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Living in a Post-Fact Society

The only thing more constant than the wind in Prince Edward County, is the ongoing debate about wind power.
The whole process of the government forcing wind power on the County really puts a burr under my saddle.
I’m not anti-wind power, but I’m stuck somewhere in Purgatory, with issues that need to be resolved.
Sure, pro-Big Wind people across the province can point to NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard). But the Power Suckers who live in urban areas like Toronto ­ who want their houses to be 60º F in the summer, and their pools to be 98 ­ only like wind because it’s in OUR Back Yard. Try planting ten of these monsters in Rosedale, and see how many smiley faces you can count.
When it comes to Wind Farms, urban demands for air-conditioning severely trump rural concerns.
This is because the Great Guru of Green, Dalton McGuinty, figures that rural Ontario supports about one person per 20 square kilometres. So you can plunk anything down in this vast open wasteland, and who cares?
This policy has worked great since Confederation, when land granted to the Indians was considered to still, really, be up for grabs, if the government changed its mind. This created the expression ‘Government-Giver’ to describe someone who gives something freely, and then takes it back when it suits their purpose. (You’re a victim too, but that’s in a later column.)
Two issues ago, we looked at Social Cost and Social Risk. I hope that some people got the point, and can now sleep at night, knowing that they’re not crazy. They’re just not willing to give up their lifestyles ­ their comfort, their view, their property values, and possibly their health ­ due to government mandates.
If the sociological principle of Social Cost is Reason One for our confusion, I would now like to offer Reason Two.
This also comes from the field of Sociology. (I read a lot, and I gave up on the study of Economics, because I couldn’t figure out why, when the price of crude oil goes up, we pay more at the pump. And when the price of crude goes down, we pay more at the pump. It was a choice between ordering a straight-jacket, or switching to Sociology.)
So I stumbled across a reference to a book called True Enough: Learning to live in a Post-Fact Society.
Hmmm. A Post-Fact Society.
I really get that.
In the author’s words: “Facts no longer matter. We simply decide how we want to see the world and then go out and find experts and evidence to back our beliefs.”
This simple statement rocked my world. As a publisher of history, an author, and a former news reporter trained in the Old School of Facts and Objectivity, I suddenly understood why I can’t move into the new world of Instant Communication.
I know I’m not alone, here in the County.
I don’t ‘get’ Facebook entries which say: “Im eatg a chz samwh.” I don’t know how to Twitter, and don’t know why I would want to. And, even under extreme torture, I cannot type tiny little buttons with my thumbs. I can’t text, and don’t know if anyone has ever texted me, because I just figured out that my cellphone has been on ‘mute’ for months, because I hit some button on the side, sometime back in January.
So, to drive the Post-Fact concept home, let me say that I can provide absolute proof that Ontario has the best Health Care System in the world. I can also prove that Ontario has butchered our hospitals, and lost track of its original purpose ­ to use our tax money to help and serve sick people.
This is also why hundreds of thousands of North Americans believe Christ was white, when he probably looked more like Omar Sharif than Brad Pitt. (And, yes, I know the verses which support the White Christ, so please don’t tackle me on this.)
The point is: In a society which has too many facts ­ all slamming up against each other from totally different points of view with totally different statistics ­ how do we know what is true?
Just coming out of an election in which Harper claims to have increased the Health Care budget by almost exactly the same amount Layton says it was  decreased … well, it shows that even our leaders can’t dig out genuine facts anymore.
It goes back to the old adage: “Truth is what you make it.”
This is why, I’m proud to say, I launched the idea of a ‘moratorium’ on wind power, an expression which has been used many times since. It’s not that I’m anti-wind, I’d just like to slow the train down until the facts catch up.
Right now, Denmark loves Big Wind, and it provides a huge percentage of its power. Denmark also hates them, and wants to tear them down, because they were a total failure.
Even if you flew to Denmark to get the Real Truth … who are you going to ask?
Go on the internet, or read the local letters pages in which wild statistics are being thrown everywhere like paint on an abstract canvas. If you can sort your way through the maze of Undeniable Facts which totally contradict each other, then you are a bonafide genius.
The Post-Fact Society is a hard transition for those of us who grew up in the Information Age.
In those days, young newsman Walter Cronkite stood on Vietnamese soil and announced to the world that the U.S. was not winning the war in Vietnam, despite American military Œfacts¹ and body counts to the contrary.
It changed the course of American politics forever. The bond of trust between Americans and their government was broken at that moment ­ with a simple statement of fact ­ and the exposure of Nixon’s secret bombings of Cambodia (which was not at war) drove the final nail in the coffin.
This is how facts can change the world. And sometimes it’s a painful experience.
Now we have internet ­ instant info, don’t care if it’s right or wrong, because it’s FAST. And things like Wikipedia ­ which replaces information from learned scholars with information from one of the several billion people who have internet access.
Even if they’re 12 years old.
In short, now we’re just making it up.
Is it any wonder we’re confused?

Filed Under: Steve Campbell

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  1. Renee says:

    Great post Steve!

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