Friday, April 28, 2017

"Salvaging A Perspective Recently Inappropriately Disparaged"

The Perspective:  “Alternative facts.”  Which I shall proceed to resuscitate.

A while back, in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, a woman wrote about coping with the current presidential debacle by deliberately reading books about previous terrible presidents.  To demonstrate that the current president isn’t so terrible?  No, she explained.  He is terrible.  But reading about previous ones reminds us that presidents have been terrible before.  

Optimistic Corollary:  Therefore, ultimately survivable.

Let me herein honestly attest that I – Braggy Braggerson – was way ahead of her concerning this practice.

I have always been interested in terrible presidents. 

You want proof?  Okay, here’s proof.

On my last birthday, at my less than subtle request – “I want those!” – I received – from the “American Presidents Collection” (wherein a different eminent historian is assigned to write a less than 200-page biography of every president – Exception:  the Ulysses S. Grant “Large Print” version I received expanded to 309 pages… do you happen to remember how this sentence began?  Okay I’ll remind you. 

On my last birthday, I received seven authoritative, short presidential biographies, among which were the biographies of Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan, William McKinley and Warren G. Harding. 

With the exception of Buchanan, who is factually unsalvageable – he supported the “Dred Scot” decision (slaves captured in free territories had to be returned to their masters) and whose belief concerning the seceding southern states during his presidential tenure amounted to, “I am against their seceding unless they want to” – the other historians’ researched conclusions concerning their assigned subjects ranged resuscitatingly from McKinley – he is woefully underappreciated – to Harding – he was better than “nearly as bad as Buchanan.”

Bringing me to the concept of “Alternative Facts.”

Here’s the thing about that idea.  I’ll use me as an example, because… why not?

I have, on occasion, been known to be nice to people.  And were you, in the course of chronicling my life, to have an contacted those people I had been nice to, those people would have hopefully reported, “He was nice to me”, and, if you had corroborating evidence in that regard, that extolling insight into my characer would then be included in my biography, which might possibly be entitled:  Earl Pomerantz – They Called Him Nice.

On the other hand…

The opposite thing.

Which I have also occasionally been to people. 

Corroborating evidence in that direction leading to an alternate biographical conclusion, entitled:  Earl Pomerantz – Bad To The Bone.

Do you see what I’m talking about?  Without bias or preconception – or, perhaps, resulting from bias or preconception – because, in any person’s actual life they do tons of stuff, some of it frustratingly inconsistent, evidence can be readily assembled, leading to honestly supportable but violently contradictory conclusions.

“Grant was a drunkard.” 

“Hold on – it wasn’t that bad.”

“Was he or wasn’t he?” is for another blog post.  My point today is, biographers on both sides can provide evidentiary backing for either.

I at first reflexively snorted, hearing about about “alternative facts” as it related, originally, to the estimated crowd size at the recent president’s inauguration.  And I cheered, hearing about (because I don’t watch anymore) commentator Chuck Todd, crippled by having been wrong about everything concerning the election, rise up and proclaim, with admirable righteous indignation, “Look!  Alternative facts are not facts.  They’re falsehoods!”    

But then I thought about it.

And I realized they’re not.

“Angry Chuck” was sadly aiming at the wrong target.  (An additional misstep he hardly needed after his unfortunate recent track record.)

“Alternative facts” are hardly the enemy.  The real enemy is “fabricated facts.”  (Such as the inaccurate crowd-size figures at the inauguration, or seeing thousands of people in New Jersey cheering when the World Trade Center went down.) 

Equally objectionable are “debunked facts.”  (Such as those opposing legitimate “Climate Change” arguments or those supporting “Supply-Side Economics”, which economists are surprised is still breathing after nearly unanimously driving an unsurvivable stake into its heart.)

It felt viscerally redemptive, taking someone publicly to task for the distortion labeled “alternative facts.”  But when you are after the big whale, you must be sure you are brandishing the appropriate harpoon… so to speak.  

Otherwise, it’s Earl Pomerantz – Bad To The Bone, with no rebutting substantiatable alternative reality.

Leaving me forever remembered as a terrible person.

When I was only actually terrible sometimes.
Observation I Forgot To Include Because I Did Not Know Where To Put It:  Every debate is a contest of alternate facts.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

You make an interesting case. But I think what's legitimate is an alternative *presentation* of facts (see, for your entertainment and enlightenment, Darrell Huff's delightful short book, HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS). How can actual facts be alternative to anything but non-facts?