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The Dangerous Ignorance of Fact-checkers

Fact-checkers seem to ignore that messages are built and relevance is predetermined

[Read in Spanish]


On the one hand, it’s all relatively obvious. It’s enough to be a good person and follow the fifth commandment: thou shalt not bear false witness. Yes, of course sources have to be checked. Of course I can’t lie. If I mix up a document or source, I apologize. So far, so good.

But be careful: the difference between information and opinion sometimes presupposes that there can be a statement of facts without the horizon of the one asserting it.

And so the problems begin, due to the ignorance of the most basic hermeneutics, which has nothing to do with post-modernism and the so-called ‘post-truth’ discourse. 

If I say that Trump is the President of the United States, well, of course it’s true, it’s self-evident, but for me to be able to state such thing, I have to know what a president is, which is to say, I have to live in a ‘life-world’ (Lebenswelt) where there is a set of historical traditions which presuppose that notion.

It’s called life-world, world-horizon, belief system. Just study Hussserl, Schutz, Gadamer and Ortega and you’re good to go.

Let’s see some examples:

Newspapers in Argentina in 1982: “We recovered las Malvinas”.

Newspapers in England in 1982 (same day): “Falkland Islands were invaded.”

Let’s see, “fact-checker”, tell me: which of these two qualify as “fake news”?

Another case: AICA (Argentina): “A mother killed her child in her womb.”

Página 12 (Argentina): “A mother voluntarily interrupted her pregnancy.”

Mr. fact-checker, tell me again, which of these would be considered fake news?

Today, USA, “Libertarian News”: “Increase of public spending by Trump.”

Fox News: “Details of Trump’s plan to stimulate the economy.”

Once again, Mr. fact-checker: point out the fake news, please.

Página 12 (Argentina): “Increase of inequalities in capitalist Chile.”

Página Mises: “Market economy is deteriorating in Chile.”

Let’s see, for the fourth time: where’s the fake news?

 And now: “30 CORONAVIRUS CASES IN BUENOS AIRES PROVINCE” and then “Over 30,000 dead due to flu in 2019.”

Notice how interesting this is: firstly, all in capital letters (this is the one thing the reader surely sees), 30 cases of COVID-19. Later, all lowercase letters, the 30,000 dead due to seasonal flu last year in Argentina (yes, I’ve checked the source).

It is eye-catching that firstly, the word “case” is used without the specifics. Secondly, COVID-19 is straightaway considered more important than the cases of seasonal flu from last year, and that’s why they are mentioned with less relevance (if they are mentioned at all). 

Who decides what is more important? The criteria for what’s relevant and what’s important, is it a fact or an opinion?

Of course, a message is designed. What a shocker. It is said or written in a certain –carefully chosen– way, and it is used here or there. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not! And it can be a good thing. And, more to the point –of this whole article-, it is impossible for it not to be that way! But then, the message itself: is it fact or opinion?

Are you discovering all of this now, fact-checkers?

As I was once told by someone (even worse: someone from University, and the career being “Communication”): “Gabriel, shut up, because here we know nothing of philosophy.” Had I been naughty, my answer would have been: “That’s precisely why you should shut up!”

Also, in science: who determines the relevance, importance and even truth of… whatever the subject? The dominant paradigms.  And this is no “conspiracy theory”. Is Thomas Kuhn, 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  It’s just a matter of studying him a bit.  Nothing else.


Postmodernism? No, we’re not discussing postmodernism. It’s just becoming aware of the historicity of science.

Florence, 1610. Pomponazzi´s newspaper: the ‘denialist’ Galileo wants to demonstrate that Copernicus was right, and with a poorly constructed telescope, no less. What an idiot, huh? 

Who looked like an idiot afterwards? This is called History of Science and once again, it’s a matter of study and dedication.

Therefore, dear fact-checkers, it’s very simple: you consider everything any alternative paradigm deems true to be ‘fake news’,  and regard as “serious”, “true” and “verified” whatever the dominant paradigm holds to be “the truth”.

Great.

Did it ever occur to you, however, that in a free society different paradigms should be able to debate freely, and then be up to the citizens to listen and decide for themselves? Of course not. For that to happen, you should read and study the work of John S. Mill, Popper, Feyerabend, Mises, Hayek… but God forbid! 

