In response to Renée Loth’s “Why do so many believe fake news?” (Opinion, Oct. 31), I would like to offer a corrective. Consider the definition of the word “opinion.” Opinions, like theories, are based on an unbiased assessment of the verifiable data (facts), and, like theories, are changeable as our understanding of the facts changes. However, what many people call an opinion is actually, in rhetorical terms, a prejudice, a belief that is not based on fact.
We do not use prejudices in critical analyses because they cannot be reproduced (think scientific method). The problem is, when someone says “in my opinion,” they usually mean “because I choose to believe this” rather than “I have reasoned this out using critical thinking.” Because some dictionaries have begun to accept this common misuse of the word “opinion,” people can legitimately claim their so-called version carries the same weight as a legitimate opinion derived from critical analysis.
When we refuse to acknowledge that uninformed opinions are choices rather than positions based on facts, we muddy the waters and open ourselves to the concept of fake news. We must insist on these distinctions between opinions and beliefs, and push people and reporters to document the critical process behind their conclusions. Once critical thinking becomes the norm, fake news will have to struggle and, hopefully, will fade away.
I enjoyed Renée Loth’s column, “Why do so many believe fake news?” The mention of tabloid newspapers routinely printing lies is significant. Another cultural phenomenon that is part of the mix is professional wrestling. It’s not that the fans cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is illusion. They simply don’t care. They want bloodthirsty entertainment, a show that ignites all their passions. Watch some pro wrestling. You will see all the strategies needed to win the presidency these days.
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