Letter To The Editor: Truthiness, Or Fun With Election Hype

By DAVID NORTH
Los Alamos

Brace yourself. Here comes the media storm of exaggerations, illogics, sentimentalism, tirades and irrelevancies about the looming bond measure.

But coping with it can be fun when you play “The Truthiness Game”.

The idea? Spot a statement that seems to make sense but just might not be true. It’s easier if you already know it’s fishy. Then try to determine just how true or false it is.

Assign a percentage value to how true it sounds (truthiness) and then another value for how accurate it really is (truth). Subtract the truth from the truthiness and you have your score. A perfect find is a statement that sounds absolutely true but is actually completely false (score of 100).

For example, this harmless tidbit recently showed up in the Los Alamos Daily Post: “…construction of the recreation center would bring utilities and infrastructure to DP Road” (link).

Sounds reasonable. The rec center would need utilities.

But let’s look into it. During the final site discussion, a question came up about the cost of connecting utilities. Turns out a nearby lot is already slated for development and, according to Harry Burgess, $2 million is already set aside to connect utilities. The rec center can piggyback basically for free. So the lines are already budgeted and going in anyway.

How truthy was the claim? How honest?

The real fun starts when more people play. You can discuss the levels of truthiness or truth and reach consensus on scores.

More eyes mean finding more goofy statements to compare. More folks mean finding even more interesting logical errors and factual blunders.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Los Alamos Daily Post had a way to set up a site where anybody could submit a phrase and people could make comments and assign values?

We’d surely get a better idea of what the real issues are. And it might even cut down on the amount of, well, let’s call it “bloviation”.

A quick warning, though – just because someone says something that turns out to be untrue, you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion they’re fibbing. In some cases, they may be repeating something they shouldn’t have trusted. In other cases, it could be a simple error, oversight or misunderstanding.

Play nice.

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