Facts, Facts, Everywhere, But Truth is Scarce

I’ve got a new business idea for anyone who wants it: become a paid data liar, by offering to find facts to fit any point of view your clients want to put forth. Call it facts for hire. It would be a bit like the hired gun in the old west, but more suited for today’s times.

For example, your client wants to say that eggs are unhealthy? “Sure,” you say, “I’ll find you facts for that.” You quote a price, clients like it, and off you go. You’ll come back with the story about eggs and cholesterol. And of course you’ll tell just the one side of the story.  Or you can do the same with coffee, milk, most any food or drink.

And don’t think your business would be limited to facts about foods or health. You could easily find facts to justify almost any position about business, the economy, entrepreneurship, and so forth.

I think of the iPhone app ads. State a position, about any issue, and there’s a fact for that.

There was a time when good information was worth money because it was hard to find. Now good information is abundant, so much so that every view that’s possible to be imagined can be supported with charts and graphs. William Blake wrote:

Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth.

Now you can add: and we can find facts to prove it.

If you don’t believe me, consider all those claims in the political ads we heard during the recent election season; or global warming. And in the areas I normally follow, such as entrepreneurship education, or the cost of startups, or the prospects of venture capital, or the rise of angel investment, facts are just as easy to find.

So, if you’re running a business, what do you do with the analytics? How many decisions do you make based on the research? Good luck with that.

9 thoughts on “Facts, Facts, Everywhere, But Truth is Scarce

  1. Thanks for the article! So true and so scary that it is true. I go even farther when i tell the high school students i speak to that “as a matter offact, some facts are fiction. Things we pass on to our childeren are not always true.

    As a result , it is more important than ever that we teach young people to be critical thinkers, develop good research habits to verify claims, know the difference between fact and opinion and to develp sources to find multiple perspectives before accepting a ‘fact’. These skills will serve us well as cutuzens in a democracy and consumers in a capatalistic society. The only down side is that uethical marketers and poiliticians may not be as rich or elected to as many terms, but that is not really a down-side at all!

  2. Thank you! I too am in full agreement. When it comes to the “politicians” who put out so many false adds and did so much negative press related to others, it seemed to be an oxymoron that this was taking place at the same time as news about “how to deal with bullies!” Nothing like having the example of bullying being paraded out there as an example of what to do? But back to the issue of speaking your truth. I do speaking and training and coaching. It is interesting that we do need to show some facts, yet the heart of it all is in the authentic voice and message. Of course, as long as it is not shoved down someone’s throat – that the person presenting it is the only expert with any real possible correct answer. LOL!

  3. Tim

    Great bit of writing.

    I teach statistics at a local college and always start the semester with the great Mark Twain quote: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics!

    Thanks,
    Mark

  4. This article is a gross over-simplification of the world of data analytics. The first glaring error is the apparent equation of facts = data. This is not necessarily true.

    The word “analytics” is most frequently used in a professional context to refer to numerical data trends. And while it is true that numerical trends can lead one to make inaccurate assumptions, a wise and experience analyst will employ all available means to validate any theories drawn from numerical analysis before deciding on a conclusion.

    1. For most of these comments, I say thanks, you’re probably wrong, and if you wait a bit I’ll go find the facts to prove it. For John, of the “gross oversimplification” comment, yeah, I know, and I sympathize with your pain, which is sort of where I started. In the real world, the “wise and experienced analysts” you mention are going to get drowned out by all the voices concerned way more with taking a side than validating data. Like R. Hughes suggests, in that comment, think of lobbyists, then add wise and experienced analysts, and, well, good luck with that.

      I do appreciate the comments here. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

  5. in today’s world, no lie. no sell. everything you see on TV today is based on one of other lie but that works, under the bare skin or flashy mimicry. and the utmost lies are taught in American schools to the kids about other culture and society. many lies make it truth, so is widely prevalent in American society. i am afraid the next american generation has no angle to see real truth buried in thousand lies.

  6. Nilesh, thanks, I think. I’m American, but I’ve also lived in two other countries and worked in several dozen, and while I think what you say here about American schools and American society is true, I’d say that it’s also true in a whole lot of other countries, most other countries.

    Here in the USA we are way more provincial than we should be, and the ignorance of our general public about ways of life in other countries has been highlighted often enough. Our schools don’t do well at teaching about other culture and society, and it’s a damn shame.

    On the other hand, at least we don’t institutionally teach hate and villanizing whole nations and whole societies. We do have way too many individuals and fanatics and extremists who do, and free speech has given some of them way more attention than they deserve. But we have strong “respect others” and “keep an open mind” themes in our mainstream public schools and mainstream public discourse.

    I guess I’m a bit uncomfortable with your use of the word “American” in your comment. It makes me nervous. It smacks of a kind of villanization that makes one powerful nation the root of all evil, and, if that’s what you’re intending to say, I don’t agree.

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