Truth, Fact, or Opinion

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: Insights

As air feeds an inferno, so too does innuendo breed a feeding frenzy of speculation. And, as we would gaze upon a fire, we can’t help but be drawn to the sensationalism of good gossip.

Facts? Who needs facts when you have a feeding frenzy? The dangerous thing about speculation, however, is that like the fire it too spreads quickly and sometimes out of control. The saga takes on a life of its own and opinions are influenced solely by passion but in the absence of truth. Sometimes it can cloud the issue until you forget what the whole thing was originally about.  

Let us get back to the facts. Last week I was at a bar and got into an interesting conversation with a girl I had seen around but had never before met. She said, “An opinion is a statement with the fear of being wrong.”

Whenever I would offer my opinion, however, she seemed to be annoyed or amused, I couldn’t tell which. “You, on the other hand, offer opinions without the fear of being wrong,” she said. “But that’s not an opinion, it’s just an observation,” she continued.    

Can an opinion be wrong? To me, an opinion is one’s point of view, based on circumstantial information (some fact, some not), which is subject to discussion and debate. To her, if it wasn’t a fact, who cares?

Some of the great philosophers in ancient Greece thought it was everyone’s duty to engage in theories, opinions, and intellectual debate – the pursuit of higher thought. And some of those theories — not facts at the time — were later proved to be correct and become the foundation of many great discoveries. At the same time, many facts — commonly accepted in history — were eventually proved to be wrong:  The world is flat. Therefore, the fact is also a matter of interpretation, isn’t it?  I would suggest that someone’s opinion, is simply an idea subject to change.  

So what is fact? The English Thesaurus refers to ‘fact’ as; information or truth. For the sake of argument, let’s say fact is the indisputable truth. The next problem we face in getting to the truth, based on facts, is that sometimes a fact can have different implications when combined with other relevant information. You can indeed make a statement that on its own is true in fact – yet untrue in its implications.

This is something that the commentators on Fox News have mastered: they present a ‘fact” that on its own is true, but wrap it into a false narrative.

When other truths, relevant to the situation, are inserted into the story it takes on a new meaning. Is the telling of only part of the truth the same as telling a lie?  

What motivates people to tell the truth anyway? What motivates people to create false truths? Is it anger, hate, fear, jealousy, envy?

It has been written that all things stem from fear or love. If that were true, it might suggest that hate emerges from fear. But, fear of what?  Fear of not getting what you want, losing what you have, not knowing who you are, or not knowing the heart of someone else? 

People lie for all sorts of reasons including, but certainly not limited to, financial gain, self-protection, power, and jealousy to name a few.

But, remember, in telling the truth, you never have anything to remember.

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About Brie Austin

Brie Austin is co-author of 'I'd Do It Again', a website content writer, columnist, and reporter. He is a member of the International Federal of Journalists, National Writer Union, and Society of Professional Journalists.

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