You may have noticed that what passes for evidence on televised news is often weak. “Some people think” has replaced references to experts, research findings, testimony, perspectives advanced in books or highly regarded journals and even common wisdom. I marvel, as perhaps you do, at how political candidates respond to questions that contain, “some people say” or “some people think.” They should be responding with a question: “Are these people experts in some way?” “Who are the people who think this?” or “Some people say a good many things, so it’s difficult to respond without more information about them.”
These are just a few comeback options that we should hear more often. Otherwise, we allow ourselves to be taken down conversational or interview paths based on worse than flimsy evidence. We essentially let a lie live each time we react rather than thoughtfully respond to opinions posing as facts. We lend credibility to such comments by dignifying them with responses that fail to challenge their veracity.
How did we come to be so easily led? Just when did we start treating references to “some people” and “many people” as adequate forms of support for assertions?
In our own daily lives, we should also be wary of weak support. Does a comment or question deserve a thoughtful response? Should we just go along with assumptions that have no credible basis for existence?
There’s a natural tendency to answer questions — even absurd ones. It’s a conversational reflex reaction. But, a question is a choice point in any conversation. It can be answered, partially answered, redirected, or reframed. And these are only a few comeback options.
As I mentioned in a blog on Huffington Post, the next time you hear, “Some people say (think)” on the news, consider changing the channel. That’s not journalism, it’s not honest, thorough, or worthy of your time. And if you find yourself on-the-spot based on a poorly supported assertion, instead of reacting with an answer try responding with: “On what do you base that observation?” or the more polite, “You’ll need to tell me more.”
This raises the standard for conversation with you and buys you some time for finding an effective reply. Besides, you owe yourself the benefit of trustworthy evidence before adopting a view as your own.