If opinions have become truth, are skeptics becoming truth haters?

During one of his discussions of Chernobyl (the truths of which seem very much unsettled), M. Simon cited a source familiar to anyone old enough to remember the good old days of Cold War moral clarity.

PRAVDA.

Pravda2008_s.jpg

While it still bears the commie logo, the editorial bias has changed.

Anyway, in response to M. Simon's citation, commenter Bill Johnson snarked as follows,

There is no truth in Pravda, no news in Tass.  Other than believing
Pravda, I like your articles on nuclear power.

Maybe go visit pravda, and see if you don't feel you've stepped into a
National Examiner world...

Pravda of course means Truth. But when Pravda is not Pravda does that mean Truth no longer truth? What if it never was and still isn't?

In an email to M. Simon last night I remarked on the irony of how Pravda was "lies" when it was a left wing government mouthpiece, and a "source" to some people now that it's a right wing anti-semitic rag.

In the context of Chernobyl, the "official" numbers have of course never validated by anyone, which means that Pravda can be cited as needed, depending on POV. (It would not surprise me if Pravda has run various and contradictory sets of Chernobyl figures over the years....) It is a stunning and unwanted reminder that "news" and "truth" are as relative as they ever have been, which makes skepticism the only avenue towards even approaching what may or may not be true.

It's easy to talk about truth, but the devil is in the verification.

I sometimes think it is sad that no sources can be trusted anymore, and all truth is relative to one's cause.

Not that a real skeptic should care, but there used to be trust in basic data. Increasingly, there is no basic data to trust.

If basic data is not there, that means that most of what we used to consider hard, factual truth will have been rendered simply matters of opinion. (The extreme skepticism over "scientific" data said to be global warming "evidence" as well as extreme skepticism over basic vital statistics are but two stark examples. Personal experience has made me become skeptical over Google road maps, which have directed me to roads that turned out never to have existed.)

Truth is opinion?

Just what I used to hate the Post-modernists for saying.

What could suck more than that?

posted by Eric on 04.12.11 at 09:14 AM










Comments

"What could suck more than that?"

Belief can trump truth and reality; and the ones that can do this, ain't yours.

Will   ·  April 12, 2011 12:35 PM

Thanks!

M. Simon   ·  April 12, 2011 5:25 PM

Heh. The way I learned the quote was "In Pravda there is no news and in Izvestiya there is no truth." (I learned the quote in Russian - sounds better that way.)(Pravda and Izvestiya - the latter meaning 'news').On the other hand, you could have said "In in Pravda there is no truth, and in Izvestiya there is no news" just as truthfully. (Both were basically propaganda arms of the gov't.)

Anyway, I agree with Bill Johnson. Pravda? Right. I used to read it (in Russian). I still read it sometimes, now in English. I read the National Enquirer and Weekly World News (which I love) sometimes, too. I don't cite them, though. Except as humor.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  April 12, 2011 5:55 PM

A million years ago (i.e. 30 or so) Commentary did a fine article called something like, A Day in the Life of Pravda and the NY Times, comparing their respective coverages on a single morning. It would probably be worth digging up.

hmi   ·  April 12, 2011 6:19 PM

Kathy - sorry - I was misremembering from wayyyyyy back, when I studied Russian history and culture in college.

My Bad. But I did not want to claim it was original to me, just trying to cite an older Russian (well, Soviet) saying.

Eric - I have seen some pretty ridiculous articles on the Pravda site, and have heard much smaller estimates of Chernobyl deaths. I don't believe the large number cited can be substantiated.

And tha's why I commented.

Anonymous   ·  April 12, 2011 9:36 PM

Kathy - sorry - I was misremembering from wayyyyyy back, when I studied Russian history and culture in college.

My Bad. But I did not want to claim it was original to me, just trying to cite that Russian (well, Soviet) saying.

Eric - I have seen some pretty ridiculous articles on the Pravda site, and have heard much smaller estimates of Chernobyl deaths. I don't believe the large number cited can be substantiated.

And tha's why I commented.

Bill Johnson   ·  April 12, 2011 9:38 PM

Bill,

The smaller number was originally 40,000. It was cut by a factor of 10. As explained in the Chernobyl movie I posted a while back.

So 18,000 may be a conservative number.

I also posted an article by a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet explaining why a smaller number was to the Soviet advantage. So 18,000 may be conservative.

As to truth? Well who knows? So much of it is merely opinion. Or for the convenience of government and the cartels that own it.

M. Simon   ·  April 12, 2011 11:38 PM

The tell tale in all this? The Soviets no longer use nuclear power.

M. Simon   ·  April 12, 2011 11:39 PM
M. Simon   ·  April 12, 2011 11:43 PM

M Simon, to rebut Pravda, let's continue with the use of wikipedia (an authoritative source sometimes, but when?)...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster_effects

203 people were hospitalized immediately, of whom 31 died (28 of them died from acute radiation exposure). Most of these were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the disaster under control, who were not fully aware of how dangerous the radiation exposure (from the smoke) was (for a discussion of the more important isotopes in fallout see fission products). 135,000 people were evacuated from the area, including 50,000 from the nearby town of Pripyat, Ukraine. Health officials have predicted that over the next 70 years there will be a 2% increase in cancer rates in much of the population which was exposed to the 5-12 EBq (depending on source) of radioactive contamination released from the reactor. An additional 10 individuals have already died of cancer as a result of the disaster.

and...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_due_to_the_Chernobyl_disaster

The number of victims is disputed; some have claimed that tens or hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the accident, but these claims are wildly exaggerated.[1](BJ: http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf ) Confusion has arisen due to the deaths of thousands of emergency and recovery operation workers as well as people living in 'contaminated' territories caused by diverse natural causes.

During mid-1986 the official Soviet death toll rose from 2 to 31, a figure that has often been repeated. While some claim that deaths as a result of the immediate aftermath and the cleanup operation may number at least 6000,[2] that exceeds the number of workers known to have died from all causes by the National Committee for Radiation Protection of the Ukrainian Population. For further information on the indirect health implications, see Chernobyl disaster's effects on human health.


I tend to believe numbers on the low side. At least there are citations...but I don't know how many people have died since the articles - do you have better cites? (asked humbly, no snark here).

Bill Johnson   ·  April 13, 2011 5:05 PM

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