The Unknowables: Facts that can’t possibly be
By: Daniel Clark
Ronald Reagan used to say that the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so. If you doubt him, consider some of the “facts” that the media pass on to us from liberal activists and think tanks. Not only do they tend to be nonfactual, but many of them are impossible to know.
Take, for example, a recent Reuters story that uncritically promoted an alarmist report by the Worldwatch Institute, claiming that the earth’s “vital signs” are in critical condition. “More wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before,” the piece began, attributing that “fact” to the institute, without stopping to wonder how anybody could know such a thing.
To draw a conclusion like that, you’d have to pretend to have documented the number of trees cut down annually throughout human history. Back when people had to heat their homes with firewood, nobody kept count of how many trees they cut down. Furthermore, you can’t obtain reliable data from within a closed society. There’s no way of knowing, for example, how many trees were cut down in Siberia in 1955, as opposed to 50 years later.
Furthermore, removing wood from the forest is not necessarily the same thing as logging. Dead wood is often removed from forests as a method of preventing forest fires. How does the removal of that wood convey the thought that the earth is in poor health?
Like a lot of environmentalists’ claims, this one involves data that nobody would have even bothered to try to keep before the arrival of the modern environmentalist movement. This restricts their frame of reference to about the last 40 years. Yet none of these obvious objections seems to have occurred to the editors of Reuters.
“Up to 100 species become extinct every day,” according to the Sierra Club, although you’ve probably heard variations of that claim from dozens of sources. Nobody ever bothers to identify these extinct species, though, and no wonder. What possible way can there be to know when the last member of a species has passed on? Last snail darter to leave the earth, turn out the lights?
Liberal advocacy groups often tell us what percentage of “hate crimes,” or what percentage of incidents of sexual harassment goes unreported. Well, if it’s unreported, then how does anyone know how many there are? And if liberals are the only ones who know about these unreported acts, then why don’t they do something about them, instead of just stating without specificity that they’re happening?
For years, it was reported that there were 3 million homeless people in America. When the Census tried to count them, it came out to a far lesser figure of about 600,000, but even that was only a guess. Ultimately, there was no choice but to take the beggars’ word for it that they were homeless. There’s no telling how many of them went home after the Census had counted them.
Pro-abortion groups tell us that there were just as many abortions done annually in the pre-Roe era as there are today. Just how do they come by this information, by combing through the detailed records that illegal abortionists kept of all their illegal abortions? Although abortion is legal under most circumstances today, there are still some that are done illegally. If groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood know how many abortions were done illegally in the past, then they should also know how many are being done illegally today, so why don’t they tell us? Moreover, why don’t they turn the culprits in, since they express such disdain for those “back-alley butchers”?
The UN actually keeps statistics on what percentage of the world’s population is officially hungry. That’s not to say the percentage of people who exhibit the symptoms of malnourishment, but just how many are hungry, which is a largely subjective determination. How does the UN know if some goat herder in Mongolia is feeling peckish? What’s more, an exceptional glutton might be hungry even if he had just eaten a whole pot roast an hour earlier.
Despite the absence of any factual support, many of these unknowables have come to be common knowledge. That’s because the liberals who invent them can always count on other liberals to pass them along. There’s no need for these “facts” to be factual, because when a liberal fact-checks, he’s only checking to see if the “facts” make him feel good when he repeats them.
Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.