Tales of Our Times
By JOHN BARTLIT
New Mexico Citizens
for Clean Air & Water
Impartial Testing Tests Courage
The impartial study has it own place on the list of big risks. I speak of impartial studies, or tests, that one might call “politically timely,” as in a public controversy. A current case in need of impartial testing is Russian ties in the last election process. My focus here is the human nature lurking around such a study.
Human quirks intrude in public issues that need answers. Before we know it, choices from the big box of assumptions stand in for answers. Teams, some as large as political parties, are formed to back differing assumptions. Assumptions, though, are not the end of the quest. A necessary step en route to sound answers is impartial testing.
When people suspect their well-being may be at risk from another’s activities, we often hear calls for a study of the risk—a fair and impartial study. To be heard, the calls must be persistent and loud. Such calls stir up qualms about an unbiased study. Why so? Our team sees exactly where unbiased answers will defeat the opponent’s case. But teams stay blind to the equal risks such tests pose to their own team. Every mind has this basic design.
An impartial study is a threat to all sides, because the outcome is not known. The results will add credence to one viewpoint, to the detriment of another. The threat looms over assets more precious than mere public safety or cash flow. Reputations and egos are at stake. Worse yet, votes may be at stake.
Each team is outwardly certain the study will bear out its own staunch position, although the teams differ widely on issues. Yet when the day dies down and we all unplug, a seed of doubt sticks in each of our darkest recesses. The mind works of its own accord: What if the findings somehow should show my team is not as right as I think it is? What then?
Human traits decide. Rarely will the words be as plain as, “The test results show your view has more merit than our side thought it had.” Routinely, the thrust is crudely generic: “The results are contrived and deceiving.”
But back to the case of Russian ties in the last big election. As with jungle drumming, every shift in the wind brings different calls for an impartial study or investigation. Yet, little is said about the crux of the matter, “impartial.” The features of impartial tests are reported about far less than the events in question. How strange is that? If the calls were in earnest, the first three steps taken would be mutual efforts to define a study that is impartial.
If an impartial study were desired, people know ways to do it and new ways can be invented for any situation. Alas, team courage is slow.
Democrats suspect dark ties exist between Donald Trump, his associated Republicans and influential Russians. Republicans suspect dark ties between Hillary Clinton, her associated charitable foundation, the Democratic Party Headquarters and influential Russians. Each party could draw up a list of Russian ties they want investigated and agree to investigate all of them.
If any party had the courage to promote an impartial study, they could draft an impartial option for the parties to approve, add to, or modify to make it more impartial. Other ways of getting at the truth are known, such as a mock trial. Impartial processes may be slow, but they work faster than the months of talk shows and news reporting about charges and denials.
The next time you are mired in rehashing Republican and Democratic “facts” with friends or family, try moving the conversation in a new direction. See who can invent the most impartial ways of testing the party facts. Anything new that springs up has more use than a rehash and the game of doing it is a good deal more fun. One sunny day, ideas may go viral.