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Facts Online Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

7 May 2019

The phrase "facts online" struck us as a bit awkward at first. Then we considered the source, famous for the perfectly natural-sounding "beer on tap." The one phrase echoes the other not by accident, we presume.

Facts Online. With extend Happy Hours.

Honest Abe is just the sort of recruit the Kremlin would prize in its dual international initiatives to infect the gullible with, well, online "facts"(or what you might think of as "fake opinion") and turn long red ties into a fashion statement.

But Abe didn't make it to the Internet age.

And the declining number of us who know that are the only ones who get the joke. A sodden thought, perhaps, even at happy hour.

Having sunk this low, though, we might as well dig for the deeper meaning.

It isn't "facts" (or the online medium itself) so much as opinion posing as facts that cannot be validated. Or as the sign proprietor might put it, "That and three bucks gets you a beer during happy hour."

We tend to leave the boring facts from reputable sources undisturbed for the song and dance of opinion. We don't share news stories, we share interpretations of the news.

As if, you know, we have to be told what to think.

The point of an education, if we recall, is to learn how to think for ourselves. No Russian hacker required. No network analyst either.

You just do the research and weigh the facts you dig up.

And in fact, before we tip our bar stool too far toward opinion here, let's lean back the other way to fact and remember at someone who did it right.

With is wife Esther, I.F. Stone published a four-page weekly between 1953 and 1971. I.F. Stone's Weekly was prized for ripping through public documents (literally, he would tear the pages) for both information and what officials said about it, which was often contradictory. "I tried to give information which could be documented so the reader could check it for himself," he once explained his approach.

The trick, he added, was this: "The bureaucracies put out so much that they cannot help letting the truth slip from time to time."

The truth is funny that way. Lies don't slip out, they badger. But the truth slips out unobstructed when no one is watching.

Stone started with 5,000 readers and grew the circulation to 20,000 in the early 1960s and as high as 70,000. In the Internet age, that wouldn't buy him a beer. But he never lost money even though he had to print that newspaper and mail it second class every week. And raise two kids.

He let the facts speak for themselves, especially the "significant trifles" he dug up, but he didn't shy away from expressing his opinion. And he preserved a sense of humor which brightened everything he dished up.

Facts online and fake opinion would have amused him no end, we think. Especially as discussed by a president of the United States.

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