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Letter to the Editor: An urgent need for commonly accepted facts

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received August 23, 2021.

This is not intended to come off as partisan, biased, or even targeting anyone in particular or their views – it seems like there has been more than enough of that going around in the recent publications of H-K News.  What I am more concerned with addressing, and what I hope comes through as the central message, is that, as a Democratic Republic forged on the premise that two of the most salient pieces central to a successful democracy are the laws that bind us together and an educated citizenry, that it is vitally important that when there is unequivocal evidence that prove something to be a fact, that those facts are then accepted by all. 

Jefferson once said, “In a Republic, whose citizens are led by reason and persuasion, and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of the first importance.”  To be sure, forming opinions, drawing conclusions, and reasoning out ideas is not only vital to a democracy, but the very act of forming opinions and reasoning out ideas can and will vary person by person based on many factors.

Confirmation bias, the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them, is a well studied human phenomena, with many experiments done at Stanford and other higher education universities which prove this.  Confirmation bias is only further exacerbated in today’s electronically connected world by people’s choices as to which media outlet, social media thread, or influential personality people choose to follow to amplify the echo chamber that confirms what they believe. 

All of this is the messy part of living in an open, democratic society where free speech and thought is encouraged, and it certainly makes maintaining an educated citizenry a challenge.  However, one of the key components to having an educated citizenry in a republic besides forming opinions and reasoning things out, in my opinion, is at the very least, having commonly accepted and shared facts around which to make those reasons and draw those conclusions.

Thomas Huxley rightly noted that, “irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.” In reading the past few editions of the H-K News, it has become blatantly evident that many of the people writing in to the paper are basing their reasoning and opinions on “irrationally held truths,” or more bluntly put, blatant falsehoods.  I find it absolutely disturbing to the core, even appalling, that many of the people who have written in recently to address the upcoming B.O.E. elections, while either defending themselves or others, have unequivocally left out, distorted, or reimagined facts on which their reasons and opinions rest. 

Not only is it hard to take anyone seriously who so egregiously assaults what should be commonly accepted facts, but it is also dishearteningly deflating to think that this is what has come of an educated citizenry.  For example, many writers recently referred to the Jan. 6th insurrection in their pieces on the B.O.E. candidates.  In doing so, some said it was an assembly of people’s first amendment rights – (factually true) . . .  until the illegal entry and violent storming of the capital. 

One recent writer said, “there is no evidence the rioters were armed . . . the only casualty at the riot was unarmed Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt.”  You may form whatever opinions you wish and reason out whatever thoughts you may desire about the events of Jan. 6., but those reasons and opinions SHOULD and MUST be made on a commonly shared set of facts. 

There is overwhelming evidence, both testimonial and via media footage, that the rioters (not all of them for sure) were armed.  Bear spray, flagpoles used as weapons, and even gear seized from capitol police all served as some of the weapons used. 

There is compelling evidence that the peaceful assembly of people’s 1st amendment rights clearly turned into a violent insurrection not just on our capitol building, but on the very core of democracy, as that day was meant for Congress to confirm the electoral college results as prescribed in our Constitution and clear audio and video evidence shows people actively seeking to stop that process. There is explicit evidence to show that many capital officers were assaulted and suffered both physical and mental injuries. 

If the writer who suggested these things “did not happen,” or is caught up on the semantics of the words “armed” and “casualty,” implying that to be armed is to have a gun and to be a casualty is to suffer death, than that writer is either plainly ignoring the unambiguous and overwhelming evidence to the contrary facts or actively seeking to distort them to fit his narrative. 

Either way, this unforgivable attack on what should be commonly accepted facts is part of what is at the core of what is wrong today.  In a pluralistic society such as ours, it is vital to form opinions and reason out ideas . . . just please do so without ignoring or distorting facts that are overwhelmingly confirmed by evidence and should be the bedrock of any reasoning or opinions put forth.

Justin Esposito
Killingworth

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