Daily Resource Highlight - 2/28/2022

Posted by on February 28, 2022 at 8:54 AM

Below are the highlights and featured resources of this past week’s Daily* Resource.

February 22, 2022 - What Do We Mean By “Facts” and the “Truth”?

Ben Shapiro famously said “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” I disagree with Mr. Shapiro…or at least what I think he’s implying. I think he’s saying that facts are concrete and static, and that if you look at the facts and keep an objective mind, you’ll eventually arrive at “the truth.”

But “facts” change all the time – heck, the entire purpose of the scientific method is to challenge “facts.” And even when we know that something is, in fact, true, it often doesn’t tell us much. For instance, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently came out with a fact sheet stating that the federal government ran a surplus last month! If you click on that link, though, you’ll notice they aren’t preparing last rites for the national debt.

More typical than out-of-context facts, though, are the various debates where both sides have genuinely good arguments. Take this article from Randy Lioz of Braver Angels, where he discusses the debate over pit bulls and compares it to our national conversation on guns and gun control. Lioz makes it clear that he still has firmly held beliefs on both subjects, but that his perspective isn’t the only valid, fact-based perspective.

To be clear, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as the truth, or that facts are meaningless. Facts are still facts; lies are still lies; and misinformation and disinformation are real problems (quick, helpful explainer from Civic Genius). Additionally, it’s easier to make good decisions when we have more information (you may be able to guess where I come down on Know Before You Owe Legislation - summary courtesy of BillTrack50).

Instead, what I’m saying is that “the truth” is usually complicated and, in most debates, neither side has a monopoly on it. Do you agree? If not, do you think we should shut down debates where there’s a clear truth? I know you may not agree with my perspective, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

February 24, 2022 - Ending Black History Month by Welcoming a New Member

Today’s newsletter is the last of Black History Month (BHM) 2022. To mark the occasion, I would like to introduce you to the newest member of the Alliance – Narratives Project (we will have a newsletter welcoming all recent additions to the Alliance soon). Narratives Project (NP) pushes the envelope on what it means to understand “both sides” of divisive issues. They do this in four steps:

  1. Identifying divisive stories / topics.
  2. Aggregating data such as tweets, trends, and articles.
  3. Summarizing both perspectives using each side’s own terms.
  4. Illustrating how and/or why the sides diverge.

In recognition of BHM, the team at NP wrestled with how the “left” and “right” view racism in America. I don’t want to give too much away, but they found that the left sees America’s institutions as persistently racist and removing barriers to BIPOC+ is an ongoing struggle. The right, on the other hand, believes we have removed the legal obstacles to racial equality, and discussing events through the lens of race forces people into boxes instead of allowing them to be treated as individuals.

Talking through these differences is difficult, which is why we’re thankful for the many Bridge Alliance members that are dedicated to bridging divides. For example, Urban Rural Action is hosting “Mid-Atlantic Dialogue Across Difference” on February 28th, which is open to students at 18 different institutions, including Penn State, Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown, among others.

Finally, we would like to end Black History Month by expressing appreciation for Thomas Jennings – the first African-American to be awarded a patent (Interactivity Foundation). His invention was cleaning clothes through a process called “dry-scouring.” Today, we call it “dry cleaning.” Mr. Jennings used the profits from his invention to free his family members from slavery and fight for its abolition.