Tag Archives: language

Truthiness: How Hard Can the Windbags Blow?

Truth, Fact, Interpretation, Misdirection – In An Age of Liars, We Need A Decoder Ring

Think about this: we know the difference between truth and lies. Presumably, we form our opinions from the information given to us. Certainly, this ought to be the case for things like policy decisions. Shouldn’t our elected officials be able to incorporate relevant facts and factors into their plans of what to do next? Stephen Colbert’s “Truthiness” is alarmingly relevant right now.

When I was in college, I took a tremendous class from well-known writer Francine Prose, called “Language, Literature, and Lies.” Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was a great primer for my work in PR. One of the most lasting exercises was to read the same big news story in three major outlets (The New York Times, The New York Post, and The Guardian). We pored over the articles, picking out how the authors referred to their subjects (e.g. President Obama, Barack Obama, Obama, Mr. Obama, the president, etc.), which snippets of quotes they chose to cite, how they framed an issue, and who they gave the last word. Subtle choices conveyed biases. As humans, it is nearly impossible for us to describe happenings completely objectively – the nature of language is that it necessarily filters everything through our own lens; our own version of truth.

That said, while most media outlets use specific language to shape their version of events, they still stick to the same basic facts in news. That’s something we expect; why read or watch news if none of it is true? So it is jarring to note that when it comes to picking candidates for the presidency, many voters are keen to disregard flat out lies so long as they serve a particular agenda. The author of Wag the Dog recently wrote a biting op-ed about this in Al Jazeera, and multiple papers have referenced Politifact’s “Truth-O-Meter” with regards to candidate claims (it ranges from true to pants on fire).

I’m a big proponent of free speech, but I do believe that there is a difference between fact and opinion. Facts are, by nature, true. They are true whether you believe them or not. The converse is not the case. Unfortunately for some of us dreamers, simply believing something very fervently does not magically make it true. There is a danger to pandering to that falsehood. We can handle the truth, and we must if we expect to do anything helpful or relevant in life.

Stephen Colbert: Truthiness

Texting for fun or for information? It’s different!

I have to say that I am a fan of texting.

Texting allows me to stay in touch with my family, clients and colleagues easily.  While texting can never replace an actual phone call or personal interaction, it’s a way to let people know that you are thinking of them and that you want to stay connected.

There’s different kinds of texting, though.

If you’re texting for fun or to just stay in touch, almost anything goes.

However, if you are texting to get or to give information, you need to be more careful.

For some of you, I know that this seems really obvious.  But for many, it’s not.

This was underlined for me recently when a friend was texting with another friend in an attempt to get together later in the evening to go hear some live music.  They ultimately did not get together, but not because they didn’t want to; it was because the texts – on both sides – were unclear.

The exchange went something like this:

Friend1: Was hoping to get together later to go see some music – r u available?

Friend2:  Uptown now, will be down in Union Square later.

Friend1:  Cool.  I’m all ears.

And then, there were no more texts for a couple of hours until Friend2 actually called.  By then, it was too late and they agreed to go out another time.

The problem:  Neither friend asked for enough specific information to make the get together happen.  Friend2 assumed that Friend1 understood that she wanted to meet in the Union Square area.  Friend1 thought that by saying, “I’m all ears,” Friend2 would provide a time and place to actually meet.

Moral of the story:  When you need “real” information – a time and place to meet, e.g. – don’t assume that your cute or unique way of texting will get that for you.  The other person might not understand your implications.  Be direct.  Of course, to avoid all misunderstandings when it comes to meetings, etc., just pick up the phone.