inherit an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial gene from his father that causes him to hate small businesses. He doesn''t look like Hitler. He doesn''t have a deep-seated hatred of white people that is going to result in his banning the possession of firearms. He wasn''t born in Kenya. 


Most people who oppose the president don''t need to be told these things. These are extreme (but increasingly mainstream) examples of criticisms of President Obama. Nevertheless, these allegations represent an extreme example of a fundamental problem in America: Facts have started to become irrelevant. 


I have come to expect this from politicians. It disappoints me, but I no longer expect most politicians to be straightforward. They simplify. They pontificate. They talk in code and refuse to stray from carefully crafted, poll-tested talking points. 


The structure of most news programming doesn''t lend itself to the presentation of facts. At best, a newscaster presents a topic, then invites a Democratic and Republican pundit to debate it. The pundits, using those same carefully crated, poll-tested talking points, argue. One will say such-and-such policy will raise taxes on the middle class, and the other will claim the policy will actually result in lower middle-class taxes. Sometimes the arguments involve name calling or humor and will certainly be full of hyperbole. 


However, at the end of the argument, when it''s time for the next commercial break, that''ll be it. The newscaster and the pundits will move on to the next argument. At no point will anyone tell the viewers which pundit was telling the truth or attempt to explain the contradictions. And that''s news at its best. 


Unfortunately, this type of opining without factual support has leaked into our everyday discourse. I recently read an exchange on Facebook where one person asserted several points that were inaccurate. In response, someone methodically went through each point and referenced reasonable, independent sources disproving them. The responder ignored the sources and re-stated the same false opinion differently. 


This is partially a result of modern media and technology. The wide-ranging access to information on the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle allows people to cherry-pick sources and only read and hear opinions that confirm what they already believe. Information is funneled through ideological bubbles. Conservatives have cable news and blogs that confirm all of their opinions about the worthlessness of government and the destruction of America''s future by Democrats. And Democrats have a bubble that, at the moment, mostly complains about Obama and makes fun of Sarah Palin. 


This might be mildly entertaining if it was a reality television show and the future of our country wasn''t at stake. But it is. The deficit is real. Unemployment is real. Promising to keep all of the Bush-era tax cuts and not reduce entitlement or military spending will not magically reduce the federal deficit. Government can''t spend our way out of recessions or double-digit unemployment. Public policy is too complicated for it to be that easy. 


We are going to have to find real answers to these problems; answers that won''t always fit into an ideological box, answers that are complicated and require compromise and sacrifice. And for us to make these compromises, for us to determine the appropriate sacrifices, we are going to need to know the facts. 


Colom, a Columbus native, is a staff attorney for the Mississippi Center of Justice in Jackson.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment hobbes commented at 10/28/2010 9:04:00 PM:

Great column! My daughter asked me last night who would want to run for ANY office. I told her that unfortunately the ones who need to don't, and the ones who do don't need to. Scott, you're in the first group! Somebody who makes sense!


Article Comment wpmedic1 commented at 10/29/2010 12:24:00 PM:

I missed your opinion column when Bush was in office and many false statements were being made by liberals everywhere. I guess I need to pay closer attention.


Article Comment hope commented at 10/30/2010 8:00:00 AM:

@wpmedic1:And I'm sure you missed the many false statements made by Bush and his cronies also.


Article Comment wpmedic1 commented at 11/1/2010 8:38:00 PM:

So Hope can you forward me the opinion letter I missed or are you just chiming in to show your ignorance again?


Article Comment walter commented at 11/2/2010 12:10:00 PM:

Unfortunately, Scott, far too many people in our society, even when armed with "the facts" continue to make what many believe are "incorrect" choices. It isn't always the lack of "facts" but rather, how one feels about those facts that dictates the course, path, or direction one takes; or set of decisions that one makes.

It matters little to many who oppose President Obama, whether he is or isn't a Muslim, Communist, Kenyan and/or a Socialist. He isn't what all of the ones who proceeded him in the office of President were/are and that, Scott, is what matters to them most. Stated differently, the thing that should matter least, is the very thing that matters most to so very many of those living among us.

The vast majority of the Americans of color still resides in the South. Isn't it ironic that the region didn't produce a higher percentage of states giving a majority of their votes to the President during the last election. Isn't it ironic that despite a Michael Steele heading the RNC and a President of Color in the White House, it is Mississippi's Haley Barbour who is garnering all of the film and ink this political season? He's even being touted as a leading candidate for the Gop's nominee in 2012!

It's not facts, but feelings, my fellow Native-Columbus and Lowndes Countians, that people of limited intellect rely upon most. That is what the RNC relied upon in helping to elect a president who they knew would best serve their interest of motivating/energizing their base; who could be attacked most fiercely and unfairly by the media and other politicians without suffering loss; help divert attention away from the trash that proceeded him in office; and, least able to harness the support needed from members of his own party to accomplish even the basic goals and policies that he set-out while campaigning for the office.

