Facts versus Influence

Escapable Logic may have nailed the answer to my “why do people still buy the bullshit” question:

…we’ve never had a fact-based politician and if you read or write a blog or software code, you’re committed to the outrageous notion that facts matter. For many people, facts don’t matter. The process of discovering, testing, discarding and describing facts is such a mystery to many that they’re not willing to trust it. Most of us, and certainly most people in power, are interested only in what increases our influence, which is rarely factual.

This rings true to me on a number of levels. Recently, the local paper here in Herndon has had a bit of a back and forth about the Bush Administration. The thing that my wife pointed out to me was how the anti-Bush letter writers produced facts and specific points to illustrate their position. The other side through out things like: “Clinton lied” or “What about Whitewater?” or “Liberals who don’t want to stand up for the brave men and women fighting for freedom” and so forth. All of those are invective. They are not facts. They do not put forth an argument and then support it. They are purely attempts to influence (read: manipulate). Even trying to answer those statements moves the conversation immediately into a no-man’s land where no one can win. If you try to point out that what Clinton did or did not do has nothing to do with what Bush is currently doing (or that two wrongs don’t make a right, etc.) you end up in a long discussion about Clinton, the nature of morality, and why the liberals have no family values or somesuch nonsense. If you try to point out that being against Bush or the war in Iraq or the like has nothing to do with supporting to people in the military you get sucked into another vortex.

Can a facts-based politician win in this country? That would be a very interesting thing to see and experience. Maybe Howard Dean is the person to do it?