“Facts” derail the conversation

January 10, 2013

This space is normally used to post sermons, but today, I was troubled by information I heard while I was peacefully eating lunch… The situation is not unique, but considering the problem our leaders (and their constituents, for that matter) are having with civil conversation about very important matters, I decided I’d post this reflection. At the root of it is the struggle we have in a time of overly-available information, to gain the accurate and appropriate information needed to make thoughtful, reasonable decisions. I welcome your constructive feedback and insights:


While having lunch today at a nearby restaurant I saw a FB post that spoke of another school shooting, this time in California, less than a month after the Sandy Hook tragedy. I looked at the television screens nearby, one on sports, the other on a talk-show; neither with news of this latest shooting. I started looking at the FB post for possible fabrication… you just never know what folks make up these days. But it was true… though, luckily (is that the right word?) the assailant had a shotgun, not a high-powered assault weapon, and therefore, was limited in his ability to carry out a wide-scale massacre.

When I mentioned to my waitress that there was another school shooting, I was puzzled by her response. She immediately talked about the “fact” that a second attempted school shooting had occurred on the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting. She said that since the principal of the school in Oklahoma had a gun, he had shot the assailant before any school-children could be killed. For the waitress, this affirmed the importance of “good guys” who were trained having guns in our schools so we can prevent “bad guys” from killing kids.

I had not heard of the Oklahoma incident, so didn’t try to engage in argument about it. Instead, when I got home I looked it up on the internet. It seems that a teen had plotted an attack on a school in Oklahoma, planned for the same day as the Sandy Hook incident. It was thwarted and the teen was arrest at 4:30 a.m., before any attack ensured. The intervention was not by the principal with a gun, but by local authorities, working off of tips provided by a cooperative and highly observant school administration.

What concerns me is that “buzz” being used now about this apprehension is flawed. Misinformation is being used to assert the need for armed “good guys” as the solution for potential assaults in the future. That becomes the solution for a much bigger problem. It demonstrates how news reports of real events can be twisted, telephone-game style, so that honest folks hear a revised version, altered to such an extent that it is being used to support a position that wasn’t even in play for the incident at hand.


It makes me wonder how we can slow down the media report and subsequent community-biased confluence which ultimately distorts facts so quickly that they become the basis for decisions? The reality is that we spend so much time reacting to attacks and counter-positions that we don’t have time to develop a reasonable dialogue, grounded in real facts, and discuss it intelligently.

In an age of micro-bursts of information that are immediately perceived as “facts,” how on earth do we slow it down to make the conversation meaningful and constructive? I really wonder.

2 Responses to ““Facts” derail the conversation”

  1. I’ve no doubt been guilty of my share of micro-bursts, but I agree completely that a quick willingness to buy easy (albeit mostly incredible) answers is killing us! And my greater fear is that we’ll all tire of it and lose interest before any meaningful change occurs. Sure hope someone with power uses it for good. Regardless, I’ll be here kicking and screaming until either the guns are safely stowed or I am, whichever comes first.

  2. Pete Laberge said

    Wow! You do not like asking simple, easy to answer questions, do you? You are correct, of course. I only wish I had an answer for you. Perhaps we could found a committee to examine thing and isolate them from F/B Twitter, The Media, etc while they deliberate? And even then…. What if they need to do some R&D, on say, Wiki? I do not know. But this bears re-posting. And I shall.

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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