Saint-Exupery´s hat – the ideal metaphor for facts

Once data is regulated in a new way, the question is back: what is correct data? Some of it is already known, so that it does not have status of information anymore, since they do not provide anything new. Some are discredited as not true. The post-factual public questions everything and everyone nowadays. The original sense of facts (i.e. occurrences, actions, deeds) was derived in the 16th century from the Latin facere (i.e., make, do). Indignation spreads when facts are used by dissidents. They are quickly outlined as wrong and untrue. At the same time we have learned that there are different perspectives onto the world. Saint-Exupéry has described this with a drawing of an apparent hat. But what makes facts true?

In order to circumstantiates a thing, expressions are required that consist of texts, pictures, sounds and the like. But what are the elements that produce the impact of a fact?

  • Paper doesn’t blush
    A look into a printed matter or into a virtual publication generates awe of the published word. Many are missing the point that it could be a truly false statement. You can actually publish the biggest crap and still finding people, who believe it – be it a moon landing that should not have taken place; UFOs that kidnap people; or Pope Francis, who should have declared his support for Trump.
    Printable things seem always to be true.
  • Seeing is believing
    The media has made such progress that you can create every conceivable circumstance by means of digital image processing. Since a picture says more than a thousand words and for many, seeing is believing, facts are being more and more created through manipulated pictures and films – be it the many political pictures from which unwanted comrades have been retouched; manipulated rocket launches; or mobile videos with posed scenes.
    A picture is a representation of reality and therefore it’s true.
  • Everyone has its right perspective
    The point of view determines how pictures are put together and what ends up in the foreground and background. Eyewitnesses are also stuck in their perspective. As a result, a situation, besides the distortions in the memory, is perceived subjectively – be it the viewpoints of the cameramen and photographers; the eyewitnesses of the assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy; or the border conflicts on the Gaza Strip.
    The truth lies in the eye of the beholder.
  • Authorities can not be wrong
    The reference to a historical personality unburdens the individual of the responsibility for assessing and valorizing the situation, although the listener does not necessarily understand what was meant originally. Even if on closer examination it turns out that the statement was made in a specific context in terms of time and content – be it the stock exchange speculator, who sometimes wins and sometimes loses a billion; the tech magnate, who determined that 640 KB of memory would be sufficient for the computer memory; or the car inventor, who limited the worldwide demand for cars to one million due to the lack of chauffeurs.
    Why should you burden yourself with an assessment, if an expert knows better.
  • That’s what everybody does
    What’s really scary is the fact that we tend to believe what many believe to be true. This so-called group thinking distorts the personal rating till unrecognizability. After a certain time, the same individuals ask themselves how they could believe it – whether it was the mass panic that triggered a radio play in 1938 in the USA; herd-like investment in insurance; or sticking to the routine in the face of an exploding reactor in Japan.
    Following in the footsteps of others creates security and the crowd cannot be wrong.
  • The wording produces new old
    The meaning depends on the words with which the circumstances are expressed. At the same time, new words can make old facts appear in a new light. Be it the action-charged concept of movement, behind which political parties’ hide by suggesting that they do not have yet encrusted structures; the fake news, which suggest that alternative facts are wrong; or the avoidance of stigma words while maintaining racist behavior.
    A word means what the public means by it.
  • Interpretation – the step to new things of action
    The fact of matter becomes true when it is loaded with old aspects and finally uttered. The act of publication in the form of speeches, presentations or any other types of publication creates new facts. Fact check or not. In the end, do not trust statistics that you did not fake yourself.
    Facts of matter also result from accepted truths plus the own conclusions.

Bottom line: For thousands of years, philosophy has been struggling to find out what is true. Be it the shadows in Plato’s cave or the luminaries of today’s media. What is real and what we can perceive remains unclear for the time being. As a result, all sorts of seducers try to take sovereignty over truth. This applies to conspiracy theorists, fake news but also for the so-called official media. Who sees the hat, is right and who sees the elephant, is right and who sees the snake, is also right … The crucial question is what we make out of these facts and whether we can stick to it ethically.