So, dear all-knowing fact-checkers, present-day new little big brothers: you should study a bit. I’ll share the specific bibliography with you. But why would you bother, right? Of course wouldn’t, you have “the facts” on your side, that you look up on Google. Well then, people: be happy. And in the meantime keep drowning the outcry of the actual truth: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?!’

Bibliography for fact-checkers:

Carrier, M. (2012), Historical Approaches: Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend (p. 132-151).

En: Brown, J. R. (ed.). Philosophy of Science: the key thinkers. London and New York: Continuum.

Feyerabend, P. (1981). Tratado contra el método. Madrid: Tecnos.

Feyerabend, P. (1982). La ciencia en una sociedad libre. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Feyerabend, P. (1989). Diálogo sobre el método. Madrid: Cátedra.

Feyerabend, P. (1991). Diálogos sobre el conocimiento. Madrid: Cátedra.

Feyerabend, P. (1992). Adiós a la razón. Madrid: Tecnos.

Feyerabend, P. (1995). Killing Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Feyerabend, P. (2001). La conquista de la abundancia. Barcelona: Paidós Ibérica.

Gadamer, H. G. (1991). Verdad y método I. Salamanca: Sígueme.

Gadamer, H. G. (1993). El problema de la conciencia histórica. Madrid: Tecnos.

Gadamer, H. G. (1998). El giro hermenéutico. Madrid: Cátedra.

Habermas, J. (1987). Teoría de la acción comunicativa. Racionalidad de la acción. Taurus: Madrid.

Husserl, E. (1970). The Crisis of European Sciences. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Husserl, E. (1986). Ideas relativas a una fenomenología pura y una filosofía fenomenológica. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Husserl, E. (1986). Meditaciones cartesianas. Madrid: Tecnos.

Husserl, E. (1989). Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: second book. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Koyré, A. (1979). Del universo cerrado al universo infinito. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Kuhn, T. (1971). La estructura de las revoluciones científicas. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Kuhn, T. (1966). La revolución copernicana. Madrid: Orbis.

Kuhn, T. (1989a). Qué son las revoluciones científicas y otros ensayos. Barcelona: Paidós Ibérica.

Kuhn, T. (1989b). La tensión esencial. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Kuhn, T. (2000). The Road Since Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakatos, I. (1989). La metodología de los programas de investigación científica. Madrid: Alianza.

Leocata, F. (1987). El hombre en Husserl. Sapientia, 42, 345-370.

Leocata, F. (2000). Idealismo y personalismo en Husserl. Sapientia, 55 (207), 397-429.

Leocata, F. (2003). Persona, lenguaje, realidad. Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Universidad Católica Argentina (EDUCA).

Leocata, F. (2007). Estudios sobre fenomenología de la praxis. Buenos Aires: Proyecto.

Leocata, F. (2010). Filosofía y ciencias humanas. Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Universidad Católica Argentina (EDUCA).

Llano, A. (1999). El enigma de la representación. Madrid: Síntesis.

Mill, J. S. (1882). A system of Logic. New York: Harper.

Muñoz Torres, J. R. (1995). Objetivismo, subjetivismo y realismo como posturas epistemológicas sobre la actividad informativa. Comunicación y Sociedad. Pamplona, España, 8, 2, 141-171.

Popper, K. (1983). Conjeturas y refutaciones. Barcelona: Paidós Ibérica.

Popper, K. (1985). La lógica de la investigación científica. Madrid: Tecnos.

Popper, K. (1988). Conocimiento objetivo. Madrid: Tecnos.

Ricoeur, P. (2010). Del texto a la acción. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Schutz, A. (1967). The Phenomenology of the Social Word. Chicago: Northwestern University Press.

Schutz, A. (1970). On Phenomenology and Social Relations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schutz, A. (2003a). Las estructuras del mundo de la vida. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.

Schutz, A. (2003b). Estudios sobre teoría social II. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.

Wittgenstein, L. (1988). Investigaciones filosóficas. Barcelona: Crítica.

Wittgenstein, L. (2000). Sobre la certeza. Barcelona: Gedisa.






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