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Memories of the 28th Century

Spotting the Lies

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I was working on a work of fiction, when I realized that what I had one character complain about was a major problem in today's world. The character was talking about setting up a school that would teach the basics of Rhetoric and Logic, so that the graduates would later be able to make better arguments and to detect fallacious arguments. The problem is that most people never learn the basics of argumentation and logic, so they can't tell when someone is using a logical fallacy, and much of the oral and written communication that we see is chock full of logical fallacies, that are used in attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.

I just learned that there is a movement, especially in home schooling to reintroduce classical education. I am shocked that it has to be reintroduced. I can't understand why teaching grammar, logic, and rhetoric would have gone out of fashion, especially since there have been attempts to teach more and better math, and math requires an understanding of logic.

But it doesn't stop there, people should also be learning how the world got here to the present international situation, and that requires learning a lot of history. Even people who study history usually don't learn much about how it fits together, because most historians are specialists with great knowledge in one region or country during a particular era. No one can know everything, but most people can learn a lot about a lot.

It is very nice to comment about what it is good to learn, but the alternative is more dramatic. An excellent way to manipulate people is to play with how one expresses things. Donald Trump lies like a rug, but if one doesn't know that and doesn't know the actual facts, then he might sound like an expert.

I pasted a link to a page on some of Trump's lies. Anyone knew anything about those matters would have laughed any many of them, because they are that far from the truth, but people without the education and background to tell might take them as actual facts. And we should remember that Trump isn't the only liar out there. Most politicians lie, and most voters are duped at least some of the time. However, Trump has been so much for so long and for his advantage that I wonder if he might be a glib sociopath.

Regardless of the underlying cause for lies, people who understand grammar and logic can tell that they are lies, if they have adequate knowledge. Learning is the key, and one must continue to learn, because there are new and different lies being served all of the time. I wonder whether any educational standards would get people to a level of competence where they would be able to recognize propaganda, fake news, etc.

I was just reminded that one of the biggest fake news stories of all time was “The Great Balloon Hoax” by Edgar Allen Poe.
It should have been obvious to anyone who thought about the hoax that a flying machine of the sort described could not possibly have cross the Atlantic in seventy-five hours (that’s three days and three hours); that would be more than forty miles per hour, and there weren’t even trains that could do that, at that time. This is an excellent example of how a good education would defeat even good lies. When I read this story in my youth, I didn’t realize that it had been published as fact, because it was clearly fantastic literature; Jules Verne later wrote From Earth to Moon in a similar style.

I suppose we should understand that Trump isn’t much different from Poe, except that Poe was a writer and editor, and Trump is president of the U.S.A. Poe was responsible for his words, while Trump is irresponsible; although he should be responsible for the well-being of the United States of America.

If we could require that people tell us whether they were writing fact of fiction and expect that they would accurately describe their writings, then lies, fake news, propaganda, marketing lies, and so on wouldn’t be problems, but telling the truth about their lies would reduce their effectiveness, so they don’t admit to their lies, and the laws and courts in the U.S. do not force people to tell the truth in marketing, etc. The only alternative is to make people learn how to tell which is what, and that requires the teaching of grammar, rhetoric, logic, and so on.