President Obama, without question, is a decent human being whose knowledge and character exceeds most of the rests. That is a fact. A more saline fact is that he doesn't look exactly like the ones who came before him, although he is close. The way people feel about him, and the office he holds, is what, unfortunately, is going to place in jeopardy the opportunity to appoint more compassionate and common-sense people to the Courts and other federal offices. Even if he wins a second term, as the mid-term seems to indicate, his wings and his reach have been or will be seriously curtailed. He will not be able to appoint the type of Justices to the Court that this country and her people so desperately need, if the occasion presents itself for him to do so. And, the resistance he is going to get is going to hamper him in every other way, as well.

Isn't it high-time a woman of color is afforded the opportunity to help interpret the laws governing this country? Is it possible that no matter who is in the White House another vacancy on the Court will be filled by anyone other than an African American woman? They're numerous and they're highly-qualified and their character is beyond reproach! To do any less would be a grave insult to black womanhood, I think! "If not now," a former politician asked, "when?" That is the question we pose to whomsoever fills the office come 2012. And, regardless who holds the majority in either or both Houses. You want to talk about facts. Let us demonstrate a political maturity heretofore gone unrealized. Let us recognize that racists use our race in various ways to cripple us. If it helps their cause, they'll help place one of us in position; if it hurts their cause they'll not only not place one of us in positions, they'll work tirelessly to discredit and/or eliminate us, period. Those are the facts and Dr. King, Malcolm, Medgar and a host of others, no longer with us, provide proof/facts that that is so.

President Obama is a good man, but whose interest is best served, by such a good man: those who need a distraction and energizer or those who really need a person sufficiently bathe in the political process to get others to go along with their policies? How in the world does a President fail to get most, if not all of the major pieces of legislation he wants when he has vast majority in both Houses of Congress?

It is feelings, my friend, moreso than facts, that matter to people of a certain mentality. Still, your point is well-taken and the manner in which you present your position is cause for much envy, on my part. Thank you for challenging us to think. I feel your sincerity and believe that you are a welcomed force for good and will definitely get better with time.


Article Comment wpmedic1 commented at 11/8/2010 11:04:00 PM:

Walter said..."Isn't it ironic that despite a Michael Steele heading the RNC and a President of Color in the White House, it is Mississippi's Haley Barbour that is garnering all of the film and ink this political season?"

Walter you are trying to tell us that Barbour gets more press than Obama? You really are looking through racist glasses and the racism is against whites!!


Article Comment hope commented at 11/9/2010 2:22:00 PM:

@wpmedic1-----I don't have one of Colom, but I will subsitute one of mine. There were lies all over Bush's smirkey face about the Iraq war.


Article Comment melody commented at 11/16/2010 8:51:00 AM:

The Colom comments are a whole lot about feelings , just as Walter preaches about. The heading, facts matter, is true but the letter is filled with mostly Colom's opinions (feelings) and very little to no facts. One fact--Obama does not look like Hitler. Even Obama would probably say the letter is lacking facts and very biased. Actions speak louder than words and if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck , I'd say it is a duck.


Article Comment gogetum commented at 11/16/2010 1:35:00 PM:

Facts and feelings:
The man told us straight up what he was planning to do and nobody listened.

The following is a narrative taken from a 2008 Sunday morning televised "Meet The Press'. The author (Dale Lindsborg) is employed by none other than the very liberal Washington Post!!
From Sunday's 07 Sept. 2008 11:48:04 EST, Televised "Meet the Press" THE THEN Senator Obama was asked about his stance on the American Flag.

General Bill Ginn' USAF (ret.) asked Obama to explain WHY he doesn't follow protocol when the National Anthem is played.
The General stated to Obama that according to the United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Sec. 171...During rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present (except those in uniform) are expected to stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Or, at the very least, "Stand and Face It".

NOW GET THIS !! - - - - -

'Senator' Obama replied:
"As I've said about the flag pin, I don't want to be perceived as taking sides". "There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression." "The anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all that sort of thing."
Obama continued: "The National Anthem should be 'swapped' for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song 'I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing'. If that were our anthem, then, I might salute it. In my opinion, we should consider reinventing our National Anthem as well as 'redesign' our Flag to better offer our enemies hope and love. It's my intention, if elected, to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren. If we, as a Nation of warring people, conduct ourselves like the nations of Islam, where peace prevails - - - perhaps a state or period of mutual accord could exist between our governments ."
When I become President, I will seek a pact of agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and a freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts. We as a Nation, have placed upon the nations of Islam, an unfair injustice which is WHY my wife disrespects the Flag and she and I have attended several flag burning ceremonies in the past".
"Of course now,
I have found myself about to become the President of the United States and I have put my hatred aside. I will use my power to bring CHANGE to this Nation, and offer the people a new path.. My wife and I look forward to becoming our Country's First black Family. Indeed, CHANGE is about to overwhelm the United States of America "

Yes, you read it right.
I, for one, am speechless!
Dale Lindsborg , Washington Post


Article Comment hope commented at 11/17/2010 8:34:00 AM:

If what you say is true and the people voted for him to be our President, then the last Republican administration was a far bigger disaster than we thought.
The Republicans have won and the people have already started losing.


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