The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


September 25, 2012

Henry Morgan, guest columnist: The fact is, everyone has an opinion

“Everyone is (still) entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

JOPLIN, Mo. — Marilyn Beasley (Globe, Sept. 11) experiences great difficulty differentiating between her strongly held beliefs and facts. Merriam-Webster defines fact as “the quality of being actual ... something that has actual existence.”

One’s feelings about a subject help form an opinion, and just because an opinion is strong doesn’t mean it is factual. No matter how strongly someone believes something, it is not a fact unless it has “actual existence.”

For example, Ms. Beasley claims that Paul Ryan can “run circles around Joe Biden.” That is not a fact; it is an opinion. Telling us that to be convinced of this we need only listen to Ryan speak is not evidence; it is her opinion. When I listen to him, for instance, I see a mendacious hypocrite. That is not a fact; it is just my opinion.

Beasley claims that Obama went on an apology tour, but every fact-checking organization has labeled that claim as false. Politifact awards it four Pinocchios. What some call an apology, others call a clarification. Opinion; not fact.

It is a fact that the Japanese government sent a message to the United States that it did not want an apology for dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It is not a fact that President Obama wanted to make such an apology, or that he requested it.

No fact-checking organization supports that charge, nor can Ms. Beasley. Opinion; not fact.

It is a fact that President Obama bowed down to the heads of Japan and Germany. Many other presidents have bowed to foreign leaders. President Eisenhower bowed to Archbishop Iknonos of the Greek Orthodox Church, to Pope John XXIII, and famously to Charles DeGaulle on Sept. 2, 1959.

President Nixon bowed to the emperor of Japan — an incident that outrages Ms. Beasley when the same act is performed by President Obama. President George W. Bush not only bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia, he also kissed him on the cheek and held his hand as they walked down the garden path at Bush’s Texas ranch. Where were Ms. Beasley’s expressions of outrage then? In all of these cases, I took the actions as simply acts of politeness, not of acquiescence.

Sometimes, even when the facts are facts, they do not support the claims that Ms. Beasley intends them to support. The three companies she lists to support her anti-EPA charges are good examples.

First Energy was forced to close its Little Blue Run coal slurry. That is a fact. However, it had polluted the local water table with poisonous selenium, phosphates and arsenic. SC&G was forced to close its Lake Murray coal-fired plants because it had polluted Lake Murray and the local water table with deadly mercury. The AEP’s problems were not caused by the EPA. Its problems were with PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio). It seems that it had grossly overcharged its customers and was forced to refund their money.

I suspect that even Ms. Beasley would have applauded these actions if she lived in the affected areas.

The claim that $716 billion was stolen from Medicare by the terms of the Affordable Care Act has been refuted by every fact-checking organization in the country. The funds will ultimately go right back into Medicare. Opinion; not fact.

And how about “sugarcoating”? Ms. Beasley’s term is an opinion, not a fact. It represents her appraisal of various actions with which she seems to disagree, so she employs the pejorative term “sugarcoating” to describe her feelings. Others would describe the same action with completely different terms. Opinion; not fact.

In my original article, I questioned how President Obama “knew” that he couldn’t fulfill the promises that Ms. Beasley claims he failed to fulfill.  Regardless of whether the president did or did not fulfill his promises, how does she know that he knew he couldn’t fulfill them?

Can we have an answer? Opinion; not fact.

Finally, for the sake of the young women in our community who have the need, can Ms. Beasley specify a few of the establishments in our community where they can obtain their contraceptives for “little or nothing”? I’m sure they would be grateful to know.

Ms. Beasley concludes her article by saying she “can provide the facts to back up what I write.” When is she going to start? Her rebuttal seems to indicate that she still doesn’t understand the difference between fact and opinion. She is unacquainted with facts and has a hazy notion of what they are.

She seems to be thoroughly convinced that if she believes it, it must be so.

Henry “Bud” Morgan lives in Joplin. He is a retired Missouri Southern State University English professor.

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