Hey America — you need a lesson in fact vs opinion

This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail


Do you understand the difference between a fact and an opinion?

I’m asking because it’s a point that many Americans seem confused about.

It’s a problem, because the Americans just chose a racist and narcissist piece of cheese to be the most powerful human being on the planet, and to be at the helm of the world’s largest economy and the most powerful military humanity has ever known.

It’s simple. A fact is a thing which is proved by a whole bunch of evidence and usually backed by science. Have a quick look around, they’re everywhere.

The money you have can be exchanged for goods and services — fact.

If you only eat fast food and sugary crap, you lower your life expectancy — fact.

Evolution, climate change, and singer Cher’s career is winding down — all facts… or are they?

That last one’s a trick, because it feels like a fact, but it’s actually an opinion.

An educated opinion, but an opinion nonetheless as Cher may make a comeback.

How she’s going to top riding an anti-aircraft gun in a one-piece I have no idea but that’s only my opinion.

So, I was having an argument yesterday with “An American”.

He said: “The best way to cut crime is to increase penalties.”

I replied: “No. According to studies and research, the best way involves shortening sentences, raising wages, increasing services and concentrating on rehabilitation.”

He said: “That’s just your opinion, because there are plenty of studies that say the exact opposite.”

Then he asked me for directions to the Great Barrier Reef, and I told him it was in Adelaide, and he said thank you and drove off into the desert.

I expect to see him on the news in a day or two.

I blame the internet. Anything you want to believe, no matter how stupid and nonsensical, you’ll find a bunch of people saying it on the internet and the power of all those voices makes it feel like a fact.

Information is not simply a collection of opinions that are equally as valid. There’s a hierarchy based on the facts.

That doesn’t mean every fact is going to be correct forever. What we know is always being tweaked and improved and just because a fact might be replaced be a more refined version, you can’t just make up any crazy wrong thing and pretend it’s equally as valid.

Take the American election. Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax and immigrants are to blame for everything.

Two beliefs that he presents as facts but are very much just his opinion, and have been proven to be factually incorrect.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is guilty of altering her views to win votes. Like just about every politician ever.

Trump supporters say it’s a fact that she’s crooked but that’s never been proven, so it’s just an opinion.

The scariest thing of all is that everyone in America gets to vote, and a man who doesn’t understand the difference between a fact and an opinion is now the most powerful person in the world.

I just wish that Donald Trump had been the American asking me for directions.

This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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