George Graham

Whose Facts Do You Trust?


A new study published in Social Science Quarterly confirms a suspicion I’ve had all along. The study finds that people develop “distorted factual beliefs” because of their views.

In other words, we subconsciously tend to accept “facts” that substantiate our beliefs.

And no, it’s not only Fox News (although they’re probably the world’s leading example). It’s basic human nature. Anyone who has had an argument with a spouse or lover will probably know what I mean.

The situation becomes diabolical when professionals make a living by using this instinct to promote propaganda. And that’s the way it is in America today.

Already, the spin machines are at work reconstructing the tragedy in Ferguson to suit one political agenda or another. I am sure you have your own version of what really happened in that wretched town, and it could be quite different from mine.

The demonizing of Michael Brown – the unarmed black teenager who was shot dead by white police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9 – is being countered by the demonizing of the local police, for example.

Meanwhile, the situation in Ferguson shows no sign of improving. CNN reports this morning that:

Stun grenades and tear gas canisters arced through the night sky and into crowds of protesters overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, after police said they had been targeted with rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire amid continuing demonstrations over the death of Michael Brown.

Two people were shot — not by police, authorities said. Four officers were injured. Police arrested at least 31 people.

The two sides seem to be drifting farther apart as the days go by. While supporters of the black protesters air their grievances not only in Ferguson but far and wide, supporters of the shooter are speaking out, too. CNN reports they held a rally in St. Louis this week, and “as of Tuesday, more than 500 people had donated in excess of $20,000 to a fund for Wilson.”

Both sides are clamoring for the truth to be told.  But what truth? Their truth, of course. And you can bet those two “factual” versions will have little in common.

Without the real truth, how can there be justice?

Perhaps the sooner the case goes to court the better. With witnesses testifying under oath, there’s a better chance of getting at what really happened on that fatal day in Ferguson.

I don’t see how anyone could argue that there’s not enough “probable cause” to file charges against Officer Wilson. But – hey – that’s just my understanding of the “facts.”

Click for the CNN report.

Click for more on the study.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for