Whom to believe?

My mother has a wealth of sayings that are trotted out when the occasion demands. I’ve started to take note of them, as some are classics. She doesn’t for a minute lay claim to them as products of her own invention, more that they’re the kernels of wisdom on which she was reared.

One of my all-time favourites is that paper will take any print.

I’ve rattled on before about how difficult I find it to believe what’s happening these days. For every account of X doing Y, there’s another of X doing everything but. It would seem to me that the media has become the stage on which most of life is played with.


There was an instance last week of the WSJ purportedly publishing two different headlines in two different regions saying two different things and thereby manipulating the American voting public. Now, it turns out that it did print two issues – but for the same region – just at different times. Like many others, I was quick to repost and decry the shame of it all… I stand corrected.

Colleen Schwartz, the Vice President of Communications at The Wall Street Journal, confirmed that these editions were printed at different times, not in different markets. The edition on the left was published after Trump met with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto early in the day (and referenced the seemingly cooperative tone of their discussion), and the edition on the right was published after Trump delivered a speech on immigration later in the day (and referenced Trump’s reasserting his stance that he would force Mexico to pay for the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border).

Someone else posted a story from the Irish Independent with the headlines:

Irish Euromillions winner bans children’s football club from playing on pitch on her land

How could she? Honestly! How mean. But then in the comments, another link appeared, this time to an earlier article in the Belfast Telegraph:

Strabane’s unemployed £27m Lottery winner is giving away £26m ‘for the good of the town’

Whom to believe? What to believe? Is she the good witch or the bad witch? The comments under the Facebook post had people from the town calling her all sorts of names and saying that they’d never seen a penny in improvements. And others saying how great she is. What gives, eh?

You might wonder why I’m so lathered up about this. Well, the same week on Facebook, there was a video clip doing the rounds from a BBC interview with Bertrand Russell (the mathematician/philosopher) back in 1959, about lessons he’d like to pass on to future generations. He said he had two: intellectual, one moral (we’ll come back to the moral one later).

The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

That was 1959. I wonder what the man would say today? Would he be disgusted at us for losing sight of the facts? Of ignoring them completely? Or would he have some sympathy for us as we try to wade through the deluge of information we can access in a vain attempt to establish what they actually are?

I tell you, it’s doing my head in.



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