Beliefs, facts, Slim Jims and beer
I remember watching “All in the Family” on TV when I was a teenager and laughing when Archie Bunker used to say that the “National Enquirer in the only place you can read the real truth anymore!.”
I saw an episode of “All in the Family” on the old TV network the other day and it made me wonder where Archie would find “the real truth” these days. Fox News? CNN? Maybe from the one of hundreds of “news” sites on the Internet…with all of those choices certainly he’d find the “real truth” somewhere.
I’m not a real journalist so I don’t take this personally but I do read a lot and I can pretty much guarantee that no matter what you believe, you can find a news source that will provide you with the ‘real truth.” We have liberal news, conservative news, global news and local news available 24 hours a day to reinforce whatever you chose to believe is true. Just pick your flavor!
As a humor columnist and a semi-pro slacker I don’t claim to know the real truth. I realize that most guys my age have pretty firm political convictions that seem to give them an insight to the truth that has somehow eluded me over the years. Maybe it’s all of those years of self indulgence or maybe decades of subsisting on Slim Jims and beer has rendered me incapable of serious thought, but I’ve always thought that there was a difference between facts and beliefs. It’s probably the Slim Jims.
For instance, for centuries most of the people in the world believed that the Earth was flat. They taught it in schools, wrote books about it and even tortured some people who claimed otherwise. They honestly believed it, their parents believed it and they accepted it as fact … but it wasn’t a fact at all.
Most people believe that Humphrey Bogart said “Play it again Sam” in the movie Casablanca. Just the other day I read a list of famous movie lines that listed “Play it again Sam” as one of the most quoted movie lines of all time. The thing is that, despite what most people believe, Bogart never said that line, he actually said, “You played it for her, you can play it for me.” It really doesn’t matter if you believe it or not, it’s a fact either way.
I’m guilty of confusing my beliefs with facts. For years I’ve believed that I’m a good-looking ladies man. Ask anyone who knows me; they’ll confirm that I believe that. Because I believed it, the humpbacked gnome that I saw in the mirror every morning transformed into a dashing man of the world by the time I stepped out of the shower. I suppose the steamed up mirror could have contributed to that but you get my drift.
I never let the fact that I’m “a short funny looking guy with a humped back and a big nose” (that’s a direct quote … not from me) or that I’ve screwed up every relationship I’ve ever been a part of interfere with my certain belief that I have always been a handsome and charming devil.
The dictionary defines a belief as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists,” but it defines a fact as “a thing that is indisputably the case.” In a world that overwhelms us with conflicting “news” it’s easier to accept a statement as true than it is to determine what is indisputably the case. I guess that’s where things like “alternative facts” come from.
By definition a belief requires acceptance but a fact just is. When you challenge someone’s beliefs you’ll end up arguing, if you listen to a fact you’ll learn something. I believed that Chalize Theron would come to her senses and answer my calls, I learned that retraining orders are real whether I believed it or not.
It seems to me that our search for the “real truth” in news is influenced more by our beliefs than facts. If you find yourself arguing about what “indisputably is,” then obviously it’s not indisputable so you’re probably arguing about beliefs and not facts. I’m just a humorist but even I can tell you that’s an argument you can never win.
Now my head hurts from all this deep thought. I believe that it’s time for another Slim Jim and a beer, no wait, that is an indisputable fact!
Rick Seley is under the weather so we bring you a classic column. Rick is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.