Fantasy Facts

The other week in my criminology course we had a discussion on policy and essentially concluded that the people who make policy decisions do not read or care about studies that criminologists do, many of which have direct implications for crime policy.  Instead, they’d rather make up their own data or simply buy into the crime stereotypes that exist in this country, largely due to media coverage.  This ultimately led to a bigger discussion of politics and what my professor called “fantasy facts.”  It seems as if it is becoming more and more common these days to simply make up what one does not know.  That, or people spit out information that has no basis in empiricism.  Who cares about the reality of anything?  The “talking heads” in this country certainly do not.

I’ll provide you with a few examples.  When Planned Parenthood was under attack (although the majority of Americans approve of the services they provide), Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, made the claim that abortion was “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”  This statement was made during a meeting on the senate floor.  Kyl’s statement could not possibly be further from reality.  Still, I’ve heard this figure used in debate by a classmate of mine that is pro-life.  You’d think that statistics given to us by our leaders would be valid, but I recommend going straight to the source if you ever want to actually learn something.

Another example comes from my favorite Minnesota Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann.  To call her a climate change denier is an understatement.  She goes as far as saying that humans are not contributing to increasing levels of carbon dioxide because carbon dioxide is a natural substance.  I’ll let you watch it for yourself:

The consensus of the scientific community is that our increasing levels of carbon dioxide have been profoundly influenced by human activity.  But why should be listen to the scientific community when we’re dealing with a scientific issue when we can just make things up on the floor of the House?  It’s just so much easier to “prove” a point when you are not required to use any factual statements whatsoever.

According to Fox News you can also go get a Pap smear at Walgreens.  Thanks for the valuable information.  I’ll be sure to make my appointment.

The bottom line here is that it really does not matter what is said in public discourse anymore.  Who is speaking seems to have more relevance than the words that are actually spoken.  This practice is extremely problematic and even harmful.  When a social scientist (Diederik Stapel) makes up their own data and presents it as fact, they are fired and there is talk of pressing criminal charges.  When our politicians and the leaders of this country make up their own data it is just another day on the job.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/jon-kyl-is-sorry-if-he-ga_n_846941.html
http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/03/25/174958/bachmann-climate-denier/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diederik_Stapel